Newell Rubbermaid’s Digital Leader on Innovating a 100 Year Old Brand

In this Brand Innovator Spotlight, Bert DuMars talks about how breaking down the silos and collaborating with consumers is keeping a century old company successful in the digital age.

Bert DuMars is VP E-Business & Interactive Marketing for Newell Rubbermaid, a global marketer of consumer and commercial products including Sharpie, Graco and Irwin Industrial Tools.  Since 2007, Mr. DuMars has been responsible for directing and coordinating eMarketing, eCommerce and Social Media Marketing initiatives for Newell Rubbermaid’s externally-facing online efforts.


Brandon Gutman: How do you innovate a 100 year old brand?

Bert DuMars
: Lead by example.  At Newell Rubbermaid, when innovation opportunities arise we always look for one brand to be the pioneer.  In the case of social media marketing and community building, our pioneer brand was Graco Baby products.  Once the pioneer brand has shown success we internally communicate how they approached the opportunity and the tactics and strategies they used.  To continue the learning from the pioneer brand effort, we hold monthly, weekly and sometimes more often small, internal teleconferences with several of our brands to discuss questions, new ideas and any issues we run into.  We also hold an annual E-Business/E-Marketing Summit where we bring all the brands together to discuss their successes and future digital marketing plans.  Learning from each other is just as important, if not more so, than bringing in outside experts to present digital marketing topics. 

How are you getting closer to consumers?

Our corporate strategy is focused on consumer-driven innovation or, more plainly, getting closer to our consumers.  In the past we focused primarily on our customers, which are large retailers.  However, we found this was not the most beneficial strategy for those customers, consumers of our products or us.  By focusing on consumer needs, wants and desires, we develop and bring to market quality products that our consumers want. This model delivers more benefits to our customers and consumers and guides us to better product development and commercialization decisions.

Can you please provide an example?

We partnered with BazaarVoice to enable consumer generated product reviews on the brand Web site.  This allows us to get real-time feedback from consumers on what they like and do not like about our products.  It also helps identify issues that we can respond to or fix.  When we launched our Produce Saver food storage product the first 7 reviews came back as two 5-Star and five 1-Star reviews.  That is quite a difference but good to know.  We contacted the five 1-Star reviewers and found out they were not following the instructions on how to use the product.  We immediately put additional instruction information on the product page and wrote a blog post on how to use Produce Saver for best results.  You can see the results of this effort as we moved from 71% of the first reviewers not recommending the product to 92% of 129 reviewers currently recommending product.  That result was a big change from the past as we were able to learn from our consumers and respond.  Previous to having online consumer generated product reviews we might not have known about this issue and negative word-of-mouth buzz could have caused our retailers to return the product.  Instead, we quickly identified the issue and created a solution.


How do you get the company to invest in these projects?

We start by looking at external best practices and case studies, then look across Newell Rubbermaid brands to identify those that are ready to test and learn new digital marketing tactics and strategies.  Once implemented, and if proven successful, we share those successes internally so our colleagues know it has already worked for a brand within our company and could work for them.

I work with our CIO and CMO to determine the best investment opportunities.  We (corporate) typically invest from 5% to 50% of the cost of the digital marketing project depending on the scope and scale of the effort and how much other brands could potentially benefit.  We feel a shared investment model is best as it leverages the matrix management model for shared accountability and responsibility.  In other words, we all share in the potential success or failure of the project and learn together from either outcome.

How is your personal success measured?

I am in a corporate role so my success is measured by the success of the brands and our Global Business Units.  If they are not successful, I am not successful.  This actually makes my life pretty simple as it focuses me on continuously thinking of ways I can help our brands and global business units be innovative and successful in digital marketing.

What is your secret to remaining innovative?


Immersion into the digital and social media ecosystems is essential.  I am constantly experimenting with new services and tools trying to learn how they work, how they add or create value and what we might be able to do with them.   I truly believe there are no experts but there are some great explorers in this space.  We have a lot to learn and the evolution of the social web ecosystem is rapid, exciting, challenging and fun.  I am constantly reading about the digital marketing space.  This definitely extends into mobile marketing as well.  I also participate in the following: Forrester Research Interactive Marketing Leadership Council; University of Georgia, Grady College, New Media Institute Advisory Board; Social Media Business Council; Procter & Gamble Digital Advisory Board; Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA); and several others.  In addition we have been running student led digital and mobile marketing projects through the University of Georgia New Media Institute.  The student teams develop mobile apps for iPhone and Android with website or social network components.  These projects are well thought out and provide insight and opportunities for myself and the brand teams.  I also attend conferences like South by Southwest, Forrester Consumer Forum and many local meetups and tweetups where I can exchange ideas and learn best practices.

Brandon Gutman is helping brand innovators utilize emerging technology and new media in order to achieve ultimate performance.  Follow Brandon on Twitter at


About the author

As Principal of Brand Approved, Brandon's led the advisory to become the bridge between marketers and innovative service providers that are reshaping the industry.