by Matthew Spieler
Volume 26/Number 21; March 4/11, 2013
(First of two parts)
Every year, thousands of products are introduced to the marketplace. Most barely make it a year before being dropped and replaced. Some may last two to three cycles before fading into memory. Then there are the ones with staying power. But before achieving that long-term contract, a product must prove itself by living up to the hype given by the manufacturer.
2012 was no different. As such, FCNews surveyed some of the industry’s top manufacturers to find out which of their introductions from last year found enough success to remain in the lineup for another year. The first of this two-part series looks at some of the hard surface products that brought sales and profits to all parts of the selling chain.
Alterna had already proven to be a success, but in 2012 Armstrong took the line to a new level simply by changing its positioning, noted Allen Cubell, vice president of residential sales and marketing.
“We’re trying to get away from the word ‘vinyl’ with Alterna,” he explained, “and position it next to stone and ceramic because that’s what this line is—an alternative to stone and ceramic. Alterna looks and feels like real ceramic or stone so we’ve been positioning it as engineered stone.”
One of the methods the company used was creating new sample boards similar to tile displays. “We created large 2 x 3-foot boards. It really changed the whole visual from the previous small samples. Now consumers can see what it looks like in real size and can compare it to real tile.”
The result? “It has really resonated with those who are positioning it as an alternative to stone and tile.”
Pat Buckley, vice president of product management, attributes the success of Congoleum’s AirStep Advantage launch in the fall to three factors:
•“It is our thickest and heaviest AirStep product. Simply being AirStep, with all of the accompanying features and benefits, makes it a welcome addition in the market.
•“We supported it with fresh and creative marketing collateral material with the theme ‘Step Into Life,’ including unique room scenes that are designed for our sheet display.
•“We tied a retailer incentive promotion to the marketing campaign and offered a wide choice of premiums for roll purchases.”
Lori Kirk-Rolley, senior marketing director, said the company unveiled its Levaro Glazed Porcelain & Glazed Wall Tile with Reveal Imaging with a campaign that featured both traditional and online advertising.
With this launch, she said, “Dal-Tile became the first company with the capability to use Reveal Imaging technology, not only in floor tile, but wall tile, mosaic tile, decorative ac-cents and trim.”
Levaro’s real-life travertine looks can only be achieved through the use of Reveal Imaging technology, Kirk-Rolley added. “With Levaro’s Reveal Imaging technology, the beautiful look of travertine comes to life in every design with incredible color, detail and veining that is uniquely produced on every tile.”
But it is more than just mimicking travertine that made Levaro an instant success. It is infused with Microban, she explained, meaning Levaro “stays cleaner between cleanings and maintenance is made simple on an easy-to-clean tile surface with a look that’s virtually indistinguishable from natural stone.”
On the hard surface side, Mohawk was able to lay claim to a number of successes in 2012, but the one that stood out was Barrington. Tammy Perez, senior brand manager, Mohawk Hard Surfaces, said part of the collection’s success is it “evokes the character craftsmanship of handscraped hardwood and captures nature’s most time worn characteristics. Retailers said Barrington’s superior level of realism, which is achieved using Mohawk’s innovative and revolutionary GenuEdge Technology, is what draws consumers to the product, and that is the reason it is so successful.”
Perez explained GenuEdge is an innovative process that allows paper to roll over the edges of the laminate board, “resulting in the same visual as a hardwood plank and achieving a level of authenticity that is unmatched in the laminate industry today.”
Adding to its realistic looks, Perez said, is the fact Barrington is available in a single plank design, “the current trend in hard surface flooring, and a variety of popular coloring options, such as gray. In addition, GenuEdge offers consumers easy floor care and maintenance, as dust and dirt are not trapped in the eased edges.”
Barrington also employs Mohawk’s patented Uniclic technology, which offers consumers a faster and easier installation. “The Barrington collection has [proven to be] the perfect solution for the sensible yet fashion-forward laminate homebuyer.”
For Paij Thorn-Brooks, senior director of marketing for Unilin, a division of Mohawk and parent to Quick•Step, the company’s Reclaimé Collection was an instant hit not just because it is “a superior product for the market, but because Quick•Step promoted it correctly.”
Accompanying Reclaimé’s launch was a display specifically for the line. “The display was strategically designed to serve as a very effective presentation vehicle for the product and its selling story,” she said. “And it was created to be a display that would fit into all retailers’ budgets and various store layouts.”
In existing Quick•Step displays, Thorn-Brooks said Reclaimé was given a prominent position featuring generously sized samples. A Reclaimé sales sheet was also widely distributed within Quick•Step’s distributor ranks and nationally throughout the company’s entire retail customer service network to serve as an effective learning tool.
Another part of the launch that helped the product succeed, Thorn-Brooks explained, was the rich room scene photography that was created and subsequently featured throughout all 2012 merchandising.
“This prominent positioning within the overall merchandising program included [the updated display] as well as presence on the cover of the Quick•Step Color Guide—a take-with printed design piece launched in 2012—on the cover of the Quick•Step online product catalog, and in last year’s Surfaces booth as well as in many subsequent tradeshow booths during the year.”
Quick•Step also featured Reclaimé in trade advertisements, promoted it in trade and consumer media and in interior design articles that ran in major national consumer media on design topics such as: “eclectic design,” “achieving the balance between beautiful and livable,” “the ultimate versatility of neutral floors,” and “the visual and charm of a reclaimed hardwood floor at a price that fits within most decorating budgets.”
Lastly, Quick•Step’s designer partner Erinn Valencich promoted Reclaimé during the free decorating and design consumer seminars she conducted in retailer partners’ stores. The company created videos that led consumers through various interior design tips and topics that highlight Reclaimé. They were shown on Quick•Step’s and various design websites, on YouTube, in retail showrooms, and via various social media channels.
When it came time to discuss which of Shaw’s hard surface products lived up to its hype, Kevin Thompson, hardwood and laminate category manager, said it was the Hudson Bay wood collection. “It is offered in three different widths, all pre-packaged in the same carton. This produces a unique visual and assures a successful installation of a format that can typically be difficult.”
Thompson added Hudson Bay is also an Epic product, which has found growing acceptance due to its performance [and environmental] benefits. All Epic products are Cradle to Cradle certified for their eco-friendly qualities.
When it came to having to pick the one big hit for the company, Laurey Banker, director of product management, said, “it would have to be iQ Natural,” which is marketed under the company’s Johnsonite brand.
“Part of the reason for iQ Natural’s success,” she noted, is “the product has a great sustainability story, combined with aesthetics and performance attributes.”
Tarkett promoted the product at trade shows and through various public relations efforts. As a result, it won several awards, such as Best of NeoCon, Architectural Product’s Product Innovation Award and IIDEX Innovation Award (Canada).
“We’re seeing more and more specifications taking place,” Banker said. “Sustain-ability, great visuals and the performance attributes of our iQ technology makes iQ Natural a home run.”