We spoke to Ramey CEO Chris Ray recently about Upward Home, the online resource blog for marketers of high-end and high-performance brands.
Ramey: You are the Founding Editor of UpwardHome.com – which you’ve said is an online resource for CEOs and CMOs of high-end home brands. Tell us how this concept evolved and how it’s going?
Chris Ray: When our 25-year client, Viking Range, was acquired last year, the new owners immediately turned off almost all of Viking’s marketing efforts. They just went black. It left a big hole at Ramey, but at the same time, it gave us an opportunity to talk to a few other home-related brands for the first time in a long, long time.
What kind of companies were you talking to?
Ray: Well keep in mind that with Viking, we were obviously not able to handle other appliance brands, to prevent any conflict of interest. In addition, given the scope of Viking’s business, we were also prohibited from handling cookware, cutlery, small electrics, grills and cabinetry – a host of categories in the home. In a way, it was nice to get back out there and talk to some of the brands we had admired as competitors.
What were you hearing from those brand managers?
Ray: That’s interesting, because I heard several executives say that they would love to have a strategic resource for ideas and insights about the home – aimed specifically at the CEO or CMO of a high-end home brand. They seemed to feel that we would have some unique perspectives to share, given our track record building the Viking brand, as well as our work with other high-end home brands.
Remind us about those other brands you’ve worked with.
Ray: We did a lot of work with the super-premium cabinetmakers in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area, such as Rutt, Heritage and St. Charles. We are working now with ClimateMaster, a high-end geothermal brand. We’ve worked over the years with Jason, the Jacuzzi family’s hydrotherapy brand, as well as Hunter Fans. We’ve worked with John-Richard, a very high-end furnishings and fixtures brand, as well as Jane Shelton, a fabric and textile brand sold through designers. So yes, we know that space very well.
You obviously know something about the affluent consumer, too.
Ray: We do. We’ve spent countless hours in their homes doing ethnography research. We’ve conducted focus groups, qualitative surveys and plenty of quantitative studies. We’ve studied their psychographics and buying behaviors. And we’ve helped plenty of clients map their consumer’s path-to-purchase.
You talk about the “path-to-purchase” in several of your blog posts on UpwardHome.com.
Ray: Yes, it’s a fascinating subject for me personally, as well as for my colleagues at Ramey. Two huge events collided during the past few years: the recession and the explosion of digital. As a result, consumer behavior has changed dramatically. We’ve found that by better understanding the path-to-purchase for each client, we can vastly improve our marketing effectiveness. I think marketers are paying more attention to it today.
What are some of the other topics of interest you’ve written about on Upward Home?
Ray: I try to write about things that interest me, as well as things that I think might interest a CMO. For instance, I like to dispel some of the myths about affluent consumers. The vast majority of them were raised in middle-class households and brought those middle-class values with them into affluence. These people did not inherit their wealth – they earned it. And that shapes the way they think about buying expensive, high-end products.
Ramey obviously has high-end and high-performance clients outside of the home category. Have any of them felt left out because of this new effort?
Ray: Not at all. While this blog is obviously aimed at the high-end home brand marketer, I think there is a lot of good stuff there that translates to other categories. For instance, a friend in the financial services industry told me the other day that he had read every single one of the posts.
Do you see creating similar efforts for other categories in the future?
Ray: Absolutely. We want to take what we learn from Upward Home and see if we can replicate it in other categories, whether that’s travel, financial or healthcare. The trick is to invest enough blood, sweat and tears to make it meaningful and relevant. And that is simply a function of time. But I hope we can launch other categories at some point in the future.
For all of our Ramey clients and friends, we invite you to check out Upward Home at UpwardHome.com, and let us know what you think!