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Blogwell preview: Newell Rubbermaid’s Bert DuMars

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Brands & Campaigns

BlogWell - How Big Brands Use Social MediaSome of the biggest names in global business will gather on Nov. 10 at BlogWell to share tips and strategies for working with social media. Newell Rubbermaid is among the presenters at the Atlanta event, and Senior Editor Mary Ellen Slayter recently asked Bert DuMars, vice president of e-business and interactive marketing, how the company is making the most of social media.

MARY ELLEN: For many companies, social media is about promoting their brand — as in just one. But Newell Rubbermaid actually encompasses many brands. Does that create additional challenges?

BERT: Each of our brands wants to engage with a specific primary customer segment target. For example, Rubbermaid, Graco Baby and Sharpie would all like to connect with moms. However Graco Baby’s focus is new moms and Rubbermaid’s is moms who are homeowners while Sharpie’s focus encompasses all moms. They each then have sub-segments they would like to target.

Each brand also strategizes and executes their social web marketing program independently today. In the future we hope to see much more synergy across our brands. My job is to work across all of our brands
and share best practices from within Newell Rubbermaid, industry experts and from other companies. I am also tasked with helping find synergistic opportunities between our brands. Each brand then analyzes the customer segment they want to reach and determines the appropriate strategy and tactics to reach them through social web marketing.

We are also focusing on integrating these programs into our overall marketing campaigns. The cross-leveraging of effort is far more effective than each tactic alone.

How have you adapted your social media strategy to reflect that diversity?

Yes. We have to be agile and flexible with our brands due to the range of products, services and customer segments. We always have one thing in common, we need to know and focus on the primary customer
target before diving in to social web marketing or any other marketing strategy and tactic. Once that target is identified, we must determine where they are in the social web ecosystem and where they are most open
to engaging with our brands and employees.

Finding the communities where our customers gather and engage with each other is critical. And if you think there is not a community for your brand, you might be surprised. Our Rubbermaid Commercial products are
specifically focused on business-to-business customers. We have developed the Hygen line of products for cleaning Hospital MRI rooms and machines. Pretty specific and focused. The people who clean and manage these MRI machines and rooms are perioperative nurses. They have a strong and vibrant community. Even in this highly focused niche we can use social web marketing to reach our target customer.

Every one of our brands has both broad and niche customer targets. Our strategy adapts based on those specific customer targets.

What is the biggest mistake you see other large companies make in adopting social media?

I think the biggest mistake is trying to grow the social web marketing effort too fast. There is a lot of opportunity to learn when you start out small and grow organically. Understanding the culture of the social
web ecosystems you will be entering is key to success. You must immerse yourself. If you make mistakes early on when your community is smaller, you have a greater chance to learn and recover. Once your program is very large you must be much more precise. Having time to build to that precision is very important.

Do not forget that meeting in the real world is still very important. Plan on spending time with your community in person. It allows you to grow relationships with influential customers as well as new customers.

Also do not get caught up with who is in the top 100 of any given area. Today’s blogger with a limited following may grow to someone with a massive following in the future. Try to engage with people across the
spectrum of your customer target.

The other mistake I hear big companies making is blocking their employees from using social web service like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and others. You will not be successful engaging with your community if
you are not empowering your employees to represent your company, brand and products. Your employees are often your greatest advocates and are initiators of word-of-mouth marketing. Companies need to unleash and empower that passion.

Finally, social web marketing and customer interaction is not just for marketing, PR or marketing communications. The greatest, positive impact your company might have is by having your customer contact center or customer service department proactively participating and helping customers solve problems. This might do more for your brand and the word-of-mouth around your brand than anything else.

Are there any other companies’ campaigns that have particularly impressed you?

There are many companies, both big and small, doing great work in this space. I believe Coca Cola, Dell and Intel are some of the top brands in this space. They are building vibrant communities that provide strong feedback and great word-of-mouth.

I think the best opportunities are out there for hyper-local, social web marketing. Small businesses have an excellent opportunity because they are local and often live within the community they are trying to reach. Also, they do not need to reach a mass audience, but a more locally influential and smaller audience. Get to the right 20, 50 or 100 people and you can build a
nice, local word-of-mouth effort.