Don’t sell to the community; become a part of it.

By Fizz May 28, 2013

Originally posted on WOMMA’s All Things WOMM blog, this post was written by Jeff Morrissey, Brand Specialist – Marketing and Innovation at BISSELL.

communityThe carpet sweeper was invented in 1876 and really hasn’t changed much because it still works just like it’s supposed to… But, by 2011, BISSELL sweeper sales had become flat (for several years) and consumer interest apathetic. BISSELL had a choice. We could retire the sweeper line or invest in marketing. Unwilling to let the heritage product die, we chose word of mouth marketing.

We changed the sweeper story from ‘in-between clean’ to picking up the PITA (pain in the a**) pieces. We identified three unique communities with very different PITA woes:

  • Moms: We narrowed the focus to sweeping up LEGO® bricks and Christmas tree needles (yes, it really works)
  • Cat Parents: To help them contend with ‘kitty litter floor spread’ (you have to be part of the cat parent club to understand)
  • RV’ers: Think of older people travelling months at a time in 300-square-feet (a retirement you can look forward to)

Because each community has a very distinct personality, we decided it would be more effective to become part of each, rather than create our own singular group. We learned to mirror their unique personalities, which forced us to customize everything we did. Take a look at how we mirrored cat parents vs. RV’ers to see what we mean.

Cat parents

Cat parents seemed to behave like their cats. They watched and evaluated from a distance, then decided to engage if their interest was piqued. So, we went to places cat parents congregated and created cat litter art, swept it up and started over. We noticed cat parents paid attention to what we were doing, but were cautious about approaching. Once the first person decided to check us out, others sauntered over to join the conversation and then join the group. We also had a lot of success engaging cat parents digitally, where we dangled information in front of cat community influencers online, and were patient as they determined their interest.

The RV crowd

RV’ers are extremely outgoing and interactive. We attended RV rallies around the country, offering to sweep coaches. We decorated our golf cart like they did, adopted a life-like stuffed dog that went everywhere with us and joined them for lunches, afternoon get-togethers, and community activities. Many adopted us, introducing us to their friends and telling people to look out for us. We participated and became part of their community, staying in touch after the rallies.

This year, we’ve added ten BISSELL Deputies recruited from among our RV friends. They will share the sweeper RV story in their community as they travel the country.

In the end, we learned that if a story has a vibrant and relevant place within an existing community, we have to make sure the activations seeding the story fit. By mirroring our communities, we develop a deeper understanding of their needs and they are much more receptive to what we have to say.


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