Rust-Oleum Gathers DIY-lovers to Test Products, Gather Insights, and Engage Customers
An iconic American maker of paints and sprays, Rust-Oleum has been focussed on providing its customers with innovative products since 1921. In 2015, with over a billion dollars in annual revenue and hundreds of products on the market, Rust-Oleum was in a position that many legacy brands dream to be in.
But they had no tangible connection with their customers, the people they created products for. Rust-Oleum sells through big box retailers like Home Depot and Lowes, instead of in their own stores, where they would be able to create relationships directly with customers.
Rust-Oleum came to Chaordix looking for a better way to foster customer engagement, gather insights, and test products and ideas.
Why Rust-Oleum Needed Change
The paint brand knew change was necessary
- They needed their fans to help them innovate and co-create new products
- They needed to increase customer and brand engagement
- They needed to learn about their customers and their preferences
The organization recognized that the best way to achieve their goals was to create an online space for fans to gather, a place where the brand could connect with them on a regular basis. Rust-Oleum’s marketing leadership engaged Chaordix in the fall of 2015.
The site features everything from “Ask the Expert” sessions where Rust-Oleum associates answer questions about specific topics, to general chats where inspiration, advice and tips can be shared with the community.
Almost Five Years & Over 14,000 DIY Fans Later…
Creator’s Studio is a branded online community filled with makers, crafters, and hobbyists from across North America. The community has grown to over 14,000 members, and has generated over 250,000 contributions from members from all walks of life. On a given week, hundreds of Creators log in and participate in the Studio, submitting Challenge entries, completing activities, filling out surveys, and engaging in lively discussions. In a world where online spaces are so often filled with nastiness, the Creator’s Studio feels like a giant family reunion.
Having previously almost no connection with their products' end users, customer engagement was a top priority for Rust-Oleum. This online space not only allowed this legendary brand to connect with its customers, but enabled Rust-Oleum users to connect with each other.
“A successful community to me is one that is filled with engaged members and members that care about the health and well-being of our brand. So for me that’s one of the things I love about Creator’s Studio,” says Andre Charitat, Rust-Oleum’s previous community leader, who also managed the brand’s social media.
Although Creator’s Studio members have directly inspired products in the past, including Chalked Ultra Matte Paint and Glitter Interior Wall Paint, the community is most often used to uncover product insights and support brand marketing efforts.
When a new product was nearing launch and the team was concerned about the complexity of the instructions needed by users to get the most out of the product, they introduced it to the community ahead of launch and sent prototypes to some of the community’s most active members. “Based on the feedback that we got we were able to build out FAQs for our call center, build out responses for the social care team, and we were able to have really informed content so that when the product hit the market and we got questions, we knew what was going to come and we anticipated it,” Charitat said. “We had ready-made responses ready to go. So nothing really caught us off guard. I think that was a really big success for us.”
The nature of the community creates an enormous amount of value for Rust-Oleum. Because the brand has invested in the community, giving members interesting things to do and letting them peek behind the scenes, the community itself is invested, engaged and ready to lend a helping hand.
“What I love most about Creator’s Studio is the fact that I have a ready-made pool of people that I can go to and say ‘hey, I’ve got this new product, will you test it out?’ And I know that these people are avid DIYers and that’s a segment that I want to reach in the market. And it’s just right there ready for me to leverage,” says Charitat.
Former Creator’s Studio community leader Lana Sorensen stated that Creator’s Studio helped the brand save up to 80% on market research costs compared to pre-community methods, and Andre recognizes that in addition to cost savings, speed is another benefit of the online community approach.
“You know a lot of this information that they gather you could do through surveys and through focus groups, but not only is that often cost-prohibitive, but the turnaround time for that is months, whereas I can go and throw out a label to the crowd and within a week and a half I have some really robust qualitative data that would otherwise take months to get if I went through a more traditional research channel.”
The Chaordix Community Platform also gives Andre the right tools to engage the perfect people in the community, based on his goals. “So the crowd segmentation I would say is so valuable…I can just go to the woodworkers [segment] and say ‘hey I’ve got this new wood stain, it’s water-based, will you test it out?’ and I know the people that are going to use it are experienced woodworkers.”
With each season comes a flood of new Creators, eager to participate in exciting challenges. They will inevitably be greeted by long-time superfans and initiated into an online community that Charitat describes as “positive and loving and encouraging.”
In recent years, fast-growing tech brands like WeWork and Lyft have popularized community terminology, and young D2C brands pride themselves on their community-focussed growth, but few brands of any vintage can point to a community as healthy and engaged as the one 100-year-old Rust-Oleum has built in the Creator’s Studio.
“It is super turn-key and the information that we get is clearly well thought-out and really valuable and we leverage it on a daily basis here,” Charitat concluded. The future is bright for Creators, and Rust-Oleum continues to derive significant value from the community, year after year.