Flooring America/Flooring Canada: Brand repositioning targets consumer recommendations

Home Inside FCNews Flooring America/Flooring Canada: Brand repositioning targets consumer recommendations

by Melissa McGuire

Orlando, Fla.—Flooring America/Flooring Canada (FAC) is repositioning its brand to a corner of the world it believes is currently unoccupied: The most recommended flooring retailer in North America. A new tagline reflects a new way of doing business: “Where Friends Send Friends.”

The brand repositioning is a result of what Keith Spano, president, referred to as a sea of sameness in terms of the advertising message flooring retailers attempt to convey to consumers, FAC included. “We lost our message; we fell into the same me-too trap. It was tired. It was same-old, same-old. If you took off the Flooring America logo and put something else on, you’d find there was no uniqueness. So we went back to the drawing board and developed a message we can truly own.”

FAC’s braintrust determined it had to develop the brand voice again. “We found a unique common thread among our members,” Spano said. “While everyone does business differently, the thread is we take care of our customers. That’s where the light bulb went off: We realized we have to become the most recommended flooring store in North America. That’s the emotional appeal of why people buy. They buy because someone said, ‘You should go to my carpet guy.’ That’s where ‘Where Friends Send Friends’ came from.”

Spano intends on harnessing Buzz Marketing, the power of word of mouth, as FAC’s marketing campaign. “We’re going to build a buzz to get people talking about your business. Word of mouth is measurable, trackable and inexpensive.”

Word of mouth marketing not only creates a buzz, but research reveals actual recommendations are more credible than traditional advertising methods. For example, according to Spano, 75% of people don’t believe companies always tell the truth in traditional advertising. On the other hand, the research found 70% of people consult reviews and share them with other people and 92% of consumers say they trust earned media—word of mouth—over all forms of advertising. “We believe a critique in rapidly growing social media platforms like City-Search, Google, Angie’s List and Yelp will be much more impactful than a store running a full page ad in the newspaper. Therefore, we want to give our members’ customers a way to recommend their businesses. We need to publish great reviews.”

The strategy is a departure from a national focus to a more local or “hyper-local” strategy. It is about talking to consumers at a local level with content that is relevant to that specific market and neighborhood.

The goal is for this to be achieved through a series of initiatives that began at winter convention with the launch of the FAST (Flooring America/Canada Social Tools) program. Phase I of FAST leverages the power of Twitter.

“The FAST program has been up and running for nine weeks and is gaining traction,” said Frank Chiera, Flooring America vice president. “This campaign is all about building brand engagement and so far we have around 25,000 Twitter followers.”

The best part? Flooring America is doing the tweeting on behalf of its members. “Our members should be servicing their customers and not worrying about the content on Twitter,” Chiera said. “We are managing it for them. And this adds an additional SEO benefit for everything each member does online.”

This convention saw the launch of Phase II of FAST, which harnesses more social media outlets. “In the second phase of FAST, we will layer on Facebook posts, LinkedIn posts and YouTube videos,” Chiera said. “We will be managing our members’ local Facebook page, leveraging the ‘friends to friend’ campaign.”

He explained this delivers a completely integrated social media strategy and brings the campaign to the local level. “We can now monitor consumer sentiment. If someone says something good or bad about a member, we can respond to that quickly. There is no better way to publish testimonials, reviews and recommendations than this platform.”

Chiera said these tools allow Flooring America members to get free customers and sales will close faster because someone has already told a potential customer what that member does and how well he does it. He explained that new business will be supported by fans—people who want others to know what an individual store is doing.

In order to generate buzz among the members and encourage the use of alternative social communication tools, Flooring America gave away iPads to members at the convention who signed up for Phase II of the program, which they can use in-store to gain consumer reviews along with an FAC selling app that will be available in September.

Where Friends Send Friends will also be supported by traditional marketing vehicles, such as TV and radio spots along with direct mail. “As far as traditional marketing goes, we have an all-new creative,” said Marsha Hewey, director of marketing. “Our focus is all about all real friends talking to real friends.”

Flooring America members seemed to be excited about the direction Spano and Chiara are taking with the buying group’s marketing. “The Where Friends Send Friends program is something many of us have been doing for years, anyway,” said Gary Canizaro of Premiere Flooring America, Kenner, La. “It’s how we’ve built our businesses over the years. And this is just an extension of it. We all started our companies like this but Flooring America is taking it to the next level. I didn’t just sign up for FAST, I believe in it so much I hired an assistant to handle all the aspects of the program, including implement it.”

Jason Creel of Flooring America, LaGrange, Ga., called this different type of marketing strategy “awesome. Most of our business is from referrals anyway, so it really hits home on getting my message out and putting it out there to the customers. If my customers are happy, they’re going to tell people. I definitely think this is something that is going to set us apart from the big box stores. We will continue with the traditional media, but I’m excited about taking this different approach. To me, this is really a ‘wow’ factor. There’s no other floor covering company doing this type of thing.”

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