By Michael Rudnick
Vacuum makers are notching up their advertising efforts as they compete for share with higher-price-point models.
Floor care competition is less and less based on pricing and more on innovative features, technology and design, all of which are increasingly being communicated via intricate advertising campaigns.
TTI Floor Care North America has begun to pump ad dollars into its newly acquired Hoover business in efforts to revitalize the ailing, yet iconic floor care brand. During the time period when Whirlpool was shopping out the Hoover brand, it was left to wither away from an advertising standpoint. TTI, which is known for its somewhat aggressive marketing tactics, gave Hoover an advertising shot in the arm when it acquired the brand.
"We will take the best products and get it [Hoover] back on TV," said Chris Gurreri, president of TTI Floor Care North America, in an HFN report published in March. Gurreri at the time said that TTI planned to spend more money on advertising and marketing this year than in the past few years combined.
Ad dollars were also thrown Dirt Devil's way this year with a strong focus on the design-forward Karim Rashid line of vacuums, including the Kone and Kurv hand vacuums and the Kruz lightweight stick vacuum.
Big ad spending could mean big sales going into 2008 for TTI. "With an aggressive advertising spend on the Hoover and Dirt Devil brands this year, we expect to be well positioned for growth the next year," Gurreri told HFN. "The Hoover WindTunnel+Cyclonic is doing well and with the advertising campaign behind it, we expect to see sales and price point lift," he said. He did not provide specific figures on projected 2008 volume gains.
Bissell Homecare has also ticked up its advertising budget in order to push its deep-cleaning line. "We've been dialing up our advertising, particularly on the high end, and the consumer has been responding," said Jim Krzeminski, executive vice president of sales, marketing and product development at Bissell. He said that Bissell's deep-cleaning advertising budget had a double-digit increase over the past year and the company plans to further increase its ad spend in 2008.
Krzeminski anticipates high-single-digit to double-digit sales growth in the deep cleaner category in 2008, driven in part by awareness created for the segment by Bissell's advertising push. This category saw single-digit growth last year. A consumer lean toward "do-it-yourself" home improvement may also lift the segment historically associated with professional carpet-cleaning services and rental units.
Volume gains in deep cleaning will also continue to be driven by higher-price-point models. "We are seeing good growth at the $200 to $300 range-average ticket is moving up," Krzeminski said.
Big advertising campaigns are not just limited to the big players. Halo Co., the upstart vacuum maker behind the Halo UV-ST Ultraviolet Vacuum, is relying heavily on advertising to communicate the benefits of its germ-killing vacuum. The company's ad efforts began with a print advertising campaign featuring a magnified picture of the dust mite to warn consumers of what may be living in their carpets.
Halo kicked its ad spend up a notch when in early October it unveiled a billboard of its vacuum in New York City's Times Square. The billboard unveiling was timed with the full retail rollout of the UV-ST. The company plans to launch a television advertising campaign early next year, said Jeffery Collins, vice president of sales and marketing at Halo Co.
Germany-based vacuum maker Robert Thomas LP has taken a less traditional marketing and distribution approach to its U.S. entrance. The company, which began selling its high-end $1,200 Rotho Twin tt in the United States earlier this year, stepped into the market via luxury catalogs and is in the process of establishing a distribution network with specialized vacuum dealers. The company is avoiding big-box and mass-merchant channels such as Bed Bath & Beyond and Target, because "we need someone in the showroom to sell a product that sells for about $1,200," said Thomas Slusarek, product marketing manager.
Robert Thomas' inaugural U.S. marketing campaign centers around print ads in trade magazines that reach the dealer network, Slusarek said. "We are holding off now [on consumer advertising], we will let the dealers do the communication," he said. He added that the company offers some point-of-sale marketing support.
The company intends to hold off on its consumer advertising plans until it has product in a significant number of dealers across the country, he said. "If you advertise to consumers, you have to have it in a certain amount of dealers in the U.S." Robert Thomas is considering a consumer advertising launch in 2008, he added.
Bissell's Krzeminski said he has seen a notable investment in the deep cleaner this year category at department store chain Kohl's. "Kohl's is out there putting in another deep cleaner every week," he said. "They are making a statement that they are strong in floor care." Circuit City, after a multiyear hiatus, returned to the floor care category in the beginning of this year, as earlier reported by HFN.
While brick-and-mortar retailers may be pushing vacs, a large part of the category growth of late has been in the direct channel, said Rob Newcombe, vice president of marketing at Electrolux Home Care Products North America. "The change in [retail] distribution is not significant, but most of the growth is in the direct channel," he said, citing the television shopping networks QVC and Home Shopping Network and online retailer Amazon.com. "Consumers can spend a lot more time researching product online," he said. "With QVC and HSN, consumers can really understand the story," he added. The demonstration and explanation on the home shopping networks is gaining in importance as vacuum price points move up and manufacturers add new technologies and features.