Whirlpool Corporation had a problem. They have great products in a boring consumer products segment. According to the Shorty Awards who rated Whirlpool’s strategy as Best Social Media Tool, “In the past, the only reason people had to engage with Whirlpool was when they had a product complaint. Whirlpool wanted to change the conversation and give consumers a reason and interest to engage with the brand beyond the product.” (#EveryDayCare – Whirlpool, DigitasLBi and Crowdtap – The Shorty Awards, 2012)
Whirlpool focused their efforts around engaging consumers by the soliciting, amplifying and promoting of those stories where everyday appliances played a role in a bigger positive story. Stories about how the simple tasks of cooking, cleaning or doing laundry could impact people’s lives, along with their schools, communities and families. Other content is around the impact of missing out on school because a child doesn’t have clean clothes to wear, and how Whirlpool helps take that challenge head on. Finally there are also constructive recipes and ideas geared to introducing important household chores to children in a fun and positive way. (Every Day, Care® by Whirlpool, 2019)
For the most part, the content Whirlpool promotes, and the User Generated Content, is in no way product or sales focused. Instead these real life stories and actionable ideas positioned Whirlpool as a thought leader in a way. The mechanics of the campaign were simple – hashtags that identified #EveryDayContent across all social media platforms, along with a Whirlpool website that was dedicated to the narrative they were developing. Organic submissions from Users (UGC) defines Earned Media, as submissions spread through their clients social channels and footprint – truly what we call Earned Media. Content was curated and then promoted across owned and paid media as well.
A look at Whirpool’s social media accounts tells part of the story as to the impact of this clever campaign. Followers netted through the campaign were pushed in to social platforms, and were opted in to multi-touch omni-channel campaigns. It worked – Facebook shows over 1.1 Million followers! That is incredible for a company that quite possibly makes the most boring products in the world. Yet they effectively leverage that platform for not just promoting their product, but for reputation management. As recently as today I saw a post from a consumer who was very upset that they were having issues with a product, and customer service, through social listening platforms, jumped right on to the problem and will most certainly correct the issue.
The results of the campaign back in 2011 are amazing (#EveryDayCare – Whirlpool, DigitasLBi and Crowdtap – The Shorty Awards, 2012):
44K stories were collected and shared
Consumer satisfaction grew from -.3 to +4.6 on a 5 point scale
12% YOY Growth vs 6% Industry Avg
6.6% Sales Growth vs 4.9%
While this growth was for the fiscal year 2011, the Whirlpool site and hashtag are still very active. Such longevity in a social media/digital marketing campaign is rare and speaks to its root humanity.
The company’s CEO in 1969, Elisha Gray II , once made a comment about Whirlpool’s core values as it relates to this topic, as well as their commitment to the environment. He said “We cannot separate our business from the communities in which we operate, and hope to grow and prosper.” (Environmental Sustainability | Whirlpool Corporation, 2018) This commitment to sustainability extends to their reduction of environmental impact not only in manufacturing, but in the use of their machines in the marketplace. This last component speaks to the development of their app.
The Whirlpool app provides consumers further engagement opportunities with the Brand, wrapped around a clever app that allows you to monitor and control your Whirlpool appliances, for a subscription fee of $.99 per month (Connected Subscription | Whirlpool, 2021). This connection can then be used to funnel back in to direct to consumer advertising and further engagement with the #EveryDayCare program.
Ultimately, Whirlpool has done very well to expand their market, digital footprint, community & environment focus, and overall relevance. Hard to do for a company that sells a boring product! Although in reality, is a refrigerator that can tell me that I’m out of bacon boring? I think not! In truth I don’t know if it can tell me that anyway, but I can dream.
Every Day, Care® by Whirlpool. (2019). Whirlpool.com; Whirlpool. https://www.whirlpool.com/everydaycare.html
#EveryDayCare – Whirlpool, DigitasLBi and Crowdtap – The Shorty Awards. (2012). Shortyawards.com. https://shortyawards.com/8th/everydaycare-whirlpool-digitaslbi-and-crowdtap-2
I spend most of my day on a screen of some sort. It seems to be a requirement of my nature, almost like eating. As a matter of fact, all day long I’m browsing the virtual refrigerator and cabinets that are the internet. Some of it is necessary to survive (or to survive at work, school, etc), some of it is free choice grazing, and some of it is just plain gluttony! All along the way, I consume marketing messages, digest calls to action, and seem to continually add weight to my digital footprint. So here’s a look at a typical day of digital consumption…
Each morning, I start with my email, usually on the phone. Next (and this is usually while still in bed), I verify that no urgent text messages came in, check my LinkedIn account for new connections or interesting posts, and finally check Fox News to make sure nothing blew up – not that I could do anything about it anyway.
What I will not do is check Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. I have deleted most of those accounts, as I believe viscerally that Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey are traitors to the Constitution and to free speech. As a result of leaving those platforms, I have less anxiety. I don’t read random posts from people I don’t know, or don’t know well and clinch my teeth, wondering how someone could be so rude/stupid/clueless/etc. That’s just not good for you.
So I continue my day usually at my computer. Most of the day is spent creating on the Adobe Creative Cloud platform, or creating within Office 365. But all of a sudden, I hear the “knock, knock, knock” of Slack, and I begin communicating with colleagues/partners in one of my companies. So far so good with not doing anything that will trigger excessive sales messaging to my inbox.
Then comes my need to buy something (from Amazon – groceries, furniture, gifts) or search for something, and the cycle starts. It appears that every search term I’ve used in Google is now coming back to haunt me, whether on the Amazon App or in the browser. Those searches have specifically led to me seeing ads for the very products, or competitor’s product- described as the “You may also like…” section of Amazon.
Before I know it, I need to go back to LinkedIn (for work – we sell a platform that enables Social Selling and as a result, we engage on LinkedIn frequently) and the “sponsored content” ads are tying to either some of those searches or visits to a software company’s site.
One more look at my emails and I see more and more spam. Spam that bypasses my spam filter. Most of it looks like there is familiarity between myself and the sender, but there is not. Some of the ads are follow up emails on perhaps research that I downloaded, or a trial of software that I did. That I understand, and it does not bother me.
When I review my emails there are things that catch my eye, but it is usually in the form of information/content that I find interesting. Several companies send me digests, which are essentially digital newsletters with several articles that may be of interest, and I will occasionally click on them – after all, this is actually closely related to our content amplification platform’s functionality, so I am neither bothered or hesitant about these types of emails.
But then there is the rest of them. I rarely open any email in my inbox that is not from a known and trusted source. That is why I have normally had over 100,000 unread emails in my inbox (it’s down to 5400 today ).
By the time I do one last LinkedIn and email check at the end of the day, I would venture to guess that I have consumed in some way over 10,000 digital ads. Between paid media, earned media, employee advocacy and good old fashioned multi-channel marketing, I have overindulged! All day long I have 3 27” monitors surrounding me at my desk, with each doing something different – yep, shear gluttony.
So what satisfies me in digital media? Honestly I do so much research that Google and LinkedIn are definitely my best outlets. I have learned to get what I need and move on. I don’t dilly dally looking at pinned pictures of puppies, or living vicariously through some acquaintances pictures from Cabo. When I socialize it’s with real people, talking and conversing. My disdain for the majority of social media, except for LinkedIn as I mentioned, is showing. I think it is destroying our collective ability to communicate.
Look, I’m in the digital media marketing business. I’ve been in the marketing business for essentially 34 years in some way shape or adjacent form. But I don’t like what much of the digital marketing world has become. I don’t like that I know how to target someone to see my ad. I don’t like that what you watch on your Smart TV is something that I can use to present you with very specific TV ads – tied to your search history for devices in your household.
A recent movie (on Netflix) called The Social Dilemma speaks to this. At one point, it is said that what all of these free services are selling, is you. You, the consumer, are the product. What you look at, how long you look at it, what you say, all rolls up into an unbelievable profile about you – the product that Mark and Jack and others are selling.
Are there positives, yes. And I love helping companies market better, by providing a way to easily distribute interesting content to share to their extended networks, as information, as optional resources, to help someone make an informed purchase decision. Alas, that is not the intent of the great majority of social media/news/search sites.
As long as Mark, Jack and Jeff are at the helm of most of the digital impressions you face daily, they will keep fattening you up as the prize hog at the slaughterhouse – not caring what happens to you, just caring about home much money you will bring at market.