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Beaulieu’s Fisher brings vast experience to mill

Marketing guru seeks to build brand

Volume 26/Number 24; April 15/22, 2013

Gary Fisher, the new executive vice president of marketing at Beaulieu of America, comes to the company with an impressive résumé. Fisher has helped steer the marketing efforts of some significant consumer brands such as Choice Hotels, L’Oreal and Nabisco brands. He was also part of the team that developed the famed “What’s in Your Wallet” campaign for Capital One. Fisher, who joined Beaulieu last fall, is charged with reinvigorating the brand at both the consumer and retail levels. He recently sat down with FCNews’ editorial director and publisher Steven Feldman to discuss his past, present and future.

You have been involved in marketing campaigns for billion-dollar companies such as Choice Hotels, L’Oreal and Capital One. What are you most proud of?

With each of those companies, a repeat accomplishment has been creating a marketing-driven organization. While each of those companies was focused on the consumer, they were trying to develop a more consumer-centric approach in driving growth. Through market research, testing and consumer engagement, I helped bring the voice of the consumer into the company, which became the platform in developing a marketing-driven culture.

Talk a little about the “What’s in Your Wallet” campaign.

Behind the executive vice president, I was the second hire in Capital One’s brand marketing group. Our first challenge was to create a meaningful brand in the marketplace. We did an extensive agency search, identified a group to work with us, and spent a great deal of time understanding the market and the consumer in coming up with that campaign. We had several campaigns that collectively as a management team we thought were stronger, but when we did copy research on the barbarians and “What’s in Your Wallet,” it turned out to have the highest awareness and purchase intent levels. As a result, we took a calculated risk and the rest was history. I believe this is the single longest running ad campaign in the financial services industry.

What is your philosophy on successful marketing?

No. 1, it’s about understanding consumer needs and wants. No. 2, it’s about partnering with the trade—retailers and/or dealers. No. 3, is being strategic in the approach, always having a well-defined plan and metrics in place so the programs can be tracked to determine which ones have moved the business forward, which ones haven’t and then modifying the plans accordingly.

How will your vast experience from outside the industry help Beaulieu?

I think it can help in a couple of areas. Primarily it will be looking at consumer needs and wants. I think the industry has done a great job of focusing on new trends, working with dealers and creating successful programs. To take it to the next level, we need to bring a consumer perspective into the organization and understand, in her language, what she is looking for. That’s very powerful, because it touches so many aspects of the business—the way we design displays, the way we develop our websites, the way we create promotional programs, and ultimately the way we develop our product lines.

Your experience has primarily been with consumer brands, but for the most part this industry has very little brand recognition at the consumer level. Is your focus going to be on the consumer or on the retailer?

It is a balance between the two. The retailer offers our product in the right type of environment for the consumer to make the appropriate choice. We want to make our retailers comfortable in the type of programs, products and support we offer. At the same juncture, we want to drive consumers into our dealers’ stores with a better education of what they want so ultimately they are more satisfied with their final decisions. And, if done well, that decision is our product.

How do you drive consumers into retail stores?

Primarily it’s an education process, partially making the decision and buying process easier and partially listening to the consumer, understanding her language and providing her with products to meet those needs.

How do you plan to make the consumer aware of Beaulieu?

There are two parts to this. The first part will include completing extensive market research. Not only will this be a comprehensive analysis of the market, products and competition, but we will also research the consumer decision making and purchasing processes, so we can maximize our opportunities to engage her and have a conversation. The second part is to develop the right types of programs to reach the consumer as she goes through her research and, ultimately, purchasing pro-cess. My objective is to identify those areas where we can interrupt her decision making pro-cess so we can talk about our products and educate her on why we have the right product to meet her needs.

Talk about some of the specifics. Consumer advertising, for example.

Whatever we do as a company, we must make sure we are efficient and effective in our efforts. We will only undertake those initiatives that we can track to ensure we achieve meaningful results. We will likely focus online and leverage social media campaigns, since that’s where the majority of consumers start their search process when they begin to consider new flooring. I’m evaluating everything from Facebook to Pinterest to our own website and partner websites. I believe there are many opportunities to partner with other brands for within the home.

You’re not going to have a $150 million budget like you may be accustomed. How do you adapt?

It forces you to prioritize the types of programs you can go after. For example, coming into a new opportunity I like to cast a very wide net in terms of the types of initiatives I put in place. In this situation I have to be judicious. I need to carefully evaluate which programs will have the most impact and help me get to the next step in driving the business and becoming more marketing driven.

What were your early impressions of Beaulieu when you arrived, and what was the first thing you felt you needed to do?

My first impression was a company with outstanding people who will always go the extra mile and are exceptionally easy to work with and befriend. A fabulous R&D group working with limited resources and a sales organization that has a fantastic “whatever-it-takes” attitude. But there was no cohesive marketing strategy.

As far as my first opportunity, it was late October and we were right in the middle of preparing for Surfaces and launching our new soft product, which ultimately became Bliss Indulgence. It was a speeding train, and I needed to jump on that train and redirect it so we would have an impactful launch. The product initially had a different name and different positioning. When I looked at the product and saw it was developed for a high-end market, I wanted to create the appropriate brand name and product imagery. That gave us a great platform to do different higher-end marketing and communication initiatives.

You just unveiled a new logo for Beaulieu. Why did it need to be refreshed, and what was the thought process behind it?

This initiative was undertaken as the company started to look at growth in new areas—new product segments and new markets. We have worked in close collaboration with Beaulieu Canada to create greater synergy between our two companies, which is resulting in new efficiencies, creativity and shared opportunities. To that end, we chose to adopt the logo design already used by Beaulieu Canada as part of the new look for Beaulieu of America. Its clean, contemporary design is a perfect reflection of our new direction and spirit while visually unifying our businesses.

What are your thoughts on digital marketing?

I think this is a new opportunity for us going forward. I want our company to be a destination for all carpet and/or flooring needs. We are going to cast a broad net when it comes to the types of programs we will put into place and are investing in our website and marketing organization to support these initiatives.

Talk a little about some other initiatives you have planned for the rest of the year.

Our website, social media, consumer and dealer research will be a focus and we are ramping up our product management initiatives. Also, time spent in the field learning at the dealer level so we can position our products effectively for a greater share of the market. I want to focus on increasing the retail salesperson’s product knowledge through product reviews while providing research-supported consumer sales material and becoming the “best of breed” in terms of dealer support. I think one of the competitive edges our company has is a high level of customer service.

How do you wish the name Beaulieu to be perceived in the marketplace?

The primary focus for our residential business in the U.S. will be on the Bliss brand. As we evolve, Bliss will become an umbrella brand and a platform to take the business to the next level. It will not only become a strong dealer name, but also a strong consumer name. When consumers hear “Bliss,” they will recognize it as a trusted flooring brand which meets their needs and provides years of satisfaction—one they will ultimately recommend to their friends.