RUBBERMAID HOPES TO GET CHANNEL-SPECIFIC

WOOSTER, Ohio -- Following a realignment of its marketing forces, Rubbermaid here is reaching out to retailers, trying to develop channel-specific -- and more effective -- merchandising strategies.For supermarkets, the manufacturer is eyeing cross-merchandising opportunities in the increasingly prominent fresh areas of the store.That means more Servin' Saver containers at the deli and more bread keepers

WOOSTER, Ohio -- Following a realignment of its marketing forces, Rubbermaid here is reaching out to retailers, trying to develop channel-specific -- and more effective -- merchandising strategies.

For supermarkets, the manufacturer is eyeing cross-merchandising opportunities in the increasingly prominent fresh areas of the store.

That means more Servin' Saver containers at the deli and more bread keepers at the bakery, said Jim Miller, director of marketing communications and services, in an interview with SN.

"The trend toward freshness is very important, but consumers, for the life of them, don't understand how to store," he said. "This cross-merchandising solution story must be told, and told constantly."

Rubbermaid is creating custom templates for retailers' co-op circular ads and experimenting with chain-specific TV ads in local markets, said Cathy Rings, vice president of marketing.

"We're not spending more [on co-op advertising], but we're trying to spend it more strategically. Historically, I think we've spent too much money on just a tombstone ad in a circular," she said.

"We're trying to help retailers create more profitable ads with solutions," she added. "How Target does back-to-school, for example, is very different from how Wal-Mart does back-to-school and how supermarkets should be doing back-to-school."

Rings said roughly 20% to 30% of Rubbermaid's sales are through the grocery class of trade, compared with 40% to 50% through mass merchandisers, 20% to 30% through hardware stores and home centers, and "a sprinkling" in specialty stores.

She singled out Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., as a model of how Rubbermaid would like to see its products merchandised in supermarkets.

"We're very impressed with them. They're very much on the front end of cross merchandising and category management," she said, adding that the retailer's corporate structure is at least partly responsible for the readiness with which it implements new ideas. "With Wegmans, it's so much faster, because you've got the head guy, and he says, 'You do this, and you do that,' and it happens."

Rubbermaid made its own attempt at improved corporate efficiency earlier this year when it split its marketing group into three segments: consumer marketing, customer marketing and marketing communications. "It was a major investment," Rings said.

Earlier this year the company also stepped up its consumer advertising, initiating in April a $20 million print and TV campaign. Its 1997 ad budget had been "close to nothing," Rings said.

"Our goal is to enter a new product category every 18 months," she said. "As our product line expands, we need the consumer to know that. It's important for the retailer, too, because nobody else in our industry advertises."

One recent introduction the company has high hopes for, especially in supermarkets, is its line of portable filtered-water bottles, which was launched at retail in July. To promote the line, Rubbermaid will run in-store taste tests this month in units of American Stores Co., Salt Lake City, and Kroger Co., Cincinnati, among other outlets.

"The potential [for water filtration] is huge," Rings said. The category is growing at a rate of between 50% and 60% a year, she said.

Other key growth segments for Rubbermaid are totes, sales of which are growing by 20% to 40% annually, Rings said, and outdoor storage products.