ATLANTA -- Rubbermaid made its name on durable plastic containers. It now wants to be known for more.
From bathroom cleaning supplies to decorative living room organizers to lunch-sized travel kits, the company that sold utilitarian trash cans and garage storage bins has moved away from an all-plastic portfolio. It's added color. It's no longer trying to sell everything to everyone. And it's finally defined its customer.
"What people really want is to organize their living space," said Steve Pawl, vice president of marketing for Rubbermaid. "We're trying to evolve to be much more of a home solutions brand."
So Rubbermaid, which is part of Sandy Springs, Ga.-based Newell Rubbermaid, conducted research and toured customers' homes, studying as they put away their leftovers and cleaned their bathrooms. What they learned is that everyone finds their own solutions, so Rubbermaid's new products had to be flexible, to fit established habits.
That means a scrub brush with interchangeable pads, so people can clean with bristles or a sponge. It means small containers for packing a lunch, sized for a sandwich or carrot sticks instead of just leftover lasagna. It means decorative boxes that have flexible dividers, so they can be customized based on content.
"If it's too prescriptive, it's not going to work the way we need it to," Pawl said.
Rubbermaid is reaching out to influential bloggers and professional organizers to inform
"They're doing what they should," he said. "It takes time."
In the past several months, Newell Rubbermaid has updated its strategy, investing in some of its businesses for international expansion, while also focusing other businesses on countries where they already have a presence. Rubbermaid falls into the latter category, though it had been experimenting with expansion into China and Brazil.
Newell Rubbermaid chief marketing officer Ted Woehrle said the change in focus -- both in customers and in geographies -- will help Rubbermaid re-brand its products as items that can help shoppers get their lives organized. For its new lunch containers, Rubbermaid is offering coupons for tuna fish or bread in its packaging. It's also getting more items into stores where Rubbermaid had not been found in the past.
The company will continue to offer more products, Pawl said, both in the areas it is already operating and in new lines. Rubbermaid intends to move further into laundry room organization. It has already added several recycling-specific containers that can be used differently, depending on how goods are collected, and a plunger that is coated in a wax-like substance that lets water bead up, so the plunger doesn't drip. The brand also offers products to organize closets.
To get customers to look at Rubbermaid as more than just plastic containers, Pawl said the company is repeating its new messaging again and again, hoping its mantra about Rubbermaid helping them get their lives in order will resonate with shoppers.
"We're not necessarily walking away from durability," Pawl said. "It's just not the thing we're hanging our hat on anymore."