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From Home Furnishing Business

What’s in a Brand?

By Sheila Long O’mara

The ideas of brand and branding are such broad, wide-reaching concepts that a slew of books—some worthy, some not—have been written espousing this, that and the other thing. Heck, if libraries still used physical card catalogs (remember those?) the topic of branding could completely fill at least one 42-drawer cube. Ideas and opinions of branding are ubiquitous. Shake the proverbial stick and you’ll uncover someone’s idea of brand.

You get the idea.

Here in furniture land, a handful of our brands still carry legacy cachet among older consumers. However, those Millennials and some Gen Ys are now stepping into the home furnishings buying cycle without much a clue about La-Z-Boy or Bassett or gasp, their parents’ Drexel Heritage or Ethan Allen. More likely than not, they’re thinking Ikea or West Elm; maybe Pottery Barn. I’m curious if the so-called traditional furniture brands have fumbled and lost their way in reaching these up-and-coming consumers. No doubt, we in the furniture business love the baby boomers, and have for some time, but let’s face facts. That generation won’t be around indefinitely feathering their nests. The cycle of life is just that—a cycle. The next question becomes who will replace their love of furnishing with wellknown, cultivated brands. AND, will there be companies the younger generation deems worthy of their hard-earned cash? These thoughts circle me back to a matter I see happen frequently. Few companies—furniture or otherwise— differentiate between the marketing and branding, and the two different things.

Marketing is promoting a product or service. Marketing revolves around pushing a message to generate sales or a following or something. Advertising falls under the marketing umbrella. Do it; advertising generates results. Branding or brand building should precede marketing efforts. A brand is the essential truth or values of a company or product or service. Brands tell consumers who a company (or product) is; what it stands for; why it exists. Brands, especially the strong ones out there, help encourage folks to buy a product, and a strong brand will help support any marketing efforts out there. Marketing is tactical; branding is more strategic.

An effective marketing plan roots out and encourages consumers to buy, while branding creates loyal customers and evangelists for your brand. Brand evangelists then encourage others to buy your product. How’s your brand? What is your marketing strategy that helps support your brand? Perhaps it’s time for a check up on both fronts.

Inside our cover story, you’ll find a great report that covers brand building and marketing strategies to put to work in your organization. Put together a plan that makes sense.

Happy reading, and I’ll see you at Market.

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