Originally written by Steven Feldman, Floor Covering News
Kennesaw, Ga.—Stainmaster is poised to help floor covering retailers maximize their profit potential in 2020 by creating even more value around Stainmaster, inarguably the industry’s most recognized brand. And by finding new, innovative ways to reach that consumer, particularly those in the market for flooring, Stainmaster is delivering to its retail partners a customer predisposed to the premium brand.
Brook Brown, vice president of the Stainmaster brand, told FCNews everything Stainmaster does begins with that consumer, whether it be innovation, marketing, etc. This year, Stainmaster is making a concerted effort to find the consumers who are ready to buy flooring and then send them straight to retailers asking for the Stainmaster brand.
“We want to send consumers a series of messages that can help them get across the finish line,” Brown explained. “We’re also creating new content and photography that is meant to be aspirational.” (The idea is when consumers see these images, they can see themselves living in those room scenes, which creates demand.) “We feel that is one of the best ways to help the retailers—to queue that consumer up for them.”
That’s just the beginning. Brown said lead generation is a high priority for Stainmaster in 2020 based on feedback from its retail partners. “I can’t think of one conversation we’ve had with a retailer that doesn’t include something around lead gen,” she said. “They say this is the most important thing we can do for them. So, we are focusing our energies and marketing dollars on helping them in this way.”
Stainmaster’s strategy entails, according to Brown, traditional advertising along with “some new ways of reaching the consumer” that will remain under wraps for now. Implementation begins in the first quarter.
One thing’s for sure: A major portion of Stainmaster’s marketing dollars will go toward targeting a younger demographic—millennials—who might not be as familiar with the Stainmaster brand as the baby boomer or gen X. “Awareness is very strong with our older consumers,” Brown explained. “We had amazing advertising that was engaging and told the story. However, our awareness is also strong when we’re talking about those next generations. Three out of four people know the Stainmaster brand, and that goes up to four out of five when they’re in the market for flooring.”
Brown cited the Stainmaster PetProtect brand as something that appeals to younger generations. “We live in a world where pets are family and those pets are often considered children, especially in that group. They have more pets than babies. And they think about them when they’re shopping for flooring. They want products that are going to be right for their pet. So our marketing around Stainmaster PetProtect has been incredibly successful in reaching those younger consumers and their pets. You’re going to see a lot more of that from us in 2020.”
There may be other products in the market that target pet owners, but Stainmaster believes Stainmaster PetProtect performs best because it’s made with its solution-dyed nylon, “which is the only product we have found to deliver certain benefits we know are important to the consumer,” Brown said. “When we developed it, we really dove into what that pet owner needs—things like hair release and resisting pet stains. But what also makes it stand out is the way we’ve marketed it. We put in a lot of research and developed knowledge around a unique way of appealing to pet owners. It’s not about a warranty; it’s about a solution for the pet parent. That’s why it continues to be extremely successful for consumers and retailers.”
The Stainmaster PetProtect brand was extended to hard surface a few years ago. “Again, that pet parent who is shopping for hard surface has some different performance expectations,” Brown said. “It’s not about the hair release so much as it may be about traction for their pet. They don’t want their pet slipping on the floor. So we have developed a technology that allows for better traction for the pet. Retailers tell us we’re one of the only two programs out there that really tells a story that allows them to charge more for it.”
It’s no secret that buying flooring is one of the most time-consuming purchase journeys of any category. Stainmaster aims to simplify that journey by building trust with that consumer. “There is all this messaging when you search for flooring,” Brown said. “Oftentimes it’s not even in a language or terminology the consumer understands.”
The solution, she said, is a brand the consumer trusts attached to carpet that fits her home decor. “We built the Stainmaster brand off our brand promise that stands for durabili- ty and easy cleanability,” Brown noted. “Those are what makes her life easier. Combine that with our mill partners that make beautiful carpet—something she can be proud to put in her home.”
Brown also cited Stainmaster’s “persuasion rating,” which analyzes the content Stainmaster uses for its advertising. “We far exceed industry norms on the ability to influence consumers to buy Stainmaster flooring after they see the ads.” This is another advantage Stainmaster provides to its retail partners, she added.
DuPont launched the Stainmaster brand in 1986 with a marketing blitz this industry had never seen, which created the high recognition. After a spinoff in 2004, Stainmaster has maintained the integrity of the brand while constantly improving the fiber, which is what separates Stainmaster from others.
“We still believe nylon 6,6 is the best performing fiber to make carpet for residential replacement,” Brown said. “However, we understand there are many different preferences. With our decades of investment in understanding how consumers actually use products, we’re in a great position to leverage our brand. We think about nylon 6,6 as our ingredient and we think of Stainmaster as the brand the consumer sees.”
To that end, Stainmaster also offers retailers a PET program called Simply Stainmaster— products that are certified to Stainmaster standards. “We know there are consumers with different performance expectations or different budgets but want to have trust that the product is going to deliver,” Brown explained. “So, if our retailers have consumers who favor polyester, it is a way for them to bring in something that’s going to deliver on staining and soiling and durability expectations. And it’s another way retailers can improve their margins by selling those benefits without having to go all the way to the nylon price.”
Stainmaster’s dealer partners attest to the value the brand provides to their customers. “Stainmaster has been a great partner with NFM for many years,” said David Chambers, director of flooring, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Omaha. “They continue to bring us industry insights to help build better strategies, marketing ideas to grow our sales and showroom concepts to change the way consumers shop for flooring. They definitely make it easier for everyone to win—the RSAs, the retailers, the manufacturers and most importantly the consumer.”
Built on trust
With 33 years behind it, Stainmaster is rooted in trust by the consumer. But the brand provides confidence in ways others do not, namely its Platinum Promise offered exclusively by Stainmaster Flooring Centers (SFCs), which include some of the best retailers in North America. Brown called Platinum Promise the best warranty in the industry today: “‘If You Stain It We Replace It.’ It’s the most comprehensive warranty that allows for the things that happen in people’s everyday lives that could affect their carpet.”
Stainmaster built the warranty on the performance of nylon 6,6. This is important for retailers, too, because they can have that same confidence and trust.
Stainmaster-branded nylon carpet commands a higher price point, which allows retailers to make better margins. “When you look at the cost and benefits of a Stainmaster product, retailers can have the confidence in selling to the consumer because it’s a well-performing product. But they can also get paid for that.”
Selling a premium product requires a certain skill set and training, something Stainmaster provides to flooring retailers. “We have a team that trains retailers and their sales associates on the benefits of Stainmaster,” Brown said. Much of that training surrounds the Stainmaster Flooring Center program, which Brown described as a best/better/good system. “Take them to the best first and help them understand the performance they’d be paying for and then having a variety of styles from different mills.”
Stainmaster will also train retailers and their sales associates on how to steer the dialogue when the consumer balks at the higher price point. “For example: ‘Do you want to be back here in a year or two when your carpet is worn out or soiled? Or do you want to invest now and have something that’s going to perform and not have to be replaced in two years?’”
Gerry Yost, director, carpet, area rugs and window treatments at Avalon Flooring, Cherry Hill, N.J., gets it. “For Avalon Flooring, the Stainmaster brand continues to be an important part of the products we select on our retail floor,” he stated. “The name itself registers with our customers and RSAs as a quality product. Also, with the Pet Protect label, our RSAs can present a carpet that offers superior stain resistance—one of the biggest concerns for our customers. Customers feel that if it holds up to pets, it will also hold up to kids and husbands.”
Yost also appreciates how Stainmaster backs up the carpet with warranties, which translates into greater customer service. “This gives our RSAs more confidence in selling the product,” he said.
If the Stainmaster brand has one challenge, it’s the limited set of mills that make Stainmaster carpet, resulting in a lack of access to products. “We know the retailers want to sell nylon 6,6 branded Stainmaster products,” Brown said. “And we are working with the mills on bringing new introductions to market. We know that the demand is there from customers and retailers, and we are excited that our partner mills respond to this demand by supporting and launching Stainmaster products. We are very excited about Mannington’s recent announcement on the purchase of Phenix, and we hope to leverage that for expanded distribution.”