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-size 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, part of 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.
Bill Chappell, an analyst with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, said while it is still early in the shift, Rubbermaid seems to be getting more shelf space in stores.
"They're doing what they should," he said. "It takes time."
The company will continue to offer more products, Pawl said, both in the areas it already is 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."