October 26, 2012, 2:21 PM

A maker of ho-hum products creates “Wow!” videos for YouTube

A Newell Rubbermaid exec explains how his company uses web content to sell. 

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Saws aren’t necessarily the most exciting product to market, nor to buy. But they suddenly become a lot more interesting when they cut through a car, a house or an airplane in less than two minutes. This strategy—taking any product and making it compelling—is something that brand manufacturer Newell Rubbermaid strives to do with all its brands, Bert DuMars, vice president of digital marketing and e-commerce told attendees today at the Forrester Forum for EBusiness and Channel Strategy Professionals in Chicago.

“We wanted to find a way to show that our products were the best in the industry,” DuMars says of the brand manufacturer’s Lenox saws. “We wanted to show that Lenox blades last longer and are a better deal long-term even though they are about 25% more expensive.” And so it created Team Hackman, a crew of professional cutters that tour the nation cutting through everything from cars to Zambonis, the vehicles that clean ice rinks during breaks at hockey games. The events are filmed and placed on YouTube—both by fans of the brand and Lenox itself. Consumers have watched the top-viewed video nearly 22,000 times. 

DuMars discussed how content—from creative marketing campaigns like Hackman, to the 100 product videos his team recently created and placed on YouTube and Facebook for its line of Graco baby products—is helping the manufacturer reach customers, learn more about what shoppers want and, ultimately, sell more.

That selling is happening both via e-commerce sites run by Newell, such as Rubbermaid.com and Calphalon.com, which sells the popular high-end cookware brand, as well as via the sites operated by major retailers. Those include HomeDepot.com, which sells Lenox saws, or ToysRUs.com, which sells the line of Graco products.

“Selling direct gets us closer to consumers,” DuMars said of his Newell’s choice to sell some of its products directly to consumers online. “We can get more feedback and learn more about what they want to see from us and what they like and don’t like.”

That feedback came in handy with a line of water bottles it was selling on Rubbermaid.com. Consumers were complaining in reviews that the bottles leaked, but the team manufacturing the model wasn’t convinced there was a problem. That changed when a product manager printed out the hundreds of reviews, flew out to meet the manufacturing team and showed them the feedback. The bottles were quickly redesigned to fix the problem, DuMars says.

Consumer-generated content, such as reviews and blogs, and creative marketing campaigns each have their place in building brand awareness and image for the manufacturer. And they not only help Newell sell more of its products directly to consumers online, but help its retail partners sell more Newell Rubbermaid goods.

Newell recently built a digital command center to help its brand teams concoct creative ways to market products online. The center, located in Atlanta, features 10 55-inch high-definition TV screens, arrayed on a wall in an array five across and two down. Newell brands can rent the space to collaborate on e-commerce and digital marketing campaigns. “It’s a way to enliven the company and get them excited about digital marketing,” DuMars says.  

And it seems to be working. DuMars says brands were booking the space before the center was finished being built, and the space is booked up for the next several months. For example, Calphalon reserved it to brainstorm on its holiday digital marketing strategy. 

The center is just one step in Newell’s goal to tell brand stories in ways that excite and engage consumers. “For every brand, there are people out there who are passionate about it,” DuMars said. “There are people who are passionate about saw blades, believe it or not. We know because we see them.”

The key, he says, is pinpointing those influential people, finding out why they like the brand and then using the answer to market to a broader audience. 

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