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Community Champions: Meet Dmitri Cherner

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What is your name, title, and company?

My name is Dmitri Cherner. I’m the Associate Director of Influencer and Partnerships at Ruggable.

Tell us about Ruggable and your role there.

Ruggable is a D2C brand devoted to providing stylish, washable solutions for your home, starting with the rugs on your floors. My role initially was to build out a world-class influencer program from scratch, and has since evolved to include Social, PR, Philanthropy, and of course, Community.

What does community mean to Ruggable?

Community is absolutely core to our social, influencer, and customer strategy at Ruggable. Since the beginning, we have developed and grown our social presence by sharing and celebrating our fans and customers. In turn, this has prompted others to organically share their stories — not just pictures — with us, and continued to propel the trend forwards.

In addition to that, we take customer feedback really seriously and our customer service team has been tremendous in passing along feedback and taking care of inquiries. Since our ultimate goal is creating a sense of belonging for our fans and getting them excited to contribute, it’s essential we take care of them as best we can.

Like many brands, Ruggable engages influencers and customers. But you also uniquely engage “experts” like interior designers, real estate agents, and pet owners. Tell us about your most valued community members.

Our most valued community members aren’t defined by their day jobs or how many followers they have; they’re defined by their passion for the brand and product. In my experience working with influencers, it’s very easy to tell who actually loves the product and who is phoning it in. There are certain experts like interior designers or pet owners who can speak directly to future customers through their own personal experiences, which are super powerful and encouraged. But at the end of the day, it’s the ones who tell us why a machine-washable rug made an actual difference in their lives that we want to lift up and celebrate.

From asking for product feedback to sharing customer content on social, how do you activate your community?

We want our community members to feel like they’re an extension of the company itself. We do our best to provide product details, insider information, upcoming launches and partnerships, and much more as often as we can. We pose questions, run polls, and invite participation as often as possible on social to engage and foster discussion. It also helps that people are constantly making requests and asking questions! 

PS: Yes, the 8x10 really does fit inside your washing machine!! 😉

Ruggable’s strategy started in social and grew to encompass a larger community. Can you tell us about that evolution?

The evolution happens organically if you have your community interests at the heart of your efforts. Especially in the influencer community, which is at the heart of ours, you can’t fake real passion and genuine care. Those most successful had to work for years with little recognition before gaining a large audience and dedicated fans, and our strategy has felt like that from the beginning — authentic to our brand, our product, and our customers. 

You’re building an ambassador program from scratch right now. Can you explain what that looks like and why you wanted to invest in it?

From the beginning, personal referrals have been a huge driver for us. To us, an ambassador program is just a manifestation of a product that delivers what it’s meant to. Our rugs really are machine-washable, super stylish, and a wonderful solution for human beings, who are prone to clumsy mistakes (red wine spills all day in my home!). 

We’ve chosen to invest in the people that really believe the product makes a difference in theirs and their family’s lives, just like we do. Without that (and them), we wouldn’t be anywhere we are today.

What strategies have you personally seen be most successful in building, growing, and engaging a brand community?

There are three strategies I would highlight that every brand needs to be really clear on:

  1. Know your audience: This one’s a given, but it extends beyond demographics and location. At Ruggable, we’ve cultivated a persona based on customer research and surveys to best understand what customers care about and what they need. Then we do our best to deliver that to them. It’s give-and-take, two-way communication that is critical to community building.
  2. Have a voice: It’s important to pick a lane and stick to it. Some brands vacillate between snarky and sweet, kind and mischievous, and end up being all over. People don’t know what to expect, so they stop engaging. To our community, we aim to be caring, knowledgeable, and sometimes a lil spicy — it’s important to have some flair!
  3. Consistency is key: I tell this to everyone who asks me about anything related to growth — social audience growth, growth marketing, or portfolio growth — it’s all about maintaining relevance and being there when new people are searching for you. If you disappear, you better believe someone else (or your competitor) is right there and ready to engage with the person you missed. 

How has a brand community helped you reach your overall marketing goals?

This question is particularly relevant during this quarantine period, where our production and creative teams haven’t been able to do photo shoots or develop new content. We’ve leaned heavily on our brand community for their user generated content and our influencers for their styled and beautiful homes that are ultimate #inspogoals. We’ve even worked with outsourced photographers within our community to produce imagery for an upcoming launch!

With the current pandemic, users are at home and on social media more than ever. What does that mean for a home brand such as Ruggable and how have you remained relevant during this time?

Like many other brands, we’ve had to get creative. We did a series with our WFH “co-workers” (pets) who consistently find ways to amuse and befuddle us in the middle of Zoom calls and such. We did another one where employees filmed themselves sharing new routines they’ve embarked on to keep things fresh at home. We developed a whole campaign to bring our audience along with us while we figured out how to produce and donate non-medical masks for essential workers to show support. On top of it all, we just keep trying new things that we think our audience would enjoy, and it seems to be working so far!

What does the next phase of your community program look like?

It’s tough to say what tomorrow will look like, especially considering the state of the world today. However, we’re optimistic that things will continue to get better and that will open up new opportunities to bring our community together. What would previously have maybe been events and trips to Disneyland could now become care packages and special partnerships. No matter what, we plan to increase our communication with our community and continue to better understand our community’s needs for the future and how we can help fulfill that.

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