Whirlpool

Situation

Whirlpool had come a long way from its humble origins in small-town Michigan. What had started as a tiny manufacturing company producing electric wringer washing machines had turned into the largest maker of home appliances in the world. Approaching its 100th anniversary, Whirlpool was now a multibillion-dollar global conglomerate with a presence in nearly all corners of the globe.

Traditionally, Whirlpool had told its story in a way that focused on its midwestern roots. But in its present-day, global configuration, the company’s America-centric story was not aligning with its now far more diverse audience. Just months before Whirlpool’s centennial, as the tactical implementation of the campaign was about to begin, the company’s leadership realized that Whirlpool’s story could be told in a global context.

While Whirlpool already had a strong, recognizable brand throughout the world, its corporate anniversary provided an opportunity to articulate the brand’s position in the international marketplace, helping reinforce Whirlpool as a unified, global organization. The History Factory was engaged to provide the tools and resources needed to help Whirlpool tell this larger story.

Solution

How do you trace the roots of a global company with many local acquisitions? Right at the source. To accomplish this, The History Factory conducted a global story-gathering and development program for Whirlpool to discover the overarching story and themes of its many parts. Through the use of focus groups—or StoryARC® sessions—conducted in North America, South America, Asia and Europe, The History Factory was able to connect with key executives and employees to identify the best threads of Whirlpool’s story, both from a local and global perspective. These essential pieces of the story were then distilled into smaller narratives connecting global themes to local audiences.

But our work didn’t stop there. A global Discovery program called One Hundred Days · One Hundred Years was conducted to unearth stories, artifacts, symbols and images from all employees. For one hundred days, people had the opportunity to submit stories about their experiences at Whirlpool, its legacy companies and its regions through an online portal. Not only were stories collected, but also archival materials such as newsletters, advertising, ledgers and scrapbooks, all of which helped inform the larger narrative of Whirlpool.

Whirlpool already had a large archive, but the anniversary provided the chance to engage employees in the process of rounding out the current archival holdings, as well as gathering materials from its affiliate companies around the world. “Discovery coordinators” at each of Whirlpool’s major locations around the world acted as point people to both collect materials for the archives and encourage participation. The History Factory conducted live webinars with these discovery champion volunteers on multiple continents to train them for the role they would play in the anniversary. Posters, table tents and other collateral materials were provided by The History Factory to prepare for the program. Once it began, archivists from The History Factory processed the materials that came in from the program and worked with archivists at the Whirlpool Corporation Archives Museum in Benton Harbor, Michigan, to store the newly collected materials and preserve them for use by future generations of Whirlpool employees.

To help make Whirlpool’s archive easily searchable, The History Factory digitized many of the materials and placed them in LuminARC®, an online archival database developed by The History Factory. The collected materials were immediately used to help inform the Whirlpool anniversary initiatives and throughout the campaign The History Factory used LuminARC to conduct primary research to support the creation of everything from posters to the centerpiece of the anniversary: a coffee- table-style publication entitled A Century of Achievement | A New Century of Opportunity.

Using the story bank and anniversary materials, The History Factory was able to address another challenge for Whirlpool: its onboarding process. With companies and affiliates around the world, conveying a sense of the identity and culture could be difficult. Now armed with a more global story, Whirlpool turned to The History Factory to help create an online training module that could convey its culture, as well as its heritage, to new employees worldwide. The format and content helped new hires quickly learn more about the brand in its global context, thus helping to onboard them more quickly, which met a major human resources need.

Results

The story bank and archive came together to equip Whirlpool communications teams around the world with a bank of content for use throughout the centennial year and beyond, informing the Dare to Dream centennial theme and other tactical applications, including a video, book and onboarding module. Through a cohesive anniversary program, Whirlpool came out of its anniversary year with a new, global focus. Its centennial was the ideal time to reinforce and articulate the global Whirlpool brand, and Whirlpool finished the year ready to enter its next century of progress as a united, worldwide corporation.

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