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Bygone Discipline of Branding

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, July 7, 2008

It's fascinating to watch all the machinations about brands — old-timers as well as hopeful newbies — as they work their way through the home textiles community.

It's beginning to look like branding in home textiles is a world apart from branding in other worlds of consumer products. In days gone by, brands were controlled by their designers/owners and distribution generally was broad based, albeit to one segment of the retail community or another.

Sometimes a brand had enough power that it could be translated to more than one distribution channel — albeit carefully and discreetly.

Among the many characteristics of successful brand marketing was a brand owner's potent direction of marketing, advertising and promotion.

As this home textiles universe becomes more ferocious and possessive, retailers are demanding brand exclusives, and the marketing is developed for single retail businesses. At the same time, they create in-house brands that are marketed strictly solo — often missing the point of a brand totally.

A case in point is a recent ad in the glossy consumer magazine Home for Canopy — a new home merchandising launch from Wal-Mart. Despite all the pre-launch hullabaloo, the ad touted the virtues of the home textiles products with a winsome picture of mother and child, lovely copy and no mention of Wal-Mart.

Then there are the other brands, mostly previously established powerhouses that have fallen on troubled times that now are being rejiggered.

The brand owners appear to have one key criterion for distribution — the retailer that offers the greatest exposure and royalty check, rather than building or rebuilding a brand.

Watching the challenges that are facing some of these brands in a perilous marketplace, it will be interesting to see if the brand owners change their patterns of doing business for a long-term future.

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