Paul Holmes 05 Mar 2003 // 12:00AM GMT
Wider is … better. When Maytag turned to MS&L/Chicago to launch the Maytag Wide-By-Side refrigerator, it was the first time that a side-by-side refrigerator had been re-configured since its entrance into the refrigerator category 40 years ago. MS&L was charged with proving to media that Maytag was revolutionizing the refrigerator category and giving consumers what they needed … more space. MS&L created a sports-themed product launch event as well as distributed a national press kit to kick off the new refrigerator. The public relations effort was a success: media coverage included high-quality placements in top publications.
Our objective was to introduce the Wide-By-Side refrigerator, communicating its benefits and generating consumer awareness and interest. The challenge was to create buzz beyond our standard media outlets. So, MS&L created a sports-themed launch event to reach food and sports editors, and sports radio reporters as well as our tried and true publications. We wanted to position Maytag as innovators in the refrigerator category through the launch of this new side-by-side refrigerator that offered consumers extra space for storing large and bulky items.
Our consumer target was women ages 25-54, primarily side-by-side refrigerator owners.
People are always looking for more space…more space in their closets, more space in the garage and even more space for parking spots. So we shouldn’t be surprised to find that Americans also want more space in their refrigerator. Consumers repeatedly find themselves struggling to wedge certain food items, such as whole turkeys and roasts, bulk packaged foods, watermelons and casseroles, into limited refrigerator space. Maytag looked to MS&L/Chicago to spread the word about a new refrigerator that solved these storage dilemmas.
A consumer study MS&L conducted showed that 76 percent of Americans who owned side-by-side refrigerators were dissatisfied with their storage space. Consumers expressed frustration when storing odd-shaped or larger items such as frozen turkeys, watermelon, family-size pizza boxes and deli platters. Most consumers said they loved the sleek style of the side-by-side refrigerator but felt it fell short on space. It was important for us to impress upon consumers that they didn’t have to sacrifice style to gain storage flexibility. Research also conveyed that side-by-side refrigerators have not been altered or changed in configuration in over 40 years. This proved to be a favorable fact and added an innovative angle to our story. Maytag was not only boasting the widest available space but was the first to change the configuration of a side-by-side refrigerator since it was first introduced on the market.
Knowing this refrigerator was a breakthrough in side-by-side refrigerators, we thought it was big news, but we weren’t sure if the public would agree. We had to find a memorable hook and blow it out to appeal to everyone. Our overall strategy was anchored by a blowout event in New York offering editors a sneak preview. We originally thought the refrigerator would be released in the holiday months of November or December, which would have been a perfect time to tie in needed storage space. However, the launch date was then moved to January which created a challenge. With all the holiday excitement over, we needed to focus on something that would still wrap around party planning and food storage. Then it hit us…the Super Bowl is a time when family and friends get together and watch the game—and eat!
We also knew that the information garnered through the survey would offer consumers a problem/solution angle that gave the press materials more of an edge. In order to reach beyond New York, we distributed a comprehensive press kit nationwide.
To follow in true Super Bowl fashion, we enlisted two veterans to host a tailgate with the media to demo the new product. Now, who should Maytag rely on to introduce this “wide” refrigerator? None other than William “the Refrigerator” Perry, a gridiron favorite who played for the Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears. While William can find his way around in the refrigerator, he needs a little help in the kitchen. We drafted Mary Micucci, party planner for the stars, to give William a hand. Also, knowing that this product is a “see it, get it” appliance, we knew that giving editors a chance to view it first hand would definitely work to our advantage. We made sure that there would be time for the media to test out the refrigerator.
Our program included: an early bird Super Bowl for the media, spokespeople, press kit mailing and media relations.
Teaser: Approximately two weeks before the event, a pre-game tailgate “Save the Date” postcard was sent out to select New York-based media. The colorful invitations pictured William Perry, fully dressed in his Chicago Bears’ uniform, smiling mischievously on the front. The other side featured a football field, and the pertinent event information. We hinted to a product launch but left the rest to the imagination.
New York Event: For our Super Bowl-themed launch, we chose to host the event at the ESPN Zone in Times Square. As guests entered, the television screens looped the Maytag logo and menus. They proceeded to the food tables where they were invited to munch on appetizers such as pizza, chicken wings and deli and vegetable platters before being seated to watch the “half-time” show. On stage, our spokespeople presented a skit showing how over-sized items easily slid into Maytag’s Wide-By-Side refrigerator, visually relaying our key messages. After the show, editors were encouraged to take the
Refrigerator Challenge. This challenge had editors taking food out of the Wide-By-Side refrigerator and trying to fit it into a traditional side-by-side refrigerator—which they couldn’t do.
Spokespeople: To capture media attention, we enlisted two celebrity spokespeople—William “the Refrigerator” Perry and Mary Micucci. William Perry was enlisted for his tie to football and his ever-so-catchy nickname. He helped capture the attention of sports media and enthusiasts. Our second speaker scored with the food and lifestyle reporters. Mary Micucci from Along Came Mary Productions is rated one of the top party planners in the country, planning high-profile events such as Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt’s wedding. William and Mary presented “How to Host a Super Bowl Party,” delivering key product messages and offering tips and funny anecdotes. William even treated attendees to the infamous Super Bowl shuffle.
And since no Maytag party is complete without the beloved company icon, Gordon Jump, the lonely Repairman, was also on-site to demonstrate the refrigerator’s benefits and pose for pictures.
Media Materials: On the day of the event, a press kit was mailed to over 500 media outlets, including the top 200 newspapers, trade, home shelter and other specialty publications. The kit consisted of a survey results release, product release, business release, fact sheet, infographic and product shots. We conducted follow-up with media to secure placements.
The launch of the Maytag Wide-By-Side refrigerator was a victory. Over thirty New York editors attended the event, which resulted in a wide-range of coverage. More than 43 million media impressions have been counted to date, including New York Times, Washington Post, Good Housekeeping and much more. Not only was Maytag featured in many home/shelter, women’s and trade publications but our spokespeople also opened the door for interviews on Wallstreet Journal Radio and Fitness magazine. The event also scored an unprecedented goal by securing a live interview with ESPN Radio right before the event started. This allowed Maytag to veer into an untapped media angle and widen the audience scope. The consumer demand for the product has exceeded production, resulting in back orders. With the success of our program and the product, we plan on a “repeat” season next year.