ATLANTA Rubbermaid made its name on durable plastic containers. It now wants to be known for more.
From bathroom cleaning supplies to decorative living room organizers to lunch-sized travel kits, the company that sold utilitarian trash cans and garage storage bins has moved away from an all-plastic portfolio. It’s added color. It’s no longer trying to sell everything to everyone. And it’s finally defined its customer.
“What people really want is to organize their living space,” said Steve Pawl, vice president of marketing for Rubbermaid. “We’re trying to evolve to be much more of a home solutions brand.”
So Rubbermaid, which is part of Sandy Springs, Ga.-based Newell Rubbermaid, conducted research and toured customers’ homes, studying as they put away their leftovers and cleaned their bathrooms. What they learned is that everyone finds their own solutions, so Rubbermaid’s new products had to be flexible, to fit established habits.
That means a scrub brush with interchangeable pads, so people can clean with bristles or a sponge. It means small containers for packing a lunch, sized for a sandwich or carrot sticks instead of just leftover lasagna. It means decorative boxes that have flexible dividers, so they can be customized based on content.
Rubbermaid is reaching out to influential bloggers and professional organizers to inform them about the changes in the company, which is nearly 100 years old. Bill Chappell, an analyst with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, said while it is still early in the shift, Rubbermaid seems to be getting more shelf space in stores. Like all of Newell Rubbermaid, Chappell said, the Rubbermaid brand is trying to become more upscale and sell items at high price points.
“They’re doing what they should,” he said. “It takes time.”
In the past several months, Newell Rubbermaid has updated its strategy, investing in some of its businesses for international expansion, while also focusing other businesses on countries where they already have a presence. Rubbermaid falls into the latter category, though it had been experimenting with expansion into China and Brazil.
To get customers to look at Rubbermaid as more than just plastic containers, Pawl said the company is repeating its new messaging again and again, hoping its mantra about Rubbermaid helping them get their lives in order will resonate with shoppers.
“We’re not necessarily walking away from durability,” Pawl said. “It’s just not the thing we’re hanging our hat on anymore.”