Awards case study: Stein IAS take thought leadership to the next level

If you can’t beat ‘em, change the rules of the game. Find out how Stein IAS achieved 10% email click through rates and 15 editorial hits for Trelleborg Marine Systems - and was nominated for a B2B Marketing Award as a result

The client

Trelleborg Marine Systems (Trelleborg) is an engineering company that designs, manufactures and installs protective equipment for many of the world’s largest commercial ports. One of the company’s key product lines is marine fenders made from very high quality industrial grade rubber, which provide a first line of defence between a berthing vessel and port infrastructure.


In addition to lobbying PIANC, the industry body responsible for marine product guideline, to mandate third-party testing on all fender systems, measurable objectives included:

  • Email: click-through rate of 10% (across all campaigns)
  • Public relations: 15 editorial hits (at least 50% in Tier-1 media)
  • Social media: Refer 100 visits to the campaign landing page


As a result of Stein IAS’ thought leadership, PIANC has agreed to include the need for third-party testing in its guidelines and review required procedures for fender selection too, to include more stringent materials and performance tests. Trelleborg’s efforts in 2015 have also been rewarded with the inclusion of frequent feature articles in PIANC’s e-newsletter, ‘Sailing Ahead’, and its yearbook.

The first phases of the campaign were built around “awareness” content – raising the issue through a research-led thought leadership whitepaper and webinar

Other results include emails promoting the Barometer Report 5 receiving a huge open rate of 17.2% and conversion rate of 44%. The 2015 Rubber Quality Campaign generated:

  • 700+ whitepaper downloads
  • 500+ webinar views
  • 34 editorial hits (65% in Tier-1 media)
  • 211,974 opportunities to see
  • 170+ visits referred to the campaign landing page

Campaign timescales

June 2015–April 2016


Trelleborg has long faced competition from copycat competitors and many ill-informed potential customers have been prepared to take a risk on low cost, inferior alternatives.

But communicating on high quality expertise on port safety and maintenance was not changing the behaviour of a portion of the market significant enough to pose a threat to the future of Trelleborg fenders. And although Trelleborg was bringing attention to the importance of rubber quality, the guidelines of PIANC remained unchanged and left the door open to the inferior products that were eating away at Trelleborg’s market share.

Stein IAS and Trelleborg decided to switch focus from product quality promotion to industry quality promotion with the goal of changing the PIANC guidelines on fender specification to include third-party testing on rubber compound quality.

The target audience

The ultimate target was PIANC, the industry body responsible for marine product guidelines. But to build momentum towards a change in the guidelines that included third-party testing of rubber compounds in fenders, a key part of the strategy was to build the ‘industry quality’ conversation among the key decision-makers and influencers in port construction and maintenance.

How did they do it?

Distributed via email, online advertising, PR and social, the key thought leadership assets were:

The Barometer Report

Back in 2010, Trelleborg launched an industry-wide annual survey gathering in-depth insights from the market on port and terminal infrastructure and industry issues. What followed was the launch of the Barometer Report, a key content piece intended to establish Trelleborg as a thought leader on industry growth, changes in regulations and regional trends.

The first edition revealed that the majority of those responsible for the procurement of berthing and docking products were solely concerned with price. As a result, port owners, operators and contractors where settling for lower standards and compromising long term performance.

The Barometer Report gave Trelleborg the data on current thinking while highlighting to the industry the gap between safety concerns which were high and the quality of fenders which was overall too low.

In 2015, Trelleborg published the Barometer Report 5, in a new interactive, online format. Its results showed an extremely positive shift in the mind-set of the market. Five years ago, nobody considered rubber compound specification, never mind implemented it. Now, almost 30% do so. Even more encouragingly, just over 30% also say they request or commission third party testing, highlighting a change in market thinking in both specifying quality, and ensuring these standards are met in practice.

The Rubber Quality Testing Programme

If you want to convince the powers that be to change guidelines to include third-party testing, why not become a third-party tester to prove that it’s a good idea? In 2015, Trelleborg did just that by conducting a rigorous testing programme proving the importance of ingredient mixing and the manufacturing process in fender performance, by testing fenders in situ across the globe.

This provided Trelleborg with the evidence to back up its message, and information to fuel the content-hungry Eloqua system, a marketing automation platform that powers its fully integrated digital marketing strategy.

The first phases of the campaign were built around awareness content – raising the issue through a research-led thought leadership whitepaper and webinar. Once a prospect was suitably engaged, they received the Rubber Fender Product Brochure.

Other elements of the campaign included:

  • Rubber quality webinar
  • Rubber fender product brochure


Trelleborg further strengthened its reputation for quality by delivering technical seminars on fender specification and the importance of rubber quality and testing, at PIANC’s flagship conference (held every four years) in San Francisco.

B2B Marketing Awards 2016

This case study was submitted as part of the judging process for the B2B Marketing Awards 2016. It won runner-up for the Best use of thought leadership: ‘Lobbying for change in fender guidelines (PIANC)’ for Trelleborg Marine Systems by Stein IAS

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