Earlier this month, I was flown to Chicago to spend the day with a group of other parenting bloggers to check out all the new things that are going on with the Kenmore line of appliances.
Now, I don’t know about you, but the idea of sitting in a room all day being shown dials and buttons on washers and dryers does not sound all that fun to me. Before this event, that is exactly what I expected it to be because that is all I knew Kenmore was about. We don’t own any of their products and while a quick look at the Kenmore site showed me they made more than just washer and dryers, I still wasn’t sure what to expect.
In full disclosure, roughly twenty of us were flown to Chicago and put up at The Wit Hotel. They did a great job making sure there was a car service to take us to and from the airport and showed us a good time while in town. All of this of course was on Kenmore’s dime (except for the Al’s Italian Beef that I had to sneak out and get while we were in the neighborhood and they forgot to feed us *grin*)
The trip started on an extra high note as I got to the airport and we had been told that we’d be sharing cars with other bloggers arriving at similar times. I didn’t know many of the other people taking part, but there were two that I was really looking forward to finally meeting face-to-face and as the door of the car opened there sat Tanis aka “The Redneck Mommy” in the flesh and I’m ashamed to say we both may have squealed a little bit at this moment. If you haven’t read her site before, she is one of the most blunt honest writers on the Internet and she doesn’t take shit from anyone which is just another reason to love her. By the end of our time in Chicago we had certainly bonded and I have a new friend that I can’t wait to get together again with soon.
In the morning we all jumped on a bus and headed out to Sears HQ. It sits on a massive compound far outside of downtown Chicago so the trip out gave us all time to chat and get to know one another. I sat with Shannon of Whiskey in My Sippy Cup and we talked about our book ideas, life, business and the craziness that is the web. Count her as another new friend that I’m looking forward to causing trouble with in the future.
Once we arrived at Sears, we spent most of the day in a large room surrounded by appliances. They had set up the room to be very open, with snacks, water and everything else to keep us going. They had product managers from all the different divisions give short presentations on how they’ve changed the entire line of Kenmore products over the last few years. I was shocked to see just how much thought, process and dollars had gone into this complete redesign. They started it in 2008 and the process they went through seemed almost overkill for appliances and felt more like the tactics a luxury car company would take. I mean, they went to Milan to find inspiration! Really? Hmm…
But, all that being said the appliances look great. They really wanted the Kenmore brand to have a consistent feel so they went so far as to put the same blue LED lights in all the products, redid the logo and even now have a Kenmore font that is used throughout the products. Personally, when it comes to appliances I am MUCH more interested in the function over the form, but maybe I’m in the minority on that. They did show us their upcoming new touch screen interfaces that will be on their devices and that not only is good looking, but also has lots of great features.
What I did like hearing was how much time they spend talking to current and potential customers. They are constantly showing their products, doing focus groups (we took part in one in the afternoon) and asking for feedback. Even more important, they are listening to what they are hearing and taking it to heart and putting it into practice. For instance, they heard that people didn’t really know how much space “a cubic foot” was when it came to refrigerator capacity, so they filled their newest one with 465 cans of soda since everyone could relate better to that sizing. Part gimmick, part smart. I love it.
Two big things I took away that I didn’t know about before I went was that Kenmore had a line of small appliances and the awesomeness of induction cooking. I guess they’ve always had blenders, food processors and mixers, but I had no idea. Extra points to them for the sleek new black boxes that they are packing these in. They are very modern looking and sexy. I can’t wait to try some of these out in the future.
As for induction cooking, I can’t begin to explain it fully, but lets just say it uses magnets between the stove and the pans to heat up very quickly. Chef Billy Parisi (who did a cooking demo for us) was raving about the technology and the more I talked with him on-on-one, the more convinced I was that I want to try it. I have a feeling it would take some getting use to, but as someone who loves to cook I’m intrigued enough that I want to find someone with one of these ranges in their house who would let me use it in exchange for making them dinner. Anyone?
At the end of the day we were taken over to the Kenmore Live Studio. This state of the art pop up store (that doesn’t sell any products currently) is used to host weekly live events showcasing their products. Going on that night was a Foodie Bloggers vs. Mommy Bloggers Throwdown. They have a multi-camera set up and live in studio audience space and stream these events live on the web. The whole production was top notch and it was a packed house. It was obvious that they committed some serious dollars towards the effort and it seems to be building awareness and great content for the brand on a regular basis, so the marketer in me is psyched for them.
In the end, my worries about being bored held no merit. Kenmore is committed to staking their claim in the appliance world. From talking to people before, during and after the event, I found out I’m in the minority for not owning any of their products. They are constantly improving their products and are committed to listening to customers. That alone is something that every company needs to start doing more of so I’m proud of Sears for making it such a priority.
A special thanks to Rich from Kenmore for making sure that Dads were not forgotten about on this trip and respecting how much we are involved in purchasing and using the types of products they manufacture. Plus, from the first e-mail until the last goodbye he was a down to earth guy who realized it is more about being human than anything else. Plus, like me he likes Tequila!
Do you have opinions about Kenmore? I’d love to hear them since I still haven’t actually used any of their products but I’m sure some of you have.