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Kohler Sources Content From Influencers For Its Brand-As-Publisher Strategy

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this article originally appeared in Ad Exchanger in June 2016
Kohler is looking to do more than just sell plumbing supplies and it’s using content to get there.
The goal is to help prospective customers, anyone from an individual homeowner to an interior designer, envision how a new piece of hardware will fit into the home of their dreams.

In the pre-digital era, Kohler showcased beautiful kitchens and bathrooms through glossy print ads.

But adapting that ethos to the digital space took more than developing a presence on social platforms and design sites like Pinterest and Houzz, which Kohler did. Those efforts felt like one-offs and nothing was centralized.

Which promoted the marketing team to present the digital team with a challenge: “Figure out how we could get our digital footprint into one place, not to replace our presence on places like Houzz and Pinterest, but to supplement it,” said Kristen Wojhan, a digital director at Kohler. “It’s a symbiotic relationship.”

The resulting site, Kohler Ideas, houses branded content created by other publications and influencers, mood boards and home tours. Even if an article originates with an influencer or publisher, it ends up on Kohler Ideas, making it a resource for people trying to figure out what faucet, for example, is right for their home design.

A large number of people who visit Kohler Ideas end up clicking over to the main merchandising site, Wojhan said, though Kohler doesn’t share those numbers.

But compared to people who just visit the main site, those who come in via Ideas are twice as likely to display purchase intent and search for where to buy Kohler product, according to Wojhan.

Kohler measures the success of Ideas in other ways, too. Quantitatively, it monitors dwell time, engagement and when users click to view product details. Anecdotally, the brand has heard from designers and architects about how the site helps them envision the spaces they’re working on.

Although Kohler Ideas and its ecommerce site are quite separate now – in part because the latter is more difficult to re-architect –Kohler is trying to weave more and more of its inspirational content into its ecommerce and product lookup site.

But the reverse happens, too. Kohler Ideas includes relevant product links next to content.

When influencers create content –Kohler has worked with design bloggers like Sarah Yates and Marcus Troy – it relies on direct relationships or its agency, which takes charge on bigger programs. But as influencer marketing grows, Kohler was looking to develop more direct relationships with its publishing partners without the legwork.

Kohler now has a more automated way to do that through Tidal Labs.

Tidal Labs, a tech platform that’s a “CMS meets aspects of CRM,” according to CEO Matthew Myers, allows Kohler to monitor topline engagement and key traffic sources. The tech also integrates with Kohler’s product database, so that the right products show up next to relevant articles.

But it’s also a way for Kohler to connect to influencers. Tidal Labs just released its CreatorExchange, which allows Kohler to search and negotiate with influencers in a more automatic fashion and with transparent pricing. The simplicity of the tech platform will ostensibly allow Kohler to do much of the work itself, which is a new element of its content strategy.

“We are focused on bringing partnerships in house,” Wojhan said. “To be able to clearly and transparently see what creators are available and how we can partner with them is something we are excited about.”

Tidal Labs has its own network of 50,000 influencers, including many who live in the long tail. Besides brands like Kohler, other influencer networks, like Federated Media, tap into the network to expand their pool of potential content collaborators.

“We know we need to find scale with our media-driven partnerships,” Wojhan said. “We want to be able to quickly and nimbly activate.”

Better connections to content producers will allow Kohler to continue to execute on its strategy of providing useful content to people fixing up their homes.

“We see ourselves as a lifestyle leader and a brand that can provide design solutions,“ Wojhan said. “Half the building I work in is dedicated to producing, shooting, editing and publishing beautiful content, because we want our customers to have the bathroom or kitchen of their dreams.

by Sarah Sluis

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    By: Jen Benson

    When Jen isn’t working on marketing at Tidal, she’s getting lost in beauty or fitness blogs and feeding the office fish.

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