In 1904, when the Charles P. Rogers bed company took out this column-width advertisement in Harper’s magazine, the average consumer shopping for home furnishings had very different needs. Most Americans lived on farms, fetched water from a pump and bathed once a month. In New York City, an average of 16 people crammed into 460 feet of apartment—where the heat came from a coal stove, electric lights were unknown, and the privy stood at the end of the alleyway. In country or city, the 1904 home bore little resemblance to today’s carpeted, air-conditioned, WiFi-equipped domicile.
That is, with one exception: the bedroom.
The chamber in which we lay our heads has done a remarkable job resisting changing times—which might be why this 1904 ad for the Charles P. Rogers bed company has an undeniable kinship with its 2013 counterpart—not just in aesthetics, but in the marketing approach itself. “The bed category hasn’t changed very much,” observed Marsha Lindsay, CEO of brand consultancy Lindsay, Stone & Briggs. “We don’t dress a bedroom any differently today. There’s still the side table and chair. No other room in the house has stayed so much the same.”
In Rogers’ case, that fact has allowed its branding to endure in a kind of elegant time capsule. Nevertheless, its approach is not accidental. Since its founding in 1855, Rogers has touted New York’s finest, handmade beds—and it still does. Lindsay notes that this enduring brand message, coupled with the cultural constancy of the bedroom itself, accounts for the commonalities between these two ads.
For example, neither has a headline. “There’s no need for one,” she said. “The classic nature of the brand is implied with minimal copy.” Both ads also stress artisanship by letting the product speak for itself. The elaborate brass filigree of the 1904 bed conveys the same craftsmanship as the scrolled iron bracket linking the frame to the headboard in the 2013 ad. And despite the elapsed 109 years, both ads also place the beds within well-appointed rooms. “The 2013 ad speaks to traditional aesthetics—which is a part of their brand in the early ad as well,” Lindsay said.
Yet here, a few smart updates bear mentioning. While Rogers is clearly touting its long heritage in its recent ad, its formality is deftly relaxed to reflect a more casual attitude. Note that bed isn’t formally made up and that the camera angle puts the viewer’s eye on the mattress level. “They’re showing the bed from the side perspective—as though you’re in the room,” Lindsay said. “You can imagine approaching it.”
In an age of disposable fashion and rooms by Ikea, the Rogers brand is a rare survivor, yet its survival seems a likely function of it having kept its product and marketing as consistent as the role of the bedroom itself. As Lindsay put it: “Who among us today could anticipate that in 100 years we’d be marketing the same product functionality with the same brand voice and sensibility?”