In an effort to pique consumer interest in its Kenmore appliances, Sears is launching a Crazy Cleaning Confessions Contest, encouraging consumers to rat themselves out on their housekeeping peculiarities -- from letting poodles wash the dishes to laundering dungarees in the freezer.
Consumers can post videos of their cleaning antics on YouTube, and the chain will award three grand prizes from its Kenmore Elite line in October. To encourage participation, the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based chain is also linking the promotion to an environmental cause, donating $10,000 to the Jane Goodall Institutes Roots and Shoots group, with an additional 50-cent donation for viewing and voting, for a donation of up to $25,000.
The contest is just the latest in a series of marketing moves Sears has made to goose appliance sales, including a campaign involving its Blue Crew, focused on appliances and consumer electronics. (Don't miss the hysterical version of a Blue Crew member trying to get NFL quarterback Brett Favre to make up his mind about a TV set.)
While appliance sales have been suffering for some time due to the weak real-estate market, Sears -- the nation's leading appliance retailer -- is feeling more than its share of pain. Just a few weeks ago, in posting its second-quarter results, it cited weak appliance sales in its overall sales decline. And the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers has estimated that total industry sales are down 15% through the end of June.
And while there are some bright spots -- consumers continue to be intrigued by appliances that offer greener alternatives and energy savings and the government's extensive appliance rebate program, set to kick in late in the fourth quarter, may help -- selling these machines is an uphill battle.
Sears says its contest also exploits a little cleaning angst: A recent Kenmore survey found that moms overwhelmingly want help with cleaning, with 52% saying that help from family members would allow them more quality time with their kids, which is what they really crave. However, it turns out that machines have a slight edge over husbands: 79% think large appliances are the key to a smoothly running household, while only 68% say that about a spouse who pitches in.
The company says it hopes the contest will put the emphasis on the right appliance's ability to take the "crazy out of cleaning. Given the innovative appliance solutions we've developed, the Crazy Cleaning Confessions Contest puts a spotlight on the unnecessary lengths people go through to get their dishes and clothes clean, especially since they don't have time," the company says in its release. "Kenmore knows that people want appliances that can do the job right the first time so they don't have to do the job for them."
Early entries including people letting poodles prewash plates in the dishwasher, wiping carving knives on pant legs, and using the freezer, not a washer, to "freshen" jeans. (The contestant alleges it makes them smell better, but doesn't change the fit.)