Patricia Slootjes – Miele

Patricia Slootjes – Miele

Patricia Slootjes is the Marketing Director for Miele. She is responsible for the consumer market. Patricia explains that Miele has always been product driven in their communication. “We’ve always talked about why the product is so much better, but I feel like that’s a bit outdated. You can definitely talk about a product, but you have to translate that into a consumer benefit. Next to that, in order to drive brand preference, people have to feel an emotional connection to your brand. That’s something we can do more with, especially when it comes to the younger target audience.”

An example where Miele created brand preference among a younger target group, is the Miele PowerWash at Lowlands festival. Visitors could get into a life-size washing machine and get clean while dancing. Patricia: “We’ve done the PowerWash at Lowlands three times now, and this year was our last year. The goal was to create brand preference among the younger target group of 25-35 years old. And it has been a huge success. We’ve decided to stop because the Lowlands audience is quite critical, and always looking for new things. I believe you shouldn’t repeat yourself over and over. You should quit at a high point. Our brand tracking from last year revealed that in the target group of 25-55 years old, 1 in 10 people knew the concept. Which is an insane number! Even more so when you think of the fact that we could only facilitate 2.500 people in the PowerWash per year. The people who knew the concept had a stronger brand preference for Miele, and it increased the brand closeness. So, the PowerWash has clearly been able to contribute to Miele’s brand experience.”

“With different propositions, we try to reach the same target audience, but in different stages of their lives.”

Innovating through the need of the consumer

Patricia: “When you talk about innovation and brand growth, we strongly believe in the fact that product ownership isn’t the only way to fulfil the need of the consumer. This is where the Miele Laundry Club comes in. Not everyone needs to own a product. Some people in the cities might not have room for a washing machine, or expats might live somewhere temporary, so it doesn’t always make sense to buy one. So, you have to make washing accessible in different ways. The Laundry Club is all about convenience. Services are getting more and more important because time is getting more and more valuable. We looked at Amsterdam after we’ve done some research, and noticed that there is a substantial amount of people who work long days, and don’t feel like washing and ironing. This led us to a new target audience, males between 30-35 years old living in the ‘Zuidas’ of Amsterdam, who don’t have a family and kids. We introduced the Laundry Club as a pilot, which we do with all new business models, and stationed a drop-off point in the Zuidas. You have to try different things to find out what works.”

Another example is the launderettes in student housing. Patricia: “It’s your first encounter with Miele, without owning one. You can experience all the pros at an age where you don’t have the money yet to buy one. With different propositions, we try to reach the same target audience, but in different stages of their lives. In the end, you know a student will probably have the type of income where they might find it interesting to spend a little bit more money on quality later in life.”

The success of innovations

According to Patricia, Miele measures the success of their innovations by looking at the number of customers, and the retention. “With service in particular, it’s important to look at retention. It’s a different model than buying a washing machine every 15 years. So, we look more towards the number of customers, the value of each customer and for how long they stay with us. The good thing about services is the direct contact with customers. When selling a kitchen or washing machine, you often don’t get that. So, it’s nice to create certain touchpoints, like we did with the Miele Experience Centers in Vianen and Amsterdam.”

When it comes to innovation, not everything will work. Patricia: “You can have all these great ideas, but there has to be a business case and a realistic story. It has to make sense and fit with your brand. If we suddenly start doing something that has nothing to do with our brand, that’s weird. It has to do something for your brand. Of course, it’s not all about money, but it’s a combination. Next to that, it has to fit your consumer as well, otherwise it won’t be a success. You have to find out if it’s a good proposition for the consumer, so you have to test the concept.”

Moving with the times

Patricia explains that Miele tries to position themselves as a more modern, innovative company, despite not always moving with the times in their communication. “We’re working on that, and are aiming for a slightly younger target audience at the same time. An example is our kitchen appliances. We’ve innovated our entire kitchen line, and named it generation 7000. We’ve introduced it in retail before the summer, and launched the communication at the end of September. We try to innovate in our communication by targeting and bringing the right message to the right person. You can ask yourself if that’s really innovative. But I’m still surprised by the amount of companies that still don’t do it. Our entire funnel is written out as detailed as possible, so we can stay relevant and fit the message to the particular stage a consumer is in. All the data is there, so why not use it? The more specific and relevant you can employ your communication, the bigger your return on investment.”

Challenges of innovation

“Companies should take inspiration from the incredibly disruptive business models”, Patricia continues. “So, the Ubers and Airbnb’s of the world. This was our driver too. The last thing you want is a disruptor turning your business upside down, because all you did was wait. Take private lease for example. 5 years ago, it didn’t exist, or was incredibly expensive. Nowadays, it’s become normal. As a company, you can think; ‘I’m not selling anything, I have to make all these investments and don’t know when I’ll earn it all back’. You can think of all the negatives, but if you know that others will start doing it anyway, it’s better to just embrace it. It’s happened time and time again where a company has joined the online world way too late. When you want to be innovative and create innovative business models, risks and obstacles can’t be your drivers for innovation. Because if they are, nothing will end up happening.”