Raskin Global: Fashion focus

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Marketing approach to be driven by style vs. lifestyle

New York—In an industry often characterized by a “sea of sameness” label, Raskin Global is daring to be different. And that difference extends from product to styling to marketing to the company itself. Like it or not, this is not your typical flooring supplier.

Truth be told, Raskin Global reflects the personality of its owner and president, Michael Raskin. Anything but a conformist, Raskin wanted to launch a company with an edge, a difference, something people could talk about. That was evident when Raskin Global rolled out its debut collection, Elevations Floors, at the NAFCD Distributor Market-place in November. (FCNews, Nov. 21/28) Rather than come out with a floating or click product, Raskin wanted to launch a new category, one he refers to as LLT (loose lay tile). He is one of a handful of companies marketing a true loose lay in the U.S., contending his quality is superior to a company like FreeFit because of a fiberglass sheet embodied in his product or Karndean because of greater product selection.

But it is his approach that is also vastly different. “Most people have been focused on trying to develop lifestyle marketing,” Raskin said. “What I want to do is market the product around style—not lifestyle.”

As one example, Raskin believes most resilient companies are focused on showcasing their products in beautiful room scenes instead of focusing on the fashion behind the product. “Many companies strive to make flooring fashionable, and some, like Amtico, have been successful. But no vinyl supplier has really been able to permeate that residentially in the U.S. As vinyl becomes more acceptable to a wider audience, you can make the product more about fashion.”

Part of the reason is that any imagery can be translated to a vinyl floor. “You can go to a trendy hotel in an area like SoHo, photograph a unique wood floor and capture that wood floor in vinyl. The SoHo Grand is one of my favorite hotels. Every time I go inside I get inspired. One day one of those looks will come out in a floor.”

He said his initial inspiration came simply from a walk in Brooklyn. “I get inspiration from art districts like Williams-burg. There is an emerging market here. Maybe we have to style ourselves around this feel.”

Part of Raskin Global’s creative approach results from the individual backgrounds of those affiliated with the company. Most wouldn’t know a floor if they walked over one. “Every-one in our group comes from either the fashion or music industry,” Raskin said. “They have had nothing to do with flooring.” After Raskin and Bill Lapis, COO, the rest of the team includes Grant Lyons, creative director, with a background in fashion, music and magazine publishing, and a collection of Brooklyn-based artists and designers.

With such a small team, Raskin Global has the ability to not only be different, but also flexible. “We are not a Man-nington or Armstrong. They fill a function, but they sometimes lack personality. Large companies are all about profit and bottom line. If I approach a big company with an idea, it could take a year-and-a-half before it goes through all its due diligence. I don’t need a think tank to come up with ideas. I’ve surrounded myself with people I trust, who I can brainstorm with and decide how to market the products.”

The focus on fashion ex-tends to the company’s ap-proach to marketing. It is reminiscent of the approach taken by Horizon Industries in the late 1980s with the use of fashion models. “Our imagery is quite edgy,” Raskin said. “We wanted to model ourselves after Uniqlo, the Japanese department store that re-cently opened in New York City. Its ads feature models and stylish room scenes. Our ads are about people and their floors. They would not be out of place in Dwell magazine.”

Raskin is also taking a somewhat viral approach to his marketing by introducing social networking on the home page of its website. “We want to get people to talk about their floors and the product. We want people to post photographs of their own room scenes. We want people to feel proud of the styling. We want the floor to be the difference maker in making a room stylish vs. ordinary. Because when it comes right down to it, it’s not about the floor—it’s what the floor does to the room.”

Raskin is also looking to employ social media to get his message out. “It’s about one person at a time. Whether it’s Twitter or Facebook, when we win people over, they will buy the product and tell someone about the product. We want to build a satisfied customer so she can recommend the product. And social media gives us the perfect platform to get feedback.”

At the end of the day, Raskin said all he is looking to do is build a company he feels good about. “That’s the exciting part. Not only do we want to attract customers who believe in what we are doing, we want to attract people who want to be part of a success story.”

Raskin will unveil his new company and products to the industry at Surfaces in booth S7808.

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