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Into The Stainless Steel Cage Of Death


Walk down any appliance aisle in the U.S. and what will you see? A sea of stainless steel, that’s what. Skip over to any residential new construction, and you’ll see the same in all the kitchens. Stainless steel. It’s a dominant beast. Has been for years, squishing other colors like cockroaches.

So when our client told us they were introducing a new finish to compete with stainless, we thought they were mad. And brilliant. And we couldn’t wait to get started. From product positioning and internal sales launch to the consumer introduction video, we were involved in every step of one of our client’s most successful launches in years.


Once our client determined a new finish was a viable business endeavor, their merchandising & training leadership was challenged with positioning the finish, crafting a launch strategy and executing the litany of necessary tactics.

Enter Power. Our experience in this arena was extensive. For several decades (decades!), we have played a significant role in successfully launching hundreds of their major products and initiatives. Our track record was undeniable and we couldn’t wait to prove our competency again.


How do you brand and position a new color choice without cannibalizing your most popular option? Very carefully.

This was a daunting challenge. Stainless steel had become a status symbol—a choice one aspires to own. It had grown to represent modern elegance, high-end style and sophistication. In addition, with its resistance to stains, corrosion and bacteria, it’s pretty practical too. Plus, the price point had steadily gone down, making it more affordable to more homeowners. Our client was selling A LOT of stainless steel.


In the beginning, it was essential that we collaborate with relevant teams within our client’s organization: industrial design, product development and consumer insight. Before positioning, we needed to understand demographic and psychographic segmentations, the go-to-market strategy and evolving industry trends (to name a few). This led us to a positioning statement that helped launch the finish with one unified, consistent message:

3-2-1 LIFT OFF

Creating the launch package for our client’s sales channel was met with obstacles at every turn. There was only one prototype of the Slate appliance suite and, to add insult to injury, it was on a road tour that rivaled the Rolling Stones (well, maybe Styx). Our video and photo teams only had half a day to capture everything we needed for the launch materials.

Thankfully, we had an opportunity to create a host of lifestyle assets— a vital component to bringing Slate to life. One of our key initiatives was a consumer launch video for the Slate landing page on our client’s website. Every nuance was chosen to exude modern sophistication. With an edgy twist.

For the sales materials and point-of-purchase, we opted to elevate the versatility story. The matte finish and rich, dark color of Slate had a natural ability to complement modern countertops, cabinets and other appliances. This required some education and a little “see for yourself.”


All in all, we helped our client successfully seed a new high-end color option in a market dominated by stainless steel. It was a bold and risky move for the company, but paid off in spades. Market demand for Slate-finish appliances was so swift, initial materials quickly evaporated. Requests flooded in. Today, the brochure is up to a print quantity of 100,000 and counting.


In retrospect, the initial launch materials were a little heavy on the style play. Within the first year, it became abundantly clear the practicality of the Slate finish was the primary attraction and selling feature. It seems obvious today. Hindsight…

Those attributes were secondary (even tertiary) in the beginning, but we’ve adapted the selling message rather quickly. Overall, the Slate finish has been a shining light in our client’s product portfolio. With the help of our well-oiled machine, they were able to introduce a high-end color option that can now comfortably compete with the “unstoppable” stainless steel. In fact, it’s thriving and growing every quarter.

There’s a new fish in the sea.


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