Contests for user-generated commercials aren't new, but Sarah Puls is pushing the trend to a new b-to-b height. Last July, the VP-brand marketing at kitchen equipment manufacturer Hobart Corp. helped kick off an Internet contest to win a free CLe Warewasher, a top-selling commercial dishwasher that Hobart debuted in May at the National Restaurant Association Show.
With all the buzz over user-generated consumer spots for brands such as the Chevrolet Tahoe and Doritos, Puls said, the idea for Hobart's commercial was “to bring that level of excitement and creativity to b-to-b.”
Also, she added, “Several of us [on the marketing team] are fans of the show "Extreme Home Makeover,' and we were thinking of a way to give away our equipment to deserving customers.”
The contest, which wrapped up last month, asked users to create a commercial addressing at least one of the CLe's product benefits: energy and water efficiency/savings, ease of use or productivity.
The Web effort is just another example of Puls' personalized approach to marketing. With a background in consumer marketing at places such as Whirlpool Corp. and Evenflow Co., Puls oversaw a branding campaign last year via ad agency HSR Business-to-Business, Cincinnati, that focused on the personal satisfaction Hobart's customers gain from their jobs in the foodservice industry. The campaign recently won a Pro-Comm award of excellence from the Business Marketing Association for a total communications program less than $200,000.
Hobart tweaked the campaign this year to focus on sustainability issues, which it's also addressing through a ramped up webinar series. “Rather than show something like a deer drinking from a spring,” she said, “we've tried to take a more rational approach to sustainability.”
So the ads show three of Hobart's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accredited professionals on a job site. They are part of a team offering free LEED information through the Hobart Center for Foodservice Sustainability, an online think tank that is the second-most-visited area of the company's Web site.
“It's the Web site that's never finished—we continually update it because the information on this topic is changing so rapidly, and we're committed to keeping it up to date,” Puls said.
Puls is helping Hobart reach another key target: foodservice consultants hired by schools and hospitals that are renovating or building new cafeterias and kitchens. Hobart created an online consultant resource center for these key decision-makers.
Hobart is also adopting the personalization theme for its Web site infrastructure by building microsites for such major customers as Wal-Mart Stores, which now has its own Hobart site with customized content, such as training videos and repair contact information. “It's all about providing the next level of training and information to your customer service,” Puls said, adding that more of these microsites should be expected in the coming year. “It's the customer model in a way, isn't it?” —P.R.