innovative and interactive social media venue, Craftsman Experience
just flipped the calendar past its first-year anniversary in August
... and what a year it's been. The Chicago-based storefront on Huron
Street offers a unique mix of hands-on DIY workstations, a
live-streamed radio and video production studio creating weekly shows
and podcasts, ongoing DIY demos and expert clinics, celebrity
appearances open to the public and much more. What began as an
experiment has become "a place where our customers can interact
with the brand in a way that is unlike anything else in the tool
category," says Kris Malkoski, vice president and general
manager of the Craftsman brand. "Our innovations and
demonstrations come to life and our fans can witness and interact
with the brand in real-time, no matter where they are."
that "Bring it. Build it. Broadcast it" experiment
continues to gather both momentum and fan base as it charts a course
into Year Two.
vice president of digital marketing for the Kenmore, Craftsman and
spoke with me recently about Craftsman's "Screw*d" reality
series, which set out to train a DIY-challenged Alan Weischedel
with the tool know-how he'd need to survive three
immersion-experience project challenges, all streamed live to viewers
who could help him escape his plights. Last week Ostrom reflected on
some of CE's other highlights of its inaugural year.
the start, our goal has been to produce content that people want to
engage with ... and these days, that's videos and live-streamed shows
as well as radio-on-demand podcasts. In the first year of CE, we've
produced more than 600 content segments. It's been a huge success for
our brand. In that regard, one of the brightest lights has been Frank
Fontana's 'The Down & Dirty' podcast and video show."
Fontanta broadcasts live every Thursday at 7 p.m. (CST) from Huron Street,
offering a mix of DIY tips, expert project help and interviews. The
show is now in its third season of production, airing eight to 12
episodes per season. Ostrom says the show draws up to a million
listeners, depending on the topic, and it was the number one iTunes
download for a period of time when the complete first season of
podcasts was released. This third season is focused on projects for
Chicago-area charities. It recently was involved with rehabbing a
multipurpose room for the Ronald McDonald house.
also recounted a number of guest appearance events that helped mark
the CE calendar. For instance, in March, Woodworker's Journal joined
forces with George Vondriska of the Woodworker's Guild of America to
build a steel-string guitar over three live-streamed shows. Proceeds
from the sale of that instrument were donated to Guitars 4 Vets.
early June, CE hosted a Blogger's Summit in which more than a dozen
"mom, dad and gadget bloggers" gathered to learn how build
a sawhorse, corn hole game and other easy projects. Leading DIY
bloggers Lisa Ann Nelsen-Woods (Condo Blues), Stuart Deutsch (Tool
Guyd), Timothy Dahl (Charles and Hudson) and Mike Senese led the
instructional builds for the event. "Many of our fans out there
are dads who want to make projects for their kids. The Summit was an
opportunity to get some key bloggers talking about simple projects
parents can build, to really encourage these kinds of
Fritz, one of the stars of History Channel's "American Pickers"
show, also stopped by CE this year to host an event that was open to
the public. Craftsman fans were encouraged to bring in their old
Craftsman tools for Fritz to evaluate, as well as to share the unique
stories behind their cherished tools. "Craftsman heritage goes
back some 85 years," Ostrom commented, "and people are
really proud of those Craftsman tools that have been passed along in
the family. It was a great event to embrace Craftsman's rich
July, CE launched its second interactive venue: Craftsman Experience Los Angles. This new immersion center and social media hub focuses
exclusively on automotive content and Craftsman's place as a
signature manufacturer of mechanics and automotive tools. Its grand
opening reception was hosted by Motor Trend Radio's Alan Taylor from
the rarely-before-seen vault inside the Petersen Automotive Museum.
The vault is home to 300 of the museum's automobiles when they aren't on display, and the new Experience will broadcast its radio and video segments from the vault. "We
launched the new CE as a response to Craftsman fans' passion for
cars. This new venue will be Craftsman's opportunity to take to the
streets and really explore innovative new automotive content."
was a busy month for Craftsman Experience. The group Bikes Over Baghdad kicked
off their stateside tour with a number of free BMX stunt shows at CE
in Chicago. The team had returned from a fourth trip to Iraq to
entertain the troops as a thank you for their continued service. Pro
ramp builder Nate Wessel and other members of the team constructed
bike ramps prior to show appearances, using Craftsman tools. The
action-packed, high-flying event was a logical venue for Craftsman as
well as "a huge crowd-pleaser," Ostrom recounted.
"Craftsman is very supportive of our troops, and it was a thrill
to have Bikes Over Baghdad spend time with us. Those shows were so
spectacular that the L-trains running near CE were literally stopping
so people could watch the action." Then, near month's end,
Craftsman Experience also took part in Chicago's popular "City
Chase," a city-wide scavenger hunt. One of the stopping points
for participants happened at CE, where players had an opportunity to
learn about and then use Craftsman tools.
early September, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition's" Ty
Pennington hosted CE's one-year anniversary celebration, which
included guest appearances from both Frank Fontana and Erik Buell,
motorcycle racer and president and CEO of Eric Buell Racing.
a year of social media firsts for the brand, Ostrom sees good things
ahead. "The fact that a Craftsman product was, for a period of
time, the most popular iTunes download was phenomenal for us ... we
aren't typically considered the cool brand! At the end of the day,
Craftsman through CE has created a channel to open up our brand to
customers of all ages. We've created a social media channel that
isn't just a one-way dialogue with our fans. We're engaging in
two-way communication with end users on a daily basis. If they want
us to build a certain project or explore a DIY topic, we will. They
are engaging with us in a 'hands-on' way. I think going forward,
you're going to see other tool brands following suit and really
owning their relationships with their customers, just like we are
doing right now."