Attitude: Put Some On
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Attitude: Put Some On

To increase sales and market share, the contract wallcoverings industry needed a bold strategy. The Wallcoverings Association asked Edward Howard & Co. to develop a marketing campaign to heighten awareness of the product’s attributes. We set out to capture designers’ attention with an assertive, high-impact identity, positioning wallcoverings as a “high fashion” item.

Paul Holmes

To increase sales and market share, the contract wallcoverings industry needed a bold strategy. The Wallcoverings Association asked Edward Howard & Co. to develop a marketing campaign to heighten awareness of the product’s attributes. We set out to capture designers’ attention with an assertive, high-impact identity, positioning wallcoverings as a “high fashion” item.
The PR firm created a simple theme – “Attitude. Put some on.” – and carried it out by literally putting wallcoverings on fashion models.
The market share for contract wallcoverings (used in corporate offices, healthcare facilities, hotels, retail and institutional settings) has been declining in recent years, due mainly to increased use of borders, the introduction of new painting techniques, and a perception that wallcoverings are difficult to work with and difficult to remove.
For the industry to turn things around, it clearly was time for a bold new approach that would position wallcovering as a trendy, fashionable finishing choice, not a passé product. The industry’s trade association, the Wallcoverings Association (WA), asked Edward Howard & Co. to develop a marketing campaign that would heighten awareness of the product’s attributes and update its image. Specifically, WA asked for a “tagline” and a series of marketing brochures targeted primarily at younger interior designers and product specifiers – a group considered easily influenced by “minimalist” styles and therefore less likely than more senior designers to use wallcoverings.
Edward Howard & Co. had recently conducted focus group research with interior designers about their perceptions of various interior materials. This research laid the groundwork for its work with WA. The research indicated that, while pre-conceived negative perceptions about wallcovering had to be overcome, an opportunity also existed to build on some equally strong positives.
Some of the negatives included a perception that wallcovering is expensive (at least for high quality products) and difficult to install and remove. It also has come under fire from environmental groups due to negative perceptions about vinyl, the material of choice for most contract wallcoverings.
On the other hand, designers consider wallcoverings to be durable and easy to maintain. One particularly interesting note – the PR team found that experienced designers are more likely to think of wallcoverings as outdated, while younger designers often described them as “beautiful” and “difficult to identify as vinyl.”
It then worked with the WA’s marketing committee to plan the campaign, based on the following objectives:
· Develop a theme, slogan or logo that could be used effectively in member companies’ marketing campaigns.
· Create marketing materials that industry representatives could mail to their customers or use during sales calls. The pieces would have to represent the entire industry, not a specific manufacturer.
· Convey product benefits: value, environmental attributes, durability, low maintenance and versatility.
Based on the research, the campaign set out to portray wallcoverings as the fashionable choice for fashion-conscious designers; and provide designers with clear, current, practical information as well as design options.
 The PR team set out to develop an assertive, high-impact identity and an unorthodox approach that would capture designers’ attention. To break through the clutter, the team wanted to give designers something memorable – preferably, something they would want to display in their office or share with colleagues. The campaign was based on the premise that the fashion industry drives interior designers’ decisions. We recommended positioning wallcoverings as a “high fashion” item and developed a simple positioning statement: “Attitude. Put some on.”
The unorthodox idea was to literally put wallcoverings on fashion models. Two members of the PR staff worked closely with two graphic designers to develop the campaign. They gathered product samples from manufacturers and selected innovative products. Once the products were selected, graphics staff worked with a local costume designer for the Cleveland Playhouse to fashion clothing out of actual wallcoverings – not an easy task, since wallcoverings are much stiffer than fabric is.
The PR firm also tied the articles directly to the messages; i.e., a cute handbag to show versatility, a rugged work boot to show durability. It then identified models with the right attitude and look, dressed them in the wallcoverings, and shot photos in settings appropriate to the messages; e.g., a model dressed in green and lying in the grass for the environmental messages, a maintenance worker in his workroom conveying a relaxed attitude because wallcoverings make his job easy. (To conserve budget, the team used two local models for the entire series.)
The photos convey attitude.
The team wrote brief copy for each brochure focused on product benefits: Wallcoverings add value. They hold up to abuse. They are environmentally sound and easy to maintain. Wallcoverings are versatile and enhance your surroundings. The layouts also incorporated member companies’ photography of their products in use, to illustrate appropriate applications.
To create excitement and anticipation of what was to come, the team designed the six brochures as a series, each one numbered and building on the prior piece. Each member company that signed up for the campaign received copies of each brochure on a bimonthly basis, extending the campaign throughout the year.
The team also incorporated the high fashion photo images into advertising for the industry’s trade publications and into CD-ROMs the WA has created for its continuing education program. Each member company also received “slicks” with the tagline, “Attitude. Put some on.” to be incorporated into their advertising and marketing materials.
The materials were developed during the fourth quarter of 2001. In early 2002, 37,000 sets of the six brochures were purchased and distributed to member companies throughout the year. Nearly as soon as the first set was mailed to designers, the PR team received very positive feedback from WA members and the trade media. Paint & Decorating Retailer magazine called it a “bold new direct mail campaign.”
Shortly after the first brochures were mailed, WA surveyed participating members and received excellent feedback. They indicated that 79 percent of the mailers had been sent to design firms, 13 percent to facility managers and 4 percent to contractors. Members said the brochures were a “good vehicle to introduce new products” (cut samples) and that they had received requests from customers for the enclosed patterns. Best of all, 75 percent said the campaign generated new business or sales leads, and all of them said their investment in the campaign was worthwhile.
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