Lisa Bialecki at Rust-Oleum shares how she got buy-in to transform their overall media strategy to focus more on social

Over the course of Senior Director of Integrated Communications Lisa Bialecki‘s 17-year tenure at Rust-Oleum, their media mix has evolved from being predominantly television to a mix of everything. And, over the past several years, she has been working across the company to continue inching forward social media's place in that strategy.

“I'm happy to work at a company where our senior management gives us the bandwidth to test and learn and try things we've never done before,” said Lisa. “We've always been able to test the waters with different tools.”

She and her team have noticed that before and after features really drive and motivate consumers to purchase their products.

It’s a positive story to reinforce the idea that we’re going to be able to spend this money, and it’s going to work much harder for you. Lisa Bialecki
She said when their audience sees a kitchen transformation before and after on their feeds, they're often empowered to try it themselves — including both new users and repeat consumers.

“The person who is comfortable using spray paints may paint their mailbox every year or two,” she said. “But we want to inspire them to try our paints on a new item, like a chandelier in their living room.”

But their biggest opportunity is reaching first time homeowners and showing them how easy it is and how big a transformation they can make with an $8 can of spray paint.

In recent years, she's found the tools they have available to them through social media work much harder for them than some traditional media.

“We continue to shift our investment from television and print to social channels,” Lisa said. “But it was a hard move to make.”

As a more traditional company with colleagues and buyers who've been in the business for 20 or 30 years, she's worked hard to shift the perception that, as a big brand, they have to be on television.

“Explaining to a paint salesperson that we're going to shift our spend and, in fact, we may not put anything on television this year for certain brands, is often met with skepticism,” she said. “But we have to teach that person and explain why these choices are going to drive people into their store to buy paint.”

According to Lisa, making the shift to social a gradual, year-by-year change has helped the process and built more trust in the investment.

We continue to shift our investment from television and print to social channels. Lisa Bialecki
“Ever since we've been allowed to advertise on social channels, we've been actively doing it, which is great and unusual for such a traditional industry,” she said. “We tested the waters with certain brands and smaller portions of our budget and we've tracked the results and used brand lift studies to prove the worth of what we're doing. When our salespeople see the difference, they can't deny the value.”

She emphasized that making sure they have real numbers correlating to the benefit of their work on social has been crucial. “It's a positive story to reinforce the idea that we're going to be able to spend this money, and it's going to work much harder for you,” she said.

To drive home the value of social to Rust-Oleum, Lisa focused on taking advantage of their targeting abilities in their campaigns.

“Television is great for brand awareness, but social behavioral targeting is undeniably better than anything else,” she said. In a campaign they're currently running with a product called Factor 4, a synthetic three-year wax for your car, they experimented with a completely digital campaign.

“It's the first time we ever launched a product of this magnitude without a television component,” said Lisa. “Our buyers and salespeople were a little worried. But we're seeing sales lifting week by week, and everybody's shifted a little bit in their feelings about social.”

She said sharing these success stories is key to continuing to improve their processes.

Television is great for brand awareness, but social behavioral targeting is undeniably better than anything else. Lisa Bialecki
“This year at our sales meeting, the main focus is going to be explaining to our sales people the value of our media, how it's changed so much, and why that's a benefit to them,” said Lisa. “It can be a hard job for them depending on who their customer is and their experiences, while we have other customers who totally get it and think we should definitely be social first.”

Lisa emphasized the importance of continuing to educate their brand team as they run these experiments — and she and her team are already seeing that work payoff.

“When we said, ‘Here's the budget, we're running two months to start, and we think it should be a completely digital campaign,' the brand team was on board right away,” she said. “Even our senior leadership agreed. I think sometimes we say things so many times and get a little pushback each time, then they start to repeat the things we're saying and understand.”

On top of that education, effectively partnering with their internal stakeholders has gone a long way towards setting up their evolving media mix for success.

I’m happy to work at a company where our senior management gives us the bandwidth to test and learn and try things we’ve never done before. Lisa Bialecki
As essentially an in-house agency that supports all of their brands, Lisa's team oversees all media channels — working with senior leadership to set budget and the brand teams to identify their goals and target audiences for different product launches and campaigns.

“It's important for us to have that connection to our brand teams and our customers to understand what they're looking for,” she said. “Then we work with our media agency to develop a campaign recommendation and present it to our brand teams.”

They make sure there's buy-in and that stakeholders are involved throughout the process so it feels like their campaign as well. Then, they present their work to their senior team for final approval.

Lisa said she and her team are always looking at their media and optimizing it in real time — including in response to how their audience is engaging.

For example, in their Factor 4 campaign, they only used a little of their test budget on Pinterest because they thought Pinterest wasn't where people who use car wax are active.

“We thought they'd be on Instagram or Facebook,” she said. “And it turned out that our engagement rates on Pinterest were really high. They were saving to boards like clean car hacks. And the creative that was performing best on Facebook was more humorous and less about the function of the product.”

In response, they shifted budget quickly and spent a little more on Pinterest because it was working harder than they originally thought. According to Lisa, they also look closely at point-of-sale data throughout this process. “Our engagement rates can be through the roof, but if we're not selling the product, then we're not winning,” she said.

Lisa said their biggest challenge is keeping up with the content development and making sure it's engaging.

Lisa said they sometimes have 70 pieces of content published a month, many of which take some time to develop.

“Creating a before and after image that really gets people excited isn't something that you just whip up in a day,” she said. “It's either a big studio shoot or an influencer who's working on it, so we have to plan our calendars way in advance.”

And, throughout this evolution of their social strategy, Lisa said they've learned a lot about those studio shoots. “We have our own studio, which is great, but if we don't use the right lighting or the right scene, it looks like it's in a studio, and people are just not interested in it,” she said.

According to Lisa, one thing that's helped them stay on top of their content is keeping an eye on the trends.

They work to keep track of the colors, finishes, and spaces that people are looking at. “When we get it right, it works so well,” she said.

For example, they had a product called “Tub & Tile” that lets people paint their bathtub, tile, and sink. They found an influencer who they sponsored for a post using the product in her ongoing bathroom renovation posts.

“After that, we were getting calls from our customers asking what's going on with Tub & Tile because it was selling much better than usual,” she said. “That was a perfect storm of the right product, the right look, and the right person doing it.”

“We have all these really niche products, and we could never afford to do traditional advertising for each one,” said Lisa. “Whenever we have social posts that drive sales for that little product, that always makes me feel really good.”

Lisa said her biggest learning throughout the past few years is that it's important not to be too narrow.

She said their experience with Factor 4 is a good example of how being open to possibilities can have a big payoff. “I thought for sure car wax wouldn't perform well on Pinterest and I was absolutely wrong,” she said. “Open your mind and open up opportunities for the brand because you never know what'll work. And if you don't try, you won't find out.”

She also advised testing with small budgets first so you and your leadership feel comfortable with that decision, and it reduces your risk as you're testing. “I would never want to go all in with one channel or one media tool because it's just too risky,” she said.

Lisa Bialecki has been a member of since 2015. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.