Brooke Shields Brings La-Z-Boy Up to Date

When does enviable brand recognition become a liability? When you’re La-Z-Boy and you need to convince consumers you sell a range of furniture beyond recliners.

La-Z-Boy is convinced Brooke Shields can put a modern, stylish face on a company associated with a chair favored by her parents’ generation. Five TV spots, the first of which broke this week, will roll out over the next few months. In one, Shields talks about how the La-Z-Boy favorite “dad’s chair” has morphed into a room of favorite furniture. Print ads break this month in January magazines.

This is not the first time La-Z-Boy has used celebrity spokespersons. In the 60s, 70s and 80s, the company hired pitchmen like Bing Crosby, Joe Namath and Johnny Carson.

With the new campaign, via lead agency RPA, Santa Monica, La-Z-Boy hopes its target consumer will relate to Shields. “We’re using Brooke Shields to raise awareness among women that we make something other than recliners,” said La-Z-Boy CMO Doug Collier. “She tested well with working moms who are balancing careers with raising kids. She came across as down to earth while having great style.”

The ads introduce a new tagline, “Live life comfortably,” which replaces “Comfort is what we do” (in use since Sept. 2007).

Like other furniture retailers, La-Z-Boy has been hit hard by the weak housing market and consumers’ reluctance to spend. On Nov. 22, the company reported second-quarter results that were lower than investor expectations. Sales in the quarter dropped 2.6 percent.

The importance of La-Z-Boy’s new marketing initiative was underscored in the company’s announcement about the earnings. In a statement, La-Z-Boy chief executive Kurt L. Darrow said: “Although we remain concerned about the macroeconomic environment . . . we are making moves to position La-Z-Boy to take full advantage of an upturn in consumer spending for furniture. We have the strongest brand in the business and believe our new marketing campaign, featuring Brooke Shields, and a targeted message will enhance our market penetration and reach.”