Hammering Home the CornerHardware.com Name
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Hammering Home the CornerHardware.com Name

In a market where viable dot.com business plans need to be proven in order to generate interest from suspicious journalists, successfully promoting a new pure-play e-tailer is very challenging.

Paul Holmes

In a market where viable dot.com business plans need to be proven in order to generate interest from suspicious journalists, successfully promoting a new pure-play e-tailer is very challenging.  Fortunately, CornerHardware.com has a unique combination of live customer care - twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week - and an extensive assortment of home improvement products and advice.  Now all that was needed was the recognition and the customers.  In response, BSMG Worldwide developed and implemented a creative public relations program - including a successful online survey tied to the Presidential Election - which generated coverage in national and local media outlets ranging from Access magazine to The Washington Post, and achieving a circulation of more than 17 million in just six months.




In addition to those outlined above, CornerHardware.com faced several challenges, including:

* CornerHardware.com launched its site in February 2000 with little public relations fanfare; consequently, BSMG Worldwide had to "relaunch" the site from a public relations perspective just four months later.

* Due to limited marketing funds, CornerHardware.com had to rely heavily on media coverage to deliver its key messages and drive traffic to the site.  

* CornerHardware.com had to secure this media coverage in a market where the dot.com survival rate was dropping and interest was waning.

* In the online space, the little-known CornerHardware.com was up against well-known "800-pound gorillas," including Home Depot, Ace Hardware and Amazon.com.

* CornerHardware.com also had to compete with traditional "bricks and mortar" retailers that often are more desirable to do-it-yourselfers who don't "plan ahead" or who prefer the convenience of a neighborhood hardware store where they can "touch and feel" products.




The primary communications objectives of the CornerHardware.com public relations program included:

* Establish name recognition and consumer awareness of the Web site.

* Drive traffic to the site.

* Position CornerHardware.com as an industry leader in superior customer service.




As a result of limited marketing funds, CornerHardware.com did not have the means to conduct primary research.  Instead, CornerHardware.com relied on secondary research on the home improvement industry and its competitors to develop the site's business plan and target customers.  Some secondary research results include:

* Size: Do-it-yourself and buy-it-yourself customers spent $200 billion on home improvement in 1999.

* Forrester Research projects online purchases of tools and garden supplies will grow to $7.2 billion by 2004, accounting for five percent of retail home improvement category sales.

* Fragmented Industry: There are more than 25 online content and commerce sites. The top 10 stores account for only 15 percent of brick-and-mortar sales.

* E-commerce to the Next Level: Customers are frustrated with traditional brick-and-mortar home improvement business models because of inconsistent and hard-to-find customer service, limited selection and inconveniences such as sparse locations, long lines, short hours and difficult parking. Not all top brick-and-mortar players have established an effective online strategy.




BSMG Worldwide's primary public relations strategy for CornerHardware.com was to generate news and feature media coverage - with a primary focus on consumer media outlets - in order to build awareness and drive site traffic.  BSMG Worldwide achieved this strategy through a multi-faceted media relations program and a "fun," attention-getting online survey, offering journalists creative feature story ideas that pulled through CornerHardware.com's name and online resources.




Knowing the media seeks unique story angles and unusual consumer research that indicates the "pulse" of the nation, BSMG Worldwide was determined to create quick, cost-efficient consumer "buzz" to set CornerHardware.com apart from the many other home improvement Web sites.  To do this, BSMG Worldwide conducted a multi-faceted pitching campaign, reaching out to niche media, such as food editors and pop culture writers, who might not otherwise cover a home improvement site. 


Seasonal and feature pitches were directed toward non-traditional publications, covering every niche available.  Efforts included:

* Pitching kitchen remodeling ideas to consumer food and cooking publications

* Pitching a "women and power tools" story angle - encouraging women to empower themselves by taking on home improvement projects -  to consumer women's publications and national talk shows

* Pitching a "how to hang a mirror on the ceiling" segment idea to consumer men's publications and broadcast outlets

* Pitching a "psychology of selling" story angle -   focusing on what motivates different people to purchase - to business reporters


To further heighten the site's visibility, BSMG Worldwide also developed and promoted an online survey tied to a top news story of the time - The Presidential Election.  The two-question survey invited consumers to vote for the presidential candidate they believed would be the best "do-it-himselfer" and provide a rationale for their response, using fifteen words or less.  This survey expanded the scope of CornerHardware.com's media coverage and taped into media who wouldn't cover traditional story angles related to the company.  The results were compiled and issued in a news release, which included statements from the Bush and Gore campaigns.




As a result of BSMG Worldwide's media outreach efforts, CornerHardware.com received coverage in a variety of consumer, business and technology publications, as well as several daily newspapers and online media, including Yahoo! Internet Life, Access Magazine, Fortune Small Business, SmartMoney, InformationWeek, Good Housekeeping Do-It-Yourself, The Dallas Morning News and Arizona Republic.


In addition, BSMG Worldwide secured significant national coverage of CornerHardware.com through its online survey, including hits in The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Wireless News Flash, the "AP of the Unusual."  As a result of a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer, coverage of the survey also was syndicated across Knight Ridder News Service.


Results from BSMG Worldwide's outreach efforts on behalf of the site from June-December 2000 include:

Print: Total circulation: 17,268,385

Online: Total impressions: 741,258; Unique visitors: 21,040,000


In addition to media outreach results, CornerHardware.com received recognition from industry analysts and trade publications, including:

* CornerHardware.com received ERetailNews' "Commerce Cubed" - C3 - award for Internet retailing sites with a strong commitment to customer care, content and community.
* CornerHardware.com was ranked number one in "Customer Confidence, On-Site Resources and Weekend Warrior" by Gomez Advisers, an e-commerce analyst firm.

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