Case Study: Jenn-Air Connects With Luxury Consumers Via Mobile App

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Luxury brands have traditionally been slow to jump on board with mobile technology, however Brian Maynard believed the time was right for Jenn-Air to develop its own mobile application after seeing the success of a print campaign involving QR codes that the company ran earlier this year. As vice president of marketing for Jenn-Air, Maynard oversaw the development of a mobile application that uses GPS technology to help high-end consumers connect with retailers offering Jenn-Air products in their local areas.

Why was it important for Jenn-Air to develop its own mobile application?
We’ve been repositioning the Jenn-Air brand from being a premium brand to being a luxury brand or a super-premium brand, beginning about two-and-a-half years ago. We were in the process of working through that strategy and the tactics that support it, and we ran a four-page spread in Architectural Digest titled “Eclipse” — that was our internal name for it. On the right-hand side of that ad was a three-dimensional cutout of a range that you could peel off the page, and on the back were attributes of the range and a QR code. The directions in the ad asked you to stand in your kitchen, step a few feet away from your current range, hold [the cutout] at arm’s length, and imagine how it would eclipse what you currently have. The ad itself gained a lot of attention. Architectural Digest does a number of studies, and the average reader interacted with that ad about four times more than any other ad. When we created the ad, we talked about [whether] we could create something that was a digital version of the same thing. That was really the birth of the idea [for] the app. It gives consumers the ability not just to show a range, but to show a dishwasher, a refrigerator, or an under counter wine cellar, and to visualize what they would look like in their kitchens.

How does the Jenn-Air mobile application actually work?
At its core, it allows our potential customers to visualize how great our product is going to look in their kitchens. Let’s say you were replacing your range, you select a range that you’re considering, you stand in your kitchen and hold your smartphone up to the area where the current range is. You then can grab the range that we provided you from the gallery and slide it into position. Then you can size it so it fits exactly as your range is and snap a picture. Now you have an image of what it’s going to look like in your kitchen. In addition to that, there are also product specifications and there’s a dealer locator as well. You can take that image and email it to the [local] retailer, and then go talk to them. It currently works on Apple systems. I’m not sure if we have released the Android version yet or not, but the plan always was that we would be on those two platforms.

Did you partner with an outside agency to develop the app?
Yes, we depend very much on Digitas. Digitas is our agency of record for everything but two areas, our point of purchase material and literature that we produce. We use Digitas for everything else. They are our media partner, our agency of record for planning, they do our PR and events, and obviously they’re a very technology focused and based organization. If I remember correctly, they did partner and subcontract portions of that work. We consider them really, truly a strategic partner in the success of our business.

How do Jenn-Air customers know to download the app?
We’ve done some online advertising for it. We talk about it on our website and we also talk about it on Facebook, Twitter, and through numerous social media outlets. We have a really strong relationship with designers, so we’ve included it in our e-newsletters to them. We have a number of consumers who have opted in to receive quarterly communications from us in the way of e-newsletters, and we promoted it in that way. We certainly have not run any television or dedicated a print ad to it. But as I say, it’s fun to watch the downloads. They start out slowly and they just start going up and up and up.

Is your target audience with the mobile app any different from your traditional Jenn-Air audience?
One of the reasons why we select a target is because it allows you to be significantly more efficient in your ad spend. So for us, you could probably guess the attributes of our target. It’s higher educated than average, higher household income — actually about double household income than average — they’re interested in beautiful homes, they love to cook , they love to entertain, they read magazines like Architectural Digest and Elle Decor, and they attend events like the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival. So that’s who [the app] is intended for.

What types of results have you seen since the app debuted earlier this year?
It’s been tremendous. One of the most gratifying moments came when we heard a national retailer, with whom we don’t do any business, had seen it and wanted to know how they could get it [for] their brands. Within 24 hours it started to get attention. We hold some of the specifics a little close to our vest, but many, many thousands have downloaded it and it has been really successful in that regard.

One of the biggest challenges we’ve had is that, frankly, there are people who just don’t get it. Our consumer, the person we target, is pretty tech-savvy. They’re not early adopters and they’re not waiting in line to get the latest iPad at 3 a.m., but they’ll have it when it’s available. So they’re pretty comfortable with apps and that sort of thing. Sometimes we have certain trade [retailers] who are not sure how to deal with it. If they get an email of an image they’re not sure what that means or where it came from. It just takes time for people to adapt.

Do you have any ways of helping retailers understand the app?
Absolutely. We have a number of training programs and [we’re in] constant communication with the trade to make sure they understand. But, there are a lot of retail outlets and it just takes time. I wouldn’t say that it hasn’t been successful, but it is one of those things — it’s a typical management issue.

Looking forward, where do you see Jenn-Air going as far as digital advertising is concerned?
We launched a dedicated mobile site just before the holidays and the use of that has increased as time has gone on. Unlike a lot of goods — packaged goods, as an example — I don’t see us offering up a coupon when somebody walks by a retailer that sells appliances. At least not in the near future. As we are a luxury brand, we act in a luxury manner. You don’t see luxury brands typically shouting things. We want to be creative, but we want to do it in a manner that befits the brand. The average consumer spends more than six months making a decision about an appliance. They cost a lot of money, so people really do a lot of research when they purchase. I’m not saying we would never [offer mobile coupons], but I haven’t seen a moment where something like that would make sense for us.

While digital is growing, there are still a lot of people who live in the analog world, and frankly, there are a lot of people who live in both [worlds]. They see an ad and then it drives them online to take action. We know through research that the sum is greater than the parts, so when somebody sees us in an analog world and sees us in a digital world, the measures are greater than if they see us in just one channel.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.