Biz Blog Profile Series: Flooring The Consumer, Wear-Dated

06/19/2007

Biz Blog Profiles! is a behind the scene look at how corporations, non profits, higher education institutions and the arts are using blogs to support their marketing goals.

Christine B. (CB) Whittemore, Director, In-Store Innovation Wear-Dated Carpet Fiber Solutia Inc., is passionate about ensuring the brand experience exceeds her customers' expectations. Understanding that social media could support traditional marketing efforts she launched Flooring The Consumer. CB's vision and creativity clearly demonstrates there are many ways to bring social media into an organization.

Weardated_logo Biz Blog Profile: Flooring The Consumer and Wear-Dated

About Wear-Dated

Wear-Dated is Solutia’s brand and warranty to the consumer for carpet made with our nylon 6,6 carpet fiber.  It was created approximately 45 years ago in what seems like a very different place and time.

In 1962, the Arnold Constable Department Store in New York City was going out of business. The store had a long and proud history - Eleanor Roosevelt had been one of the many rich and famous who bought her clothes there.  The store sold men's shirts with an interesting label in the collar area: if the shirt wore out before the date stamped on the label, a customer could return it and receive a full refund.

The store referred to the label as its "wear-dated" guarantee. Bob Born, from Chemstrand [Monsanto's/Solutia's first wholly owned subsidiary], liked the label idea and bought the rights to it. I love this creation story.

Cb_whittemore About Christine B. (CB) Whittemore

I started out with Monsanto in the Acrilan acrylic apparel division of Wear-Dated in 1993.  In those days, we had a New York City office and worked closely with the garment trade.  The office walls were covered with posters showcasing events that Wear-Dated had done in the sixties and seventies with the likes of Barbara Streisand.  I remember hearing that at one point the whole mezzanine level of Macy’s Times Square sold only Wear-Dated [polyester] apparel.  Heady times!

From apparel, I went into the Wear-Dated upholstery business.  Four years ago, I moved into the nylon 6,6 Wear-Dated carpet fiber business as director, in-store innovation.

Why Wear-Dated Is Blogging

Flooring The Consumer is my personal business blog.  I started it because I wanted to be more involved in the evolution of marketing away from traditional mass approaches. At the same time, I felt a sense of urgency around getting the message out about marketing to women and improving the flooring retail experience.  Getting articles published in our trade press took too long, and self-publishing via a blog – which  I felt strongly was NOT – seemed like a wonderful solution.  I want to elevate the existing lousy flooring experience and I hope someday to be able to direct [women] consumers to innumerable outstanding retailers for a memorable consumer experience!

Flooring The Consumer allows me to experiment with projecting a voice for Wear-Dated; it allows me to draw others from my team [sometimes kicking and screaming, other times enthusiastically] – e.g., Ann Hurley, Ben Jones, Marianne Cone and several of our Wear-Dated representatives.  It also means connecting directly with those who share our passion for the consumer!

From a very practical perspective, Wear-Dated gets to be a thought leader where no one else in our industry does much outside of traditional approaches.  Flooring The Consumer provides our field force with ammunition to get retailers thinking outside of their comfort zone; it supplements the training presentations that I’ve developed, and documents all of the nuggets of valuable insight and information that I run across. 

How Blogging Fits Into Wear-Dated's Marketing Strategy

Oh, the plans I have!  Seriously, blogging is here to stay.  I’ve had fascinating discussions with associates in our corporate communications department about blogging, podcasting and generally incorporating the principles of Web 2.0 into the social media pressrooms we want to create.  Being able to bring the example of Flooring The Consumer – and other business blogs – to the discussion really makes the opportunities and possibilities come alive.

Selling-In to Management

I remember bringing up the concept early on [1.5 or 2 years ago] and being looked at with skepticism.  After all, blogs were a fad not worth wasting an iota of time on, right?  Well, I decided to learn as much as possible on my own time.  In early June 2006, I attended a Marketing Innovation Conference sponsored by Columbia Business School and Corante that fired me up, not only about blogging, but about web 2.0, the power of community and of conversation. 

Just about everyone in the room blogged, and was accomplished [e.g., Brand Autopsy’ John Moore, John Winsor, Johnnie Moore, Lois Kelly, Constant Observer’s Tish Geier….].  A few weeks later I published my first post.  I sent an email to everyone I knew internally and externally to announce my big event, and invite contributions. 

After a few weeks, I created a press release on the blog.  A few weeks later, I presented the blog to my associates, explaining how it worked and what it did and was surprised when they embraced it.  But, actually walking them through it was critical.  I internalized how foreign the concept of ‘blog’ is to the majority of the population [more so in some industries], making it important to hold people’s hands to get them acquainted with the richness of the medium.

Challenges Facing Developing Flooring The Consumer Blog

The biggest challenge is overcoming the initial technical pushback and the lack of understanding of blogs.  Every so often I’ll send out a particularly relevant post via email to let people know [or remind them] about Flooring The Consumer

I’ll circulate a press release, as appropriate.  I encourage our Wear-Dated Reps to showcase positive flooring retail experiences on the blog and to let me know of particularly noteworthy retailers.  I want to celebrate those who really get the customer experience! Whenever I conduct presentations, I make sure to talk about the blog and how to subscribe.

How Wear-Dated Promotes Flooring The Consumer Blog

Let’s see.  I bring it up in conversation quite a bit as it captures what I am passionate about, and responsible for!  After a training presentation on marketing to women, I refer attendees to the blog for reference information, and relevant articles.  Same goes for Trading Up or the retail experience.  I encourage our WDRs to do the same, to print out specific postings and use them as leave-behinds with retail accounts.  I supplement our marketing materials with postings that connect a voice or an additional perspective.

Since we are talking a new medium, I use traditional tools like press releases to extend the awareness and generate more discussion.  I’ll also include links to specific posts in press releases about other programs or activities.  Ironically, the trade press hasn’t yet included a single specific mention to the blog, although I seem to be getting published more frequently!

I’ve created categories [not quite as elegant as a ‘toss of the pink boa’!] to celebrate the achievements of specific carpet retailers.  The highest achievement is the “Store That Floors” award.  “Flooring It Differently” lets me showcase a specific exceptional element of a flooring retailer’s experience. 

I’m looking forward to the upcoming Bathroom Blogfest ’07 and highlighting some of the beautiful bathrooms I’ve photographed in the past year, too!

Lessons Learned
It’s a slow process!  So, it’s critical to stay focused, yet be open to new ideas and possibilities. 

It’s a serious commitment.  I liken Flooring The Consumer to having another child.  A blog must be nurtured consistently over time.  It requires strong passion, vision, creativity, flexibility and lots of love.

Absolutely be authentic, honest and courteous. 

Learn html, tagging, linking….. 

Be sure to listen to fellow bloggers.  The marketing realm includes so many passionate and talented individuals whom I constantly learn from.  Be sure to include them to amplify your ideas and generate more discussion.

Develop your own, unique voice.   

Wear-Dated’s Future Blogging Direction

Flooring The Consumer is here to stay.  I see additional blogs in Wear-Dated’s future, but am still working on the execution details.  First step is identifying additional bloggers!   

Christine B. (CB)Whittemore On Blogging

“It flows through my veins!” It’s electrifying.  I see everything with new eyes because some aspect might be relevant for a post.  I love sharing those wonders.  Now, I wish I could read faster, assimilate ideas more quickly, write more efficiently and catch up on all of the ideas I have for future posts!

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Comments

Thank you, Toby for allowing us to learn more about CB's passion for her blog and the genesis of this project.

Perhaps a blog is a more intuitive medium/tool in a retail environment where it can potentially touch consumers. I will be joining a new company in a couple of weeks, which had plans for a blog... it's a B2B and so far quite conservative. It will be interesting to see what develops, if anything.

I completely empathize with the 'kicking and screaming' part of getting people to participate from inside an organization. It's so easy to get comfortable staying put.

Posted by: Valeria Maltoni on Jun 19, 2007 8:02:41 AM

Thank you, Toby! I am truly honored.

Posted by: C.B. Whittemore on Jun 19, 2007 8:40:56 AM

C.B. - that *you* for sharing your experiences and lessons learned. Your generosity will help others who are building corporate social media strategies.

Valeria - Congrats! on your new 'corporate home.' What a smart company to have you on their side.
Talking about retail, Tim Jackson's Biz Blog Profile includes how a bike store (Tim works for the manufacturer) uses his blog to promote Masi bikes. http://tinyurl.com/yo3u4c

Posted by: Toby on Jun 19, 2007 9:09:53 AM

Valeria, congratulations on your good news. Even in the B2B space blogs have a place. You may need to do more hand-holding, but you may find that it is the ideal medium for community building and idea sharing.

Posted by: C.B. Whittemore on Jun 19, 2007 10:54:38 AM

Great profile of a very interesting marketing story. CB brings a tremendous passion to her work -- imagine how great the shopping experience would be if more people shared it.
Thanks for a great post.

Posted by: Susan Abbott on Jun 19, 2007 9:08:59 PM

Some great tips about blogging, as a newbie this is much appreciated!

Posted by: Marketing Blog on Jun 20, 2007 7:18:53 AM

Hi C.B., this is a great example of the power of blogs!! And I wish I could read faster too. It's astounding to be in the company of so many compelling, thoughtful and amazing bloggers.

Posted by: Nettie Hartsock on Jun 20, 2007 9:57:47 AM

Susan - Yes! C.B.'s understanding of how to integrate social media and traditional marketing makes for a very powerful strategy.

Nettie - Count me in for the speed blog reading course. Too many talented smart people are launching blogs .. I want to read them all. Well, most (smile).

Simon (who signed on as markting blog) - Welcome to the marketing blogosphere. Took a peak at your new blog and you are generously sharing quite a lot of interesting tactics on how you are marketing your law firm in England. Here area a couple of ideas for your blog.

>You come across very personable but I don't even know your name. As you've quickly learned blogs are about developing relationships which is a bit hard to do when the only identifier of people who are commenting and you, the author, is "Say." Does your software allow for the name of the commentor to be shown? If so I'd suggest turning that function on.

>Same concept when you are commenting on a post .. use your name not the name of your blog. Why? People like to talk to people not websites ;-)

>As you've seen with Diva Marketing, the platform I use allows for a live link to the commentor's website. It's a nice way to 'give back' to your readers and to encourage the flow of conversation between and among bloggers. If your software has that functionality I would suggest turning it on.

Check out ProBlogger - http://www.problogger.net/ great tactical tips for bloggers.

and Kevin O'Keefe's blog that focuses on blogging for lawyers. http://kevin.lexblog.com/.
There is an entire "blogosphere village" of lawyers!

Posted by: Toby on Jun 20, 2007 10:21:18 AM

Wonderful post Christine. I always enjoy your writing and insights.

Posted by: Mary Hunt on Jun 20, 2007 9:23:07 PM

As usual, this blog post is a must-read for everyone in marketing and sales. But, it's more than that. It's a peak inside the world of marketing to women - and for women. It's a glimpse into the mindset of women bloggers who are writing for the greater 'good' - offering insight and advice to consumers - on a platform that invites conversation.

Toby, you've done it again. I am running to keep up with you! Cheers!

Posted by: Yvonne DiVita on Jun 22, 2007 12:44:06 PM

These are wonderful comments. Thank you, Susan, Mary, Yvonne, Nettie and Marketing Blog/Simon. Great tips, too, Toby.

Posted by: C.B. Whittemore on Jun 22, 2007 4:08:43 PM

If you had some way of rating posts I would for sure give you a high rating my friend!
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