Blake, a 4,000-pound white rhinoceros, is living his best life on a 55-acre ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas. And for two weeks in 2023, his living quarters were the location of Mohawk’s latest brand activation for SmartStrand carpet.

“2023 is the year we bring the rhino back,” said Jeff Meadows, president of residential sales, Mohawk.

The flooring manufacturer installed SmartStrand carpet in a barn at the Rhinory, where wines and Blake team up for rhino conservation. Since 2008, more than 11,000 rhinos have been poached in Africa. To change the narrative and provide these animals with the care, attention and safety they deserve, Craig Stevens and his wife Chesney Castleberry opened Rhinory in the Hill Country of Texas in 2022.

“Rhinory combines the concepts of a rhino farm and a winery,” Stevens explained. “Visitors can experience rhinos in an environment much more personal than a zoo, drink world-class wines in a beautiful setting and help rhino conservation while doing it.”

When Mohawk first approached for Stevens about partnering, he was curious how a winery and a flooring manufacturer could collaborate. 

“Now that you’ve seen the carpet demonstration and the quality of their product, it’s an amazing thing,” Stevens said. “Mohawk is sustainable, environmentally friendly and really care about the environment and the world just like we do.”

Blake lived his best life on SmartStrand carpet for two weeks while Mohawk’s marketing team documented the entire process—from installation to cleanup. The goal of the campaign is to illustrate the durability and cleanability of SmartStrand carpet so that flooring retailers can share the story with consumers and increase carpet sales.

“It was the highest traffic area of his barn, so he spent a lot of time there—slept on it, walked on it—up to 16 hours a day,” said Denise Silbert, vice president of marketing, Mohawk.

SmartStrand Brand Activation in Texas 

SmartStrand Campaign History 

SmartStrand fiber is made with DuPont's Sorona polymer and was introduced in 2005. Mohawk rebranded over the years and introduced the first Rhino challenge for SmartStrand in 2009. 

Ricko The Rhino was a black rhino who was smaller than Blake and lived at the Birmingham Zoo. 

“We installed a carpet and it cleaned up and it was wildly successful,” Silbert said. 

From there, Mohawk expanded to other food and beverage challenges and brand activation like Messiest Kids, License to Spill and Tough Mudder. In 2015, Max the Rhino came on the scene. 

“What we found is the ones that you could have more of an immersion into the experience seem to resonate more with our customers, and so when our customers are behind the campaign, they're going to make sure that they're talking about it and their team's talking about,” Silbert said. 

“I still think this is the most innovative fiber that's been out since synthetic was invented with its unique combination of cleanability and durability” said Audra Keiber, director of design and development, Mohawk. “The sustainability story at some point is going to be more relevant to everyone. It was definitely ahead of its time in 2005 to be made over 30% bio-based from corn. It wasn’t a necessarily a driver then and it's becoming increasingly more important for people, especially the younger generation to buy things that align with their values and sustainability is one of those.”

POP Materials

Mohawk created a library of point-of-purchase materials for retailers to help drive in-store conversations.

The 2023 Campaign 

Top flooring retailers from across North America traveled to Hill Country in April to meet Blake in person and get a first look at Mohawk’s latest SmartStrand carpet brand activation. The brand activation gave retailers a first look at campaign messaging and in-store displays.

“Everything ties back to making SmartStrand a success and to help your business grow,” Silbert told retailers.

Ryan Verkley of Deerfoot Carpet & Flooring in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, said the Mohawk SmartStrand campaign works for his customers. “The campaign worked really well because it allowed us to explain to customers that the carpet is easy to clean—not only can your dog can live on it but so can a rhino. Whenever we are doing advertising, we have a trade show or showing video, it’s good to have the video footage to have the proof that the carpet works.” 

Christine Dominguez, procurement manager for RPM Living, a property management team in San Antonio, Texas, has been in the multifamily business for 25 years and recommends SmartStrand do all of her facilities managers. 

“In multifamily, carpet is out relationship,” Dominguez said. “If we offer education and we can get people on board and if they know they are spending less on replacement, that hits them in the pocketbook and allows them to hit their budget and make their bonus.” 

Stained carpet is one of the top cost and customer satisfaction challenges for multifamily management companies. When the carpet can’t be restored to its original state, then it must be replaced. 

“As our recent Color Wall Challenge with Blake the Rhino showed, SmartStrand can withstand big messes,” said Jacquelyn Briggs, director of channel marketing, Mohawk Builder and Multifamily. “SmartStrand saves management companies money by reducing replacement costs and giving more options for cleaning. Spills and stains can easily be removed with just water or mild detergent. That means their customers are more likely to keep that carpet clean and not lose the security deposit.”

Doug Chadderdon, president of Great Floors, which serves the Northwest United States through 21 locations, said he is impressed with Mohawk and how the company ties in nature to the fiber and to the consumer. “I’m an old rug peddler—I wouldn’t think of this, but it resonates with a younger audience, a smarter audience that really does care about the environment.”

The SmartStrand Color Wall

Mohawk’s SmartStrand Color Wall was redesigned for 2023 to inspire consumers to easily shop and confidently select a color and comfort level for their home.

The new styles featured on the Color Wall include colorations and designs that complement the performance that both customers and consumers have grown to trust. The display provides a compelling selling experience to consumers that allows them to confidently select color and comfort across a range of price points.

“We were really listening to our customers as we set out to design this color wall in a way that I think maybe we hadn't in the past,” Silbert said. “We got very deep into understanding what were the complaints and how can we make it as great as possible.

Keiber drove the development of the new display: “There are many of the consumers and retailers that really love the fiber but felt that we were maybe missing the mark and telling the story and making that connection more obvious.”

The color swatches are now displayed in a hexagon shape, which symbolizes the chemistry behind the fiber. “It also has a huge visual impact when you look at it based on everything else in the showroom floor, from a competitive standpoint,” Keiber said. “This display helps make that product value proposition stand out more from the consumer's perspective.

Helping the Cause

Twenty percent of the winery sales go to rhino conservation via the International Rhino Foundation with a goal of donating $500,000 over five years. Thanks to Mohawk’s campaign amplification, Rhinory raised $100,000 in just 11 months. 

“Having an emotional connection is essential with any marketing,” Silbert said. “Blake is so endearing and cute and goofy and he does funny things—I could spend all day watching the silly things he's doing. If you can make an emotional connection, that is what makes a difference, and so combining carpet and a rhino is unexpected.”

Check Out Our Video Coverage

A Sneak Peek at Blake the Rhino's Testing Grounds for SmartStrand Carpet

Meet Blake, a 4,000-pound rhino and the newest brand ambassador for SmartStrand carpet. Mohawk partnered with the Rhinory to activate the latest SmartStrand campaign and support the rhino reserve’s efforts for rhino conservation in North America.

Watch the Video

Retailer Reaction: First Impressions of SmartStrand's 2023 Rhino Campaign

Ryan Berkley of Deerfoot Carpet & Flooring in Calgary shares his impressions of the new Mohawk SmartStrand rhino campaign and why it matters to his customers.

Watch the Video

Mohawk's Kevin Pope Installs SmartStrand in Rhino Barn For a Good Cause

Kevin Pope, national field services manager, Mohawk, installed SmartStrand in Blake's, The Rhinory's resident rhino, barn as part of Mohawk's most recent SmartStrand campaign to demonstrate the carpet's durability and cleanability and help bring the rhino back. Pope tells us about the experience, the challenges he faced and ultimately how he made a new friend out of Blake.

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A Carpet for Multifamily Floors

Carpet for multifamily projects has to be cleanable and durable. Hear from Christine Dominguez, procurement manager for RPM Living about how SmartStrand is helping her multifamily clients spend less on replacements.

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The Rhinory Aims to Bring Back the Rhino

Craig Stevens, owner of Rhinory, a 55-acre ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas, shares how Blake the white rhino is helping to bring the species back from a path toward extinction and how the partnership with Mohawk helps the cause.

Watch the Video