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A short, recent article in Media Post demonstrates one way social media can be used for brand building. Needless to say, SM has got to fit in with an overall marketing strategy. Strategy first, tactics next, right?

The goal: To gain more sales volume, brand equity and good will among consumers. The social media tactic: Asking customers to guide product design. The article: “Rubbermaid Taps Customers for Feedback” demonstrates how this approach can pay handsome dividends.

It seems these days many consumer product companies are inviting input for product development from a number of sources: inventors, product engineers, designers as well as end users. It also seems results are a mixed bag: some companies have been quite successful while others haven’t been.

Now we know that many CPG companies are using Twitter and Facebook as SM platforms of choice. This approach can be effective, but I think it’s worth considering what Rubbermaid is doing to engage consumers and gain valuable insights.

So what’s Rubbermaid’s secret to success? Simply put: the company has been quietly, steadily soliciting customer input and courting engagement for some time. Recently, Rubbermaid invited customers to post ratings and reviews of specific products—sink mats--and to suggest ways in which they might be improved and better designed.

The company then took the comments directly to the appropriate brand managers, who found out directly from their customers which product features they really liked, and which needed work. This information directly influenced the end design.

Interestingly, Rubbermaid then took an additional step. The article states: “Rubbermaid reached out to customers who had previously posted a negative review to offer a sample of the new sink mat that had been redesigned based on their feedback. The response from these customers was overwhelmingly positive about the Rubbermaid approach and brand”.

Now, I think that speaks volumes. Rather than decrying the lack of brand loyalty these days, companies might take a page from Rubbermaid. After initially reaching out to the customer, it’s a great idea to thank them for their input, and show them how valued that input was by offering to send a sample of the end product they helped to design. Brilliant!

Currently, Rubbermaid is encouraging customers to post ratings and reviews through February 28th. Six winners will be chosen; they will receive 20 piece food storage sets. Check out a current review page on the Rubbermaid web site at the following link: http://www.rubbermaid.com/Category/Pages/ProductDetail.aspx?Prod_ID=RP091319#reviews

Analysis of customer reviews and comments have helped Rubbermaid to boost their product positives, sales, and overall brand perception as a result. When consumers recently indicated confusion on how to use “Produce Saver” food containers, Rubbermaid posted more use and care instructions on its web site, boosting consumer product ratings significantly.

What’s most significant here is Rubbermaid’s commitment to fully utilizing customer feedback. Since July 2008, the company has consistently turned to a social commerce platform provider, outsourcing this to a company with expertise in social media.

Questions:



  • Do you think most consumer product companies would benefit by adopting Rubbermaid’s social media approach?


  • If so, do you think companies should ask their marketing departments to add this kind of social media to their duties and responsibilities? Or should it be outsourced?


  • Do you think that even with social media in place, there is a danger in companies’ not sharing the information in a timely, meaningful fashion? Or that this information might be disseminated to brand managers along with other marketing data and lost in the shuffle?


  • Given limited resources of time and personnel, do you think companies should take the extra step of reaching out to consumers who have posted negative reviews, ratings and comments? Or should they email a “thank you for participating in our ratings and reviews” instead?


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ted Mininni is president of Design Force, Inc. (www.designforceinc.com), a leading brand-design consultancy to consumer product companies (phone: 856-810-2277). Ted is also a regular contributor to the MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix.