By Libby Johnston
The NWFA is launching a new effort to promote real wood flooring to consumers by educating them on the benefits and characteristics of real wood floors, as well as how to properly maintain them. The industrywide campaign champions real wood as the flooring of choice and calls on the association’s membership to help spread the message. The core components include the new Homeowner’s Handbook to Real Wood Floors, a revamped consumer-facing website, a toolkit for NWFA members, and a “Real Wood. Real Life.” logo.
Rooted in Research
The need for such a campaign is grounded in research. In 2017, the NWFA partnered with Public Opinion Strategies on a survey of 1,000-plus homeowners across the United States to learn more about their perceptions of wood flooring. The results showed that American homeowners love wood floors, and those who don’t have them want them. But this research also found that many homeowners still don’t know how to properly clean wood floors.
Additionally, the NWFA’s 2019 Industry Outlook survey (featured in the October/November 2018 issue of Hardwood Floors) yet again indicated that growing demand for non-wood/wood-look floor coverings is among the top concerns of wood flooring manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and contractors. Respondents noted challenges in educating consumers about the differences in floor covering materials. The NWFA sees this as an opportunity to work with its members to be a resource for consumers so they can make an informed decision about floor coverings in their home.
A Defining Moment
During the NWFA’s 2018 strategic planning process, the NWFA Board of Directors sought to address confusion in the marketplace about what constitutes a real wood floor. A task force that included representatives from across the wood flooring supply chain was created to come up with a formal definition.
“Many flooring options today emulate the look of wood flooring, causing consumers a great deal of uncertainty about what they are actually purchasing,” said Brenda Cashion, Hardwood Product Developer and Market Strategist at Swiff-Train Company and member of the NWFA Board of Directors’ Task Force. “As the authority for the wood flooring industry, the NWFA felt it was necessary to establish a clear definition of what comprises a true hardwood floor and to deliver that message directly to consumers.”
The task force developed, and the Board approved, the following:
Wood is the hard fibrous material that forms from the main substance of the trunk or branches and beneath the bark of a tree. A wood floor is any flooring product that contains real wood as the top-most, wearable surface of the floor.
Wood flooring may be broken into three categories:
- Solid wood flooring is a solid piece of wood from top to bottom.
- Engineered wood flooring is real wood from top to bottom and is normally made using multiple wood veneers or slats of wood glued together at opposing directions.
- Composite engineered wood flooring contains real wood on the wearable surface only. The backing and core material may be made up of any type of composite material.
“The industry really needed a baseline of what is and what is not wood flooring,” said Tommy Maxwell, President and CEO of Maxwell Hardwood Flooring. “Manufacturers want consumers to know real wood flooring is a superior product that can withstand a busy family’s lifestyle and provide a great long-term value. There’s truly nothing like the real thing.”
With the key findings about what consumers think of wood flooring and a formal definition of real wood flooring in place, the NWFA was equipped to develop a plan for sharing knowledge with homeowners. Public relations efforts are underway, supplemented by The Homeowner’s Handbook to Real Wood Floors, WoodFloors.Org, a member toolkit, and the “Real Wood. Real Life.” logo.
When the NWFA’s consumer survey was conducted, messages about wood flooring were tested to find what resonates most with consumers. The top performers centered on value, ease of cleaning, and durability. Those also were found to be the most important attributes consumers consider when choosing a flooring surface. For those reasons, you’ll find language addressing each of those areas throughout the campaign collateral.
“The market has been flooded with endless wood look-alikes. Homeowners who want to invest in their homes will be specific about purchasing 100 percent genuine hardwood because nothing else looks, sounds, feels, and even smells quite like hardwood,” said Emily Morrow Finkell, an interior designer and CEO of Emily Morrow Home. “This campaign will provide consumers with a nonbiased source of information, which can equip them to know what to look for and the right questions to ask regarding wood flooring.”
The new Homeowner’s Handbook to Real Wood Floors details the benefits of wood flooring, how to decide on the right floor, reasons to use a professional to install/refinish the floor, and tips on proper maintenance. The visuals walk consumers through the various stages of life to show them wood floors can handle all of their big and small moments. NWFA’s consumer-facing website, WoodFloors.Org, has been completely updated so that it’s easier to navigate and matches the look and feel of the handbook.
The toolkit has everything members need to reach consumers on the local level, including customizable print and website ads, sample social media posts, media relations materials, frequently asked questions, and fact sheets that dive into the specifics on the value of wood floors, maintenance, durability, and environmental and health benefits. The “Real Wood. Real Life.” logo was developed to promote the use of real wood and is visible throughout the campaign materials. It can be used by members on their websites, social media channels, and trade show signage; in stores; and even on products.
“The entire supply chain needs to make the most out of the consumer’s desire to have wood floors and ensure that we’re all doing our part to provide a quality product to the end-user,” said Chris Zizza, President of C&R Flooring and Chairman of the NWFA. “In addition to installing the product right the first time, contractors can follow up with homeowners on a regular basis about maintenance and repair. Be the expert your client relies on for advice and use the materials provided by the NWFA to educate them before, during, and after installation. Remember the best way to differentiate yourself from your competitors is to outperform them by better serving your customers.”
Help Spread the Word
Participating in the consumer campaign is easy. The toolkit is free for all NWFA members, and the NWFA will even walk you through the process of how to take the materials and put them to use in your local market. A webinar will take place February 1, 2019 at 10:00 am CT. The webinar will be recorded and it will be made available on the NWFA Online University.
The toolkit may be downloaded by logging in to the NWFA member portal at nwfa.org.
The Homeowner’s Handbook to Real Wood Floors is available on WoodFloors.Org. You can direct your colleagues or customers there to view the information, or if you would like printed copies of the handbook, they are available for purchase via the NWFA member portal.
The NWFA plans to share early outcomes of the campaign during its Wood Flooring Expo, May 1-3, 2019, in Fort Worth, Texas. This year’s theme is “Make Your Mark,” and attendees will walk away with the knowledge to build their company’s brand and learn how to stand apart from the herd.
“An effective consumer campaign will benefit the wood flooring industry as a whole and calls for broad participation from our members,” said Martin. “We hope they will join us in sharing the great story of why wood flooring is the only flooring that can truly last for the life of a home.”
Anyone who uses the toolkit can send success stories or local media coverage they received to the NWFA via email@example.com. Share it and your story could be featured in Hardwood Floors magazine, on HardwoodFloors.Org, or even during the Expo.
Libby Johnston is Director, Media & Advertising, for the NWFA. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 337.794.9232.