When Monsanto spun off its chemical companies into Solutia Inc. in September 1997, I became Business Director for Acrilan Home Furnishings and, more specifically, Wear-Dated Upholstery Fabrics, a special $22m gem in our business portfolio. In addition to ensuring a smooth handoff from Frank W. Swift, who had created and nurtured the business concept with Joe Buck [who remained part of my team], I had to transition it from startup to established business and transform it to ensure growth opportunities.
My team consisted of a multi-location sales and marketing team of 8 professionals based in the U.S. and in Mexico City.
After methodically evaluating the marketplace and understanding perceptions that fabric mills, retailers and retail salespeople had formed around the Wear-Dated brand, not to mention the value we brought to the marketplace, we learned that our brand looked industrial and un-appealing to the residential marketplace. If we intended to expand into the residential upholstery market, we had to address our brand image immediately!
If we could reposition the brand from industrial to fashion + performance, we had the opportunity to broaden our reach from velvet-only motion furniture [i.e., recliners] to chenille and flatwoven fabrics for stationary and higher-end furniture.
- We developed new brand positioning which we validated through qualitative research with consumers, retailers and fabric mills principals, resulting in the brand image you see above. It allowed us to successfully expand into the stationary furniture marketplace.
Once the brand relaunched, we were able to focus on how to grow the business.
- To increase awareness of the brand with retailers and retail salespeople, we launched www.weardated.com and www.setsalesonline.com for retail sales people in the upholstery business. We saw a 130% increase in retail salesperson incentive program participation.
- We expanded the Wear-Dated Upholstery program to Canada and Mexico; and explored expansion to the UK, Scandinavia and Brazil, conducting consumer focus groups and meeting with local retailers to better understand opportunities.
- In response to marketplace demand for a cotton-like fiber, we developed and introduced a revolutionary new premium-priced fiber product (Ginny®) that significantly expanded Wear-Dated brand product selection and further solidified our position with higher-margin, better residential upholstered furniture.
- Finally, given the consultative nature of our brand relationships, we held yearly 5-day offsite strategic summits, for 200+ residential upholstery leaders, which I led. These sessions were invaluable, strengthening relationships, increasing brand value and addressing critical issues ranging from how to better address the needs of women furniture consumers, improve the retail experience and nurture innovation.
We doubled the size of business in the first 4 years to $50m.
We were honored with Solutia’s Customer Focus Award for 2000 for growth in the Wear-Dated upholstery program.
Please visit Simple Marketing Now | Case Studies for other examples of projects I have been involved in.
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