CAMPAIGNS: Redesign contest boosts American Standard's image

PR Team: American Standard (Piscataway, NJ) and Carmichael Lynch Spong (Minneapolis) Campaign: "Creating New Standards for Living" Time Frame: Spring-fall 2002 Budget: About $50,000

PR Team: American Standard (Piscataway, NJ) and Carmichael Lynch Spong (Minneapolis) Campaign: "Creating New Standards for Living" Time Frame: Spring-fall 2002 Budget: About $50,000

Several years ago, American Standard decided that it needed to grab more of the booming upscale remodeling market, and loosen the grip of chief competitor Kohler on the lucrative luxury market. "Our challenge was to create brand awareness without a lot of new products to talk about," says Dory Anderson, a principal at Minneapolis-based firm Carmichael Lynch Spong (CLS). Strategy American Standard sought to increase awareness of its brand and products among consumers ages 35 to 64 that earned $79,000 or more a year. It also looked to establish itself as a "problem solver" for bathrooms. In addition, the company focused on trade professionals such as plumbers, architects, and interior designers - essentially, those who influence homeowners in the target demographic. The company's bottom-line goal was to increase its sales leads by 15%, and drive sales for its Town Square collection. Tactics As part of a larger media relations campaign, CLS created the America's Ugliest Bathroom contest. The winner would get to work with interior designer Randy Brown to remodel their bathroom with a new floor, wall tile, wallpaper, and American Standard's finest array of toilets, bathtubs, sinks, and towel bars - a value of about $15,000. As background research, the firm did a consumer dynamics study to identify and refine brand positioning, and conducted a national phone survey to gauge awareness of American Standard's brand and those of its competitors. CLS found consumers were becoming practical-minded, preferring a simpler lifestyle, and shunning "luxury." The firm also developed an SMT, and along with it a nationwide call for entries asking Americans to submit photos of their ugly bathrooms, along with a 100-word essay describing why they deserved the remodel. The entries were accepted either through the mail or on American Standard's website. A panel of judges chose regional finalists, and consumers were polled online for their favorite finalists. Unfortunately, some entrants were vying for the dirtiest or most disgusting bathroom, not the ugliest, recalls Anderson. "People sent us photos of bathrooms filled with mold,'' she says. "One man took a photo of himself in the shower that was...shocking.'' When the regional finalists and the overall winner were announced, the story was again pitched to various newspapers, magazines, and TV stations. Videotapes and photos were sent out to media outlets that were interested showing the transformation of the 2001 winner, a house in Edina, MN that had a '70s orange and turquoise theme replete with a turquoise telephone. In 2002, a house in Sacramento, CA was chosen for its '60s wallpaper and shag rug. Results The contest exceeded its target of 1,000 entries by 50%, netting 1,500 entries. The 2002 contest attracted more than 90 stories in print, reaching some 19 million people. Among the prominent newspapers that ran the stories included the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Houston Chronicle, Detroit Free Press, and Chicago Sun-Times. Meanwhile, the SMT reached roughly 6.4 million viewers across several major markets, including New York, Milwaukee, Detroit, Houston, Tampa, and Atlanta. More than 90% of the coverage included product names, mentions of the brand, and American Standard's web address and toll-free number. In the end, while the contest was only about 8% of CLS' annual fees and expenses from American Standard, it accounted for about 20% of the coverage drawn by the overall campaign, Anderson says. Future American Standard plans to hold another Ugliest Bathroom contest in 2003, and will do "before and after" publicity for the 2002 contest winner. Better yet, about a half dozen of American Standard's local distributors are now holding their own local Ugliest Bathroom contests.

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