January 2009 - Cover Story: Mixing It Up

KitchenAid turns to DRTV again to promote its iconic stand mixer. However this time, it adds another ingredient to its marketing recipe-social networking.
By Vitisia Paynich

The Fuller sisters can’t get enough of their KitchenAid stand mixers. Growing up in Wisconsin, these eight siblings watched their mother prepare countless meals using the countertop appliance. KitchenAid also serves as the basis for the family’s “Bake and Swap,” an annual tradition started 10 years ago in which they spend the entire day baking cookies using their trusty stand mixers. The Fuller story is just one of a handful of loyal customer testimonials featured in the company’s latest DRTV campaign.

This year, KitchenAid celebrates its 90th anniversary. Its longevity can be attributed to its manufacturing practices, as the company-which is a division of Whirlpool Corp.-still produces these small kitchen appliances in its Greenville, Ohio, factory. The stand mixer has not only been the gold standard in kitchen appliances, but it has also outlasted many household products that have entered the market over the years. Yet while this iconic brand has enjoyed nine decades of market success in the U.S. and around the globe, the company believed it still needed to do more to get the word out.
“People think that a mixer is a product that people who bake a lot need,” says Marty Armstrong, vice president of sales and marketing at KitchenAid. “We really wanted to stress the point that it’s not just for the baker; it’s for anyone who enjoys preparing meals for themselves and entertaining guests.”

For KitchenAid, this meant using a medium that worked quite successfully the first time around-direct response television.

In 2001, KitchenAid ventured into DRTV. Armstrong explains that, at the time, retailers stressed that the two things that sell the most in retail are strong brands and products that sell well on television.

“I was convinced that buying KitchenAid on TV, we could have the best of both worlds,” he explains. “We also recognized that DR was just about the most directly measurable medium for reaching out to consumers, promoting the brand and selling it at the same time.”
The KitchenAid DRTV offer includes an extra 4.5-quart bowl, two lids, a $25 coupon and a one-year subscription to Food & Wine magazine.

Thus, the company enlisted the help of Portland, Ore.-based R2C Group to develop its first DRTV campaign. “They came to us at that time to reposition the stand mixer, so we did a long-form and short-form campaign that were real successful and ran for well over a year,” says Tim O’Leary, CEO of R2C Group.

Armstrong says, “R2C Group understood the [housewares] space in terms of product and price point. In addition, they understood that KitchenAid is a brand first.
They were mindful of the fact that we wanted to sell the brand and protect the brand while also making a strong sales pitch on television.”

The DR company shot the show on a kitchen set with celebrity chefs cooking various dishes using the stand mixer. O’Leary explains, “We launched their first infomercial right after 9/11.” He points out that “the country was pretty much in despair and we didn’t know how this infomercial would do, yet it did well at kind of a strange time.” In fact, he says that the ratios were so much better than they had initially thought.

Despite the campaign’s success, however, KitchenAid elected to pull back from DRTV and put its energy into more traditional forms of marketing. It wasn’t until late 2007 that the company returned to DRTV and re-teamed with R2C Group to produce KitchenAid’s latest campaign.

O’Leary says, “The KitchenAid mixer is not an unusual product because it’s been around since 1929.” He points out that over the years, the company remained consistent with the appliance’s design and versatility. In fact, you can take a 50-year-old model and use the current attachments with it. However, he adds that some people, who might have purchased the stand mixer or received it as a gift in the past, may not realize all that it can do.

With this campaign, Armstrong says the company marketed a version of the stand mixer-the Ultra Power 10-speed 4.5-quart model-that was accessible to more consumers.

KitchenAid also chose to go a different route with the creative. Rather than using celebrity chefs, the company wanted to draw more attention to the history of the brand and showcase its loyal group of customers. Armstrong says it was important that the campaign “heavily communicate the notion of why you need to own a KitchenAid stand mixer.”

Armstrong says he knew testimonials would be important to the new campaign. And when it came time to gather customer testimonials, R2C Group didn’t have to look too far. In fact, the folks at R2C Group were just blown away by the stories that KitchenAid consumers had to share.

“We didn’t have to go real deep into the consumer database to come up with compelling stories about this product,” Armstrong notes. People have a real emotional connection to the stand mixer. So when customers began to tell their stories about the product, he explains, “it became very clear then to R2C Group that they had something unique on their hands.”

The R2C production crew spent two weeks traveling across the country filming various KitchenAid customers and capturing the fervor that everyday people have for the product. Those featured in the infomercial and TV spots included men and women of varying ages who share a passion for cooking.

In terms of the offer, KitchenAid proposed four payments of $69.99 or one payment of $279.96. The company also threw in a number of freebies to sweeten the pot, including an extra 4.5-quart mixing bowl valued at $50, two extra lids worth $10, a $25 KitchenAid coupon good towards future purchases and a one-year subscription to Food & Wine magazine worth $37.

On November 3, 2008, R2C Group rolled out the KitchenAid campaign on both national cable and broadcast networks. O’Leary says the client plans to go pretty broad with its media, especially with long form. While, the company is open to various cable networks, he says, “intuitively we’re going to be heavy on more women-oriented network.” His team has also targeted home and garden and cooking-oriented networks.

R2C Group also made sure to draw attention to the KitchenAid micro-site. In addition to the 800 number, the infomercial and spots also feature a BuyKitchenAid.com URL that encourages TV viewers to visit the site and learn more about the product, download recipes from the show, view the different colors available or make an online purchase. The site also includes streaming video, which complements the television spots.

KitchenAid’s DRTV and online efforts have also helped its retail business. “It’s important for us to demonstrate to the retail community that we’re driving consumers into the stores and creating pull,” contends Armstrong. He adds that because retailers so heavily support his product, it’s probably purchased more at retail than most infomercial products on the market because consumers know exactly where they can get it.

Times certainly have changed since KitchenAid launched its first DRTV campaign in 2001. For one thing, the term “viral marketing” was non-existent and some marketers were still trying to fully grasp the concept of online marketing.

But with this second production, R2C Group saw an opportunity to integrate even more engaging channels. “Our pitch to KitchenAid was that ‘you have the ultimate social networking product because what we’re going to do with this campaign is tell stories about people who use the product, and we’re going to invite [viewers] to the website to download recipes,’” says O’Leary.

O’Leary realized seven years ago when R2C Group first built the KitchenAid site that it drew a lot of web traffic. “So we said to KitchenAid, ‘Let’s use [social networking] as a launching pad for a real online communication strategy with your consumers, and let’s flood all the social networking sites with recipes and information,’” he recalls.

The KitchenAid stand mixer is available in seven colors. Thus, customers can visit the micro-site to view the product in various hues.

Armstrong believes viral marketing and social networking are vital to a DR campaign. “I like to say that our customer network was viral before viral was a popular word because we’ve always had a connection with the consumer-where they send us letters and they tell us stories that get shared throughout the company and with other customers,” he explains. “As soon as blogging and this networking phenomenon took off online, we were just a natural fit for that.”

As O’Leary puts it, “The stand mixer kind of sells itself when you get somebody who says, ‘Yeah, I use it and I do all these things that you didn’t know I could do.’”

What’s more, the KitchenAid spots can be viewed on YouTube.

Now that KitchenAid has launched its second television campaign, what’s next? The company is exploring the possibility of doing more DRTV campaigns to market its other products.

According to Armstrong, “We’re looking at some of the other categories that we have to see if there are additional opportunities to let consumers know that there’s more to KitchenAid than just the mixer.”

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