Ceiling Fan Business Makes a Big Ass of ItselfBy: Mike Tuttle - July 13, 2014
Big Ass Fans, in Lexington, Kentucky, knows that their business is normally the sort of thing that exists in an industrial park somewhere, ships out to retailers, and doesn’t make much of a splash, name-wise. Think about it. What is the brand name of any ceiling fan in your home? Most ceiling fan companies just aren’t household names.
Big Ass Fans plays a different game. They design, manufacture, and sell the world’s largest fans. They are a $122-million company, and employ over 500 people.
When Carey Smith started the company in 1999, it had one of the usual, run-of-the-mill fan company names, HVLS Fan Co. The product HVLS put out is unique in and of itself. The company’s industrial ceiling fans are large, slower speed, and rather than using typical fan blades, use air foils.
In 2002, after months of hearing his own customers refer to his product as “big-ass fans,” Smith made the daring name switch. Once Big Ass Fans put a mural on the side of their street-side building, sent out mailers, and started advertising open employment positions under that name, people started to take notice.
The company was slated to post some large display advertising in Lexington’s Bluegrass Airport ahead of a major tourist event. The airport pulled the plug on the Big Ass ad. They have since reconciled, but things were touch and go for a while.
The joke behind the name is the company’s mascot, Fanny the Donkey. You can’t drive through Lexington without seeing at least one t-shirt, ball cap, or bumper sticker emblazoned with the Big Ass name and/or Fanny logo.
But the humor does seem to miss some folks.
The company has actually recently had a name change, moving from “Big Ass Fans” to “Big Ass Solutions”. The name change reflects the launch of the Big Ass Light Group, which includes the new Big Ass High Bay LED light fixture for industrial and commercial spaces.
The company is more than just a daring, risqué name, though. Smith is not running a ceiling fan company that churns out the same product as every other fan builder — same basic almost-interchangeable equipment, with different colors and designs on the blades and pull chain.
Big Ass has innovated in the home ceiling fan market, including the SenseME model of their Haiku fan, marketed as “The World’s First Smart Ass Fan”. It features an on-board computer and array of sensors.
Smith boasts that the SenseME model allows you to:
* Forget the switch: SenseME knows when you enter or leave a room and turns Haiku on and off automatically.
* Forget the chains: SenseME monitors the room’s temperature and humidity, adjusting Haiku’s speed when conditions change.
* Forget discomfort: SenseME learns your comfort preferences, tailoring those speed adjustments to what you find comfortable.
Big Ass Solutions, starting with Big Ass Fans and moving now into Big Ass Light Group, is making a name for itself with its product. The name is just part of the fun.
Image via Wikimedia Commons