Kevin O'Conner - VP of Marketing at SelectBlinds
Kevin O'Connor is currently serving as the VP of Marketing at SelectBlinds, an online blinds retailer headquartered in Chandler, AZ, Kevin and is in the midst of developing and expanding upon their first-ever national brand campaign During his 20+ year career, he's earned a reputation as a thought leader, problem solver, and dealmaker.
Company LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/select-shops/
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And now, I'd like to introduce you to your host for Innovate Marketing, Sherry Peak.
Sherry Peak (host) 00:41
Welcome to innovate Marketing. Today, we'll be talking to Kevin O'Connor, the VP of Marketing for SelectBlinds.
SelectBlinds started in 2003, with their founders quest to find blackout shades for his
daughter's bedroom,SelectBlinds custom handcrafts every single product with care and offers over 170 products and more than 1,800 colors to choose from. Their mission is to bring the best possible product and experience to their customer, wherever their customer is.
Sherry Peak (host) 01:19
And we originally saw the story of the brand "Love is Blinds" on the Innovate marketing daily podcast. And so we're excited to have you here today, Kevin, and talk to you a little bit more about the work that you're doing with SelectBlinds. So thank you very much for joining us today.
Kevin O'Connor 01:36
Well, thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate you guys reaching out and featuring us a few weeks back when we launched this campaign. So thanks again.
Sherry Peak (host) 01:45
You're welcome. Well, let's just jump right into our conversation. Let's just talk about blinds to start with. You know, I remember the days when blinds covered all of the windows in my home, you know, but they weren't as fun to pick out back then as I can see now, that has become something that is fun for homeowners, or people with homes, or that need window coverings to do and they found that through SelectBlinds. So can you tell us a little bit more about just that process of re-invigorating the the excitement of picking out blinds again?
Kevin O'Connor 02:21
Absolutely. I mean, one of the things that we've discovered through our research is that a lot of folks really don't think about blinds when they're either purchasing a home or renovating their homes. It's really a secondary, tertiary kind of thought, right. And unfortunately, blinds really impact so much of the way that your home looks, both from the outside aesthetic, and internally from a lighting and all of those types of things. So it really should be at the forefront of your mind when you're either considering a new home or renovating a home or just doing some general upgrades, right. maybe you just don't like the old blinds, or shades or shutters or anything else that you have in your home at the time. You want to make sure that you're considering all of these other factors. And so one of the things we wanted to do was help educate customers and make sure they are thinking about that. So it is part of the way that they are evaluating whether a home is exactly the way they want it to be. Because it can be a relatively expensive investment to make sure that these things work and look exactly the way you want. And at SelectBlinds, we create all of our blinds custom and bespoke to you and to the exact measurements that your windows are set within and all of those types of things. So it's important for us to make sure that we educate those folks, and let them know exactly what they might need and might want. And now to your point, there's a lot of fun to be had, right? Because we have these connected homes, these smart homes, where you can literally say "Hey, Alexa," or "hey, Google," or "hey Siri, open my blinds, close my blinds." We have all of those capabilities as well. And motorization is kind of a really cool feature that we'd like to offer to all of our customers.
Sherry Peak (host) 03:55
And you've also incorporated that fun into your tagline for the company as well. So can we talk about your tagline? You'll love us because we're easy...
Kevin O'Connor 04:05
Yes. So again, that was something that was born out of a conversation internally, right, we
were trying to figure out who we were at our core, right, from a brand perspective. And one of the things that we wanted to provide our customers was the ease and understanding that they can do this themselves, right. We are a DIY company; you go onto our website, you put in all the specifications for the specific blinds you want. You measure them yourself and you install them yourself. But because of that, we save you a tremendous amount of money. But
throughout that process, we want to make sure it's as easy and digestible as possible. And then when you get to the very end where you're actually installing the blinds and all of those things, we are there to help you and assist you with our design consultants and our customer service team. So again, we want to make this as easy as possible, both on your wallet and on your time and energy.
Sherry Peak (host) 04:53
And you have a major role in all of this that's happening. So I've seen that you've been with
SelectBlinds for almost a year now. So can you tell us a little bit about your background and
how you enter into this space of working with SelectBlinds?
Kevin O'Connor 05:07
Oh, yeah, that's a great question. So yes, I've been here roughly a year now. Prior to this, I
worked at a large grocery chain called Sprouts Farmers Market as their Director of Digital
Marketing. And prior to that, I spent about 15 years in New York City working exclusively at
advertising agencies, DDB, Saatchi and Saatchi Wellness. You know, I like to describe my
experience like coast to coast like butter on toast, essentially, because I've worked on almosteverything in some way shape, or form. Everything from campaigns for the NFL to H&R Block to Exxon Mobil. So that experience ultimately led me to where I am now as the VP of Marketing for Select Blinds, because the amalgamation of all of that experience has really provided me a lot of insights, education, and experience in this space that allows me to drive things forward. And at the core, it really sits on top of a foundation of a belief and story and storytelling, which I think is really critical to everything that we do from a marketing perspective. Because it is that story that we tell about the brand that gives the customer that kind of one to one personal, emotional connection to the brand, which is, I think the most critical thing really, at the end of the day. It's like if you want to talk about whether somebody chooses you because of a price point or because of the way it makes them feel, it's going to it's going to be the way that makes them feel every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Sherry Peak (host) 06:23
So for SelectBlinds, this has been a major rebrand effort. Can you tell us a little bit about when and why a brand like this might decide to make such a move?
Kevin O'Connor 06:35
Well, if you look at the competitive landscape, we are swimming in a sea of sameness.
Everyone is exactly the same, we're running the same promotions at the same time. A lot of
the ways that we describe our deals are exactly the same. And we really wanted to find a way to truly differentiate ourselves, you know, we are at an unique inflection point as an
organization where we've gone from kind of small to medium now we're going from medium to large, right. Now our primary competitor is Blinds.com, which is owned by Home Depot, while Home Depot is not in the same position that we're in. They're much more conservative organization, the way that they approach marketing and advertising is kind of limited based on that conservativism. Right. So we decided that we were going to kind of zig when they're zagging, right, we're going to figure out a way for our message to be clear, fun, engaging, and completely different in something that couldn't be copied. And that's where a lot of this kind of stemmed from where we wanted to find a way to really engage and educate our customers in a fun and exciting way that again, differentiates us from this sea of sameness that we're all swimming in. And I think this campaign does exactly that.
Sherry Peak (host) 07:43
So what were some of the major changes in this rebrand?
Kevin O'Connor 07:46
Well, obviously, the tagline that you've mentioned, "you'll love us because we're easy." We've never done a full-fledged kind of broader-based OTT / CTV Television based advertising campaign before. We've updated all of our outbound communications across all of the core social channels that we're playing within both from an owned and paid media perspective. And ultimately, a lot of this is just boiling down to a bunch of different stories that we're going to tell across this primary kind of campaign idea around, you'll love us because we're easy. And the campaign itself is centered around like dating shows, right? There's so much equity in the marketplace around dating and dating shows. And so ultimately, it's something that really, customers can key into, can understand quickly, you know, can digest quickly, and it gets them to lean in because they're like, "Oh yes, I love the bachelor I love love is blinds or I love the perfect match." There's so many of these and throughout history that we're going to be able to continue to lean on as we expand this program out. You know, we have everything from an anchor video, which we're actually launching tomorrow, March 1, which is really exciting, which is about a two and a half minute version of the shorter, you know, big game campaign that we launched right around the Super Bowl this year. So ultimately, I think that's going to get a lot of traction and our primary partner, Raindrop, the creative agency that we worked with to create these campaigns has had a lot of success with some of their other clients over the course of the
last number of years, especially by creating these long form videos that get people to engage, they tell a full story. And we're going to have a number of different iterations of that that we're going to run test and then ultimately what whittle it down to, you know, six second bumpers,15 Second, 32nd, 45, 60 seconds that we're going to be running ubiquitously across a myriad of a bunch of channels.
Sherry Peak (host) 09:34
Okay, so what were some of the smaller or less noticeable things that have been addressed?
Kevin O'Connor 09:41
Well, we recreated our logo, we added a heart inside the blinds to our logo, we added they'll
you'll love us because we're easy. We've also included some other tags around you know,
you'll love us because we're easy. We've also included some other tags around you know,
"Blinds you'll love" is essentially going to be the core message on a lot of the stickers and
things that you receive when you get either free samples in the mail. We've updated all of that collateral as well in terms of the actual envelopes that you receive, that are, you know, that include all of the free samples that you can get from us at any point in time. Because again, we want to make sure that we have a much better and stronger omni channel approach. We're still in the midst of updating our website. So it also mirrors this campaign. But we wanted to get some of the assets out there to test and learn from them, while we're doing those homepage updates and redesigns. But I think that's some of the key tactics that we've been working on over the last few months. But I mean, we've changed everything from our color palette to, you know, our overall brand guidelines to, you know, just the basic rules of engagement in terms of the channels that we're playing within. You know, historically speaking as an organization, we've spent a bulk of our budgets on you know, PPC within Google and, you know, really going after intent-based search. But there is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to all of that, right? If we're relying on customers that type in blinds, windows, window shade, shutters, those types of things, we don't know if they're going to pick us, right? Now we do a good job of
making sure we bubble to the top when you search for those types of terms. We actually own that space really, really well. But ultimately, we want to make sure we're getting to a point where people are just typing in SelectBlinds, we don't want them to consider Blinds.com, or any of those other competitors that are out there. We want them to think of us first and foremost as the place that will make their lives easier. and will save them a bunch of money since they'll be able to do it on their own.
Sherry Peak (host) 11:25
Now, you've said that shopping and installing window coverings isn't something people generally look forward to. And as our team discussed, we realize it's like dating. Can you tell us about those conversations and how that began to translate into "Love as Blinds" ad that we'll talk about here in a few minutes.
Kevin O'Connor 11:44
Yes. So ultimately, when we were going through this process, one of the things that we did
discover was, it is a very measured, and kind of long-tailed approach to deciding which blinds are right for you. What type of fabric is right for you.. all of those intangibles that you want to consider when deciding what kind of window covering you might want. And so ultimately, at the very beginning, what we offer all of our customers is a chance to receive a number of free samples, right. So while we want to make sure that, you know, you have that kind of initial touch point, right, like maybe you meet for drinks, quote-unquote, to see if it's something if there's something there and you actually liked each other and the conversation is good. You go away, you set up time for that secondary follow up, right? Folks come back to the site, they look through a bit more products, sometimes they order even more samples. So maybe you go out again, for one more time, this time you actually have an order of or some other snack, or something like that. And again, the conversation is progressing, you're starting to develop a rapport and you like that person, you know. And then ultimately, as you get to the sales cycle, when you really need that reinforcement, that's when our design consultants can get on the phone with you when you can reach out to our customer service team. We have a lot of information, FAQs, videos and other things of that nature on the site to kind of reinforce that narrative that we're here to help and provide you the information you need to feel very comfortable in this space. And then again, once the product arrives in the mail, now it's official, right? Like we're dating! It's on! Like, you have the products, right? So because of that, how do we continue to make sure we foster that relationship in a positive way. And again, folks can reach back out to us speak to our design consultants, speak to our customer service reps just to make sure that they're doing everything they can to help feel confident in their ability to install these blinds on their own. So we want to just make sure that again, it's a true relationship from start to finish where you feel good about it and all the way towards the end of the relationship where it's like, okay, I want to continue this, or I'm gonna start to tell my friends and family about the fact that I'm now dating this person. The same thing with our blinds, right? We want to make sure that those folks that have this experience, tell their friends and family "well, if you're going to be updating any of your window treatments, the first place, you should go with SelectBlinds." And so it's that same kind of idea. That's kind of where the idea stemmed from, because it is like that. And again, because it's a much more measured purchase than a lot of other things, right? This is something that's probably going to be living in your windowsill for the next six, seven years on average. Right? So it's an important decision that takes time, just like picking the right partner.
Sherry Peak (host) 14:13
I love that thought process. So can you tell us how you came to work with Raindrop agency in San Diego?
Kevin O'Connor 14:21
You know, I love the work that they did for Dr. Squatch. It's been a very long time since the
brand came out. And I saw an advertisement that really just spoke to me, made me laugh, and made me want to buy the product. And knowing the impact that it had on me, I had to reach out to them to see "Hey, what did you do? Would you be interested in working with us? Here's our idea. Would you guys be cool with something like this?" And they just jumped at it. And again, the one thing that I'm really excited about the fact having come from an agency background is that we really didn't handcuff them. I feel like we gave them carte blanche to really take big swings at this concept which they did and it really came through and what you saw when we, you know, launched the campaign just a couple of weeks back. And so because of that trust that I already had based on the stuff that they had done with some of their previous partners, that was also reinforced, going through the vetting process on the upfront, that's ultimately what led us down this path. And we're gonna continue to work with them, I think, for many years to come, because I really love the way that they approach creative development and storytelling.
Sherry Peak (host) 15:26
So let's talk a little bit more about their involvement Look, maybe a little bit more specifically. So what was their involvement in this? I know they had free range to kind of be creative. What did you see translated or transpire within that time?
Kevin O'Connor 15:38
Yeah. So when we initially reached out to them, we had a pretty robust brief put together that outline the fact that we wanted to create a campaign that leveraged either, you know, flirty, kind of sexual innuendo, but highbrow. Y ou know, we didn't want to go down a path where we were, you know, considered to be offensive or baudy or even gross, right? We, we knew that was a fine line that we needed to, you know, skate along. But ultimately, that's where we kind of said, "Hey, this is this is what our vision is, do you guys align with this vision? And then how would you make this come to life?" And so on the upfront, they came back to us with some initial concepts, we had reached out to a couple of other agents, potential agency partners, to see if they might be the right fit, but ultimately, Raindrop won out and we were like really excited about what they had brought to the table. And so then from that point, the process really consisted of the development of scripts, you know, we've worked with them hand in glove on creating the type of set experience that we wanted, the type of casting that we would want to, you know, leverage with the types of folks from a casting perspective, I should say, all of that we kind of worked hand in glove with them throughout the process. But ultimately, it was them leading the charge from a creative standpoint, once we decided to award them the business. And we handed off those initial briefs. So they took it from there and then created a bunch of different content. We were out in San Diego for about a four day shoot, I think back in early January. So again, they turn this all around pretty darn quick. We shot in early January, we had some initial rough cuts at the end of January. And by you know, early February, we had some of those finals, that we were able to launch right before the Superbowl.
Sherry Peak (host) 17:17
So with all that great work together, everything really came to fruition with the most recent
campaign, which saw the launch of the "Love is Blinds" ad. Let's take a listen...
You have been on blinds dates with the traditional way of buying blinds in the far superior
select lines. I choose Select Blinds. The easiest way to buy custom blinds online, they have a huge selection, big pick energy, the best part, you can do it yourself. Wow! So well hung! Get your free samples at selectblinds.com today. SelectBlinds- you'll love us because we're easy.
Sherry Peak (host) 17:57
Now the ad took on a playful tone, as you mentioned. So the creative process between
SelectBlinds and the Raindrop agency seemed to have worked really well to create a national ad that was seen by many. So this ad in itself it took SelectBlinds into the Superbowl. So that's the exposure that you got from this creative process with its first Regional SuperBowl spot. Now how did that make you feel? Kevin?
Kevin O'Connor 18:29
Well, I'll tell you what I keep bragging about the fact that we got picked up by Adweek. You
know, having worked in the advertising business a very long time, especially for agencies on
Madison Avenue and never having anything featured in AdWeek, I gotta tell you, that was really quite the accomplishment for both myself and SelectBlinds. And for my career as a whole. I was just beyond excited about that. Combined with the fact that I think that we've created something truly unique and fun and interesting, right? It was kind of interesting seeing some of the other ads that were produced for the Super Bowl this year. Like I think the Dodge Ram ad kind of leaned into the same space to some degree, but it was more of like, an erectile dysfunction, kind of like making fun of that kind of thing, right? Whereas I think us, we're a little bit more on the safe side, you know, not is leaning into that kind of messaging as much. Like we're more focused on the fact that we're trying to highlight, you know, that it is like dating and it's kind of fun, there is some flirty innuendo that you can kind of leverage within that without like, you know, going too far over the line. But it was good to know that other people had the same mindset and are thinking that these are the types of way to break through an extremely cluttered market. I mean, people are just so inundated with messages and videos and everything else now that to get something that actually gets people to stop and say, "Oh, what was that," is harder than it's ever been. And I think we actually have something that does that which is extremely exciting. And you know, I'm I'm just beyond proud of the work that my team did on all of this like it is obviously not me alone. So many folks within my organization. were instrumental in making sure that this thing came off without a hitch. You know, I want to give a shout out to Mike Pena- he's my creative director. He's fantastic. And my social media manager, Jim Martin. Both of those guys, I work with so much to get us to this point along with a few other folks on my team. So it was really, truly a team effort. And I'm just really excited that it came out the way it did.
Sherry Peak (host) 20:19
That's a great and I was thinking, as you mentioned, your support around that, just the
preparation that went into one, making the decision that we're going to air this and then to just getting ready for the ad to launch. I can only imagine what was going on behind the scenes, in the sense with that.
Kevin O'Connor 20:35
I mean, honestly, it all came together. So it was the Sunday before the Super Bowl.
Sherry Peak (host) 20:40
Kevin O'Connor 20:40
And I got a note from Jacques who is the CEO of raindrop and like, Oh, I've been showing this to all my friends and they really think it's a Super Bowl ad. And I was like, "You know what, soda? Why? Let me see what I could do." So I reached out to another agency partner, Joey from Rebel Street, who does some of our paid media advertising for us in the more traditional sense: podcasts, TV, radio, that kind of stuff. And I was like, can you get this on the air and the regional market by the Superbowl, and he said, let me see what I can do. And he, he worked the phones and he got us up and live and running within a few days. I think on that Thursday of that week in the Phoenix market. We were already up and running on ESPN, ESPN 2 Golf Channel, NFL Network, HGTV Magnolia network, so not only the sports-oriented channels, but also some of the home improvement channels that we also do extremely well within. So he got that all up and running within a three or four day span, just to make sure that we were ready to launch for that Sunday Super Bowl, and then it started to go more nationally on Saturday the 11th. So we started to run in Phoenix, LA, New York, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, and I think Dallas, are all the key markets that we're currently running in as well.
Sherry Peak (host) 21:56
Wow, that's impressive. There, you probably didn't get any sleep until the Super Bowl was over, did you? With all of that that's some great work. Well, now that the ad has launched, and many have seen it, what specific data and analytics? Are you watching post Superbowl to assess the success of the campaign?
Kevin O'Connor 22:15
Yeah, I mean, number one, we're looking at those key markets that I just mentioned, to see if there's an uptick in traffic from them specifically, which we're already starting to see some of. Two, we just got some of the pixels installed on our own site to see how those OTT campaigns are performing from a click through perspective and a view through perspective. So we should have some more data on that soon. But, you know, ultimately, with a brand campaign like this, you do need a bit more runway. So I'm not expecting to see too much within this first month, I think by the time we get to month two, month three, and especially knowing that we're going to launch this broader base test starting tomorrow, we'll start to see even more traction. But ultimately, I think the biggest Bellwether will be whether or not we see an uptick in just direct searches for the brand name, right. And that's the thing that I think we're going to be really focusing in the most on to say, okay, are people just typing in Select Blinds directly, selectblinds.com directly, and coming to us without having to go through the rigmarole of typing in shade, shutters blinds, those types of things, and then trying to navigate, you know, again, that sea of sameness. If you land on some of these other sites, sometimes you might not even recognize the fact that you're not on the SelectBlinds site. So the more that we can drive folks directly to our site, understand who we are, raise those levels of brand awareness. I think that's the other big, big thing that we're aiming for right now. I mean, I think nationally, according to the data that we have, we have around 10% - 11% national awareness, which means that we have a lot of ground to make up and increase, especially when you look at companies like Blinds.com, who have like maybe 30% - 40% brand awareness, who are also aided by the fact that if you ask, "Hey, have you ever heard of blinds.com?" Most people will be like, yeah, yeah,
I've heard of that. Why? Because they've got the name right there. It's pretty easy, like
stamps.com or something like that, right? So because of that they do have a little bit higher
brand awareness, whereas we, we don't just yet but that's really where I want to get to,
especially as we start to launch and expand beyond just those markets that are already
Sherry Peak (host) 24:09
This has been a great conversation with you, Kevin. Now as we round out our time together, for individuals who want to stay connected with the work you're doing with SelectBlinds or connect individuals who want to stay connected with the work you're doing with SelectBlinds or connect with you, how could they reach you beyond our time together today?
Kevin O'Connor 24:21
Oh, go I mean, obviously, anybody can follow us on social media. So we're on Instagram, we're on Tik Tok. We're on Facebook. We have a presence on Pinterest, on Reddit. So any of those social channels if you just look for @SelectBlinds across the board, you should be able to find us. We're on Twitter as well even though we don't engage as much on Twitter as we used to. So any of those channels you can engage with us. You can reach out to us at any point in time. All our phone numbers are directly on the website if you want to talk to a customer service rep or if you want to speak to a design consultant directly to learn a little bit more about our products, or just order some free samples or any of those types of things again, we are here for you at any point in time within this process and whatwhatever you're most comfortable with. Some people just don't want any human interface, right? They just want to go online, they know how to measure, they're going to do it all themselves. While our website is designed specifically for those folks, it should be a really easy user experience. So those are all the number of ways that you can reach out to us at any point in time. And then also, you know, ratings and reviews. If you have you give us a solid rating, great, we can reach out to you. If you have a little bit of an issue, we'll follow up and try to make sure that we make it right. You know, we'll do anything we can to make sure that our customers are happy at the end of the day.
Sherry Peak (host) 25:29
So at the end of this day, what would be your final thoughts you would leave with our audience today, Kevin?
Kevin O'Connor 25:35
Well, if you need blinds, get them from selectblinds.com. But I'd also say that, you know, look, I think, again, it's something that people really need to take more stock in when figuring out how they're going to either design, redesign and/or purchase a new home, you know, they should be factoring all of those things in and making sure that they understand that, from a custom build perspective, we are the place to go, you know, for anybody that is in the DIY space, or maybe not, or doesn't have the faith that they can do it themselves... I know you can trust me, I can. And I am not the kind of person that is very good at do it yourself projects. But I've installed my own blind since working here. It's very simple. It's straightforward. I leverage the folks internally here to help me and give me the confidence that I needed to install them correctly. And it really is a great process from start to finish.
Sherry Peak (host) 26:30
Well, Kevin, I've never been more excited to talk about blinds, as I have been with you today. So thank you for bringing that to us today. And thank you for spending time with us today. We really appreciate it.
Kevin O'Connor 26:42
Of course, Sherry, thank you so much. Again, I really appreciate you all reaching out and
sharing our new brand campaign with all of your listeners. It's really exciting for us and lots
more to come.
Sherry Peak (host) 27:02
One of my key takeaways is what can be accomplished in a short amount of time. Kevin was less than a year, almost a year with SelectBlinds and here, within that timeframe, they
managed to land a campaign or an ad that has been seen across the nation. So that speaks to the team and to the work and to the vision for this company that they had. I just go back to his passion and the love for what they do has really translated into sales. Well, friends, that's all that we have for you today. And we encourage you to be great and to stay safe.
That brings us to the close of this edition of Innovate Marketing. We're glad you tuned in.
Innovate Marketing is brought to you by MyPodcast.Media. MyPodcast.Media produces podcasts for brands, influencers and nonprofits. Find us online at https://MyPodcast.Media Your producer for innovative marketing is Beth Fried. Executive producer Shawn Neal and your host is Sherry Peak. We'll see you next time. Be sure to tune in....
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