HICKSVILLE, N.Y.—Last fall, the Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR) kicked off a 13-city road show in New York City with the goal of educating consumers about the different styles, varieties and benefits of cork flooring. By all accounts, the tour, which wrapped up this summer in Los Angeles, was considered a huge success.
The road show featured a 53-foot-long mobile showroom designed by HGTV’s “Devine Design” host Candice Olson to highlight what she refers to as the “eco-chic” nature of cork floors. Major cities like New York and San Francisco were targeted, as were home shows in places like Rochester, N.Y.; Raleigh, N.C., and Baltimore.
Appearances at large events like Surfaces in Las Vegas and the Great Big Texas Home Show at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas, brought upwards of 6,500 visitors through the Décor(k) truck at each stop.
Home improvement and design celebrities also came out in support of cork. “The exhibit was visited in Dallas by Ty Pennington of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and by Jason Cameron of DIY Network’s “Man Caves,” according to Gary Keeble, co-chairman of the APCOR marketing committee. “In Toronto and New York, Olson was promoting the style and unique designs of cork flooring. In Orlando, Fla., Décor[k] was visited by Andrew Downward, painter extraordinaire on HGTV’s ‘Divine Design.’”
While Keeble said it would be hard to put a grade on each city, he reported the exhibit had the desired effect on nearly everyone who walked through it. “The goal was to expose and educate consumers, professionals and retailers about the beauty and performance benefits of cork flooring and without question, this goal was reached. Many who were in the market for flooring asked for and received referrals to retailers who sold cork in their areas. In many cases, there were retailers who were showing cork flooring at these home shows that were able to close sales right on the spot.”
The mobile showroom was one of the many pieces of the campaign. In addition to the North American tour, the realcorkfloors.com website and social media campaign via YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter and Flickr received nearly 250 million impressions, reaching a broad target audience.
The website also gained recognition as a go-to source for information about cork flooring, from its health benefits all the way to its design attributes. “[Cork] has traditional and modern visuals in looks that work with the American lifestyle,” Antonio Amorim, president of Amorim Cork, told FCNews. “It’s trendy because of its technical attributes, as well as the fact it’s ecological and sustainable, and we believe new visuals meet the modern design trends for flooring.”
He also touched on the health benefits of cork flooring, citing scientific proof that cork is good for the spine, joints, knees and shock absorption confirmed in a study from the University of Valencia in Spain, which studied biometrics and compared the affects of standing on cork flooring versus other floors. “We have to let the consumer know about this,” he stressed.
Manufacturers are sometimes shocked by the misconceptions about cork. Ann Wicander, president of WE Cork, shared a telling story about cork flooring: “Of the average public who went through the Décor(k) mobile showroom, 60% didn’t know you could walk on cork. It’s very telling as to where we are.” However, with the right avenues for educating the industry as well as consumers, she finds the steep growth market ahead very encouraging.
The hope was for the combined efforts of all the campaign’s various outlets to raise awareness of the material and leave a positive impact. “Our ultimate goal is to sell more cork flooring as a result of the campaign, but it is still early,” Keeble said. “Our hope is that the campaign will be extended through 2012 so we can keep the momentum going and continue to build on the foundation we have put in place.”