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Karastan rolls out experiential marketing

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By Nadine Youssef

Challenge: Karastan, a high-end rug and carpet manufacturer and division of Mohawk Industries, sells exclusively through a network of approximately 1,000 dealers. As part of its outreach to these dealers, Karastan hosts sales meetings every other year. According to Karastan VP-Marketing David Duncan, the company’s sales meetings before 1996 were done "the floor-covering way."

"They would just show samples and have dealers come in," Duncan said. "But they aren’t selling magic, the brand, the inspiration. We’re about fashion and brand and style. The only way we are going to get dealers to invest is to show them [our brand]."

In order to make these meetings more effective, Karastan decided to use experiential marketing events—those that relay strategic messaging about a brand.

Solution: At Karastan’s sales meeting in November 2004, attendees found themselves watching a Broadway Cares performance and listening to the musical group the Pointer Sisters. EventQuest, a 10-year-old special events company that has worked with Karastan since its inception, organized the two-day event.

"Every two years we do a sales meeting for Karastan. They are the high-end of carpet manufacturers," said Mark Veeder, co-founder, partner and creative director at EventQuest. "They bring all their dealers in so they can see new products and write orders, but [we] pump them up and make [the dealers] feel like they are a part of this exclusive group."

Karastan recarpeted the 24,000 square foot ballroom used for the event and set up its carpets, rugs and samples. The thematic elements of the sales meeting were influenced by Karastan’s 2004 advertising campaign, "Make a Statement. Your Own."

"We don’t want to stereotype our brand into any style," Duncan said. "Everything flows from the national ad campaign. It’s about high-end fashion and style, creating an elevated brand experience."

In addition to the dinner entertainment, EventQuest covered the walls of the room with large-scale projections of images and famous quotations, including those of Josephine Baker, Jackson Pollock and Frank Lloyd Wright.

The event experience was intended not only to generate sales but also communicate the Karastan brand and message to its dealer network, said Duncan.

Results: The 2004 sales meeting—the fifth show jointly organized by EventQuest and Karastan—was the most successful in the company’s history, with three months worth of sales completed in about 24 hours, said Duncan. Five hundred dealers attended, compared with about 325 in 2002. Karastan sold approximately 1,500 rolls of carpet, 8,000 samples and almost $1 million of rugs. At the 2002 meeting, sales were about 50% less.

"We started out real simple and the concept has gone from ‘let’s launch products’ to ‘let’s create a retail brand experience’ over the course of 12 years," Duncan said. "The retailer really understood the message this year."

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