Ethan Allen Pitches ‘Attainable’ Furniture

Ethan Allen has launched a new ad campaign, which aims to convince consumers that they don’t have to splurge on lots of furniture to create a stylish home.

The home furnishings retailer is introducing a series of TV, print, online and direct mail ads with a recessionary pitch. Ads position Ethan Allen as an “aspirational” and “attainable” brand through slogans like: “A great room starts with a great piece.” And: “Relax. You don’t have to do it all at once.”

The campaign–which is the first new work since Ethan Allen shifted the account to Interpublic Group-owned McCann Erickson in July–is part of the company’s strategy to reposition itself with younger consumers. Americans in their 40s, 50s and 60s currently make up the brand’s core demographic. But Ethan Allen, which also offers interior design services, is looking to connect with consumers in their 30s and 40s, who also have some discretionary income to spend.

Farooq Kathwari, CEO of the Danbury, Conn.-based company, said the effort stemmed from research that showed many consumers previously thought of the brand as unaffordable. “The perception was that [one] had to [buy] it all at one time, and that was perhaps somewhat not attainable,” Kathwari said. “Our new [campaign] gets the message across about the . . . quality of our brand [and its] value.”

Kathwari said the new push also aims to differentiate the brand from competitors. Ethan Allen, which didn’t disclose the cost of the campaign, upped ad expenditures by 35 percent in its recent quarter–mostly as a result of bigger market share gains, Kathwari said. According to the Nielsen Co., the brand spent $23 million on advertising last year, and $8 million through June of this year, excluding online.

To promote its new pitch, Ethan Allen is running print ads every other Monday in The New York Times. Some of the more recent versions show products like a Jericho Chair (which sells for $1,109), a Wilshire Table ($1,199) and Lloyd Desk ($1,799) depicted in elegant black-and-white settings with the tagline: “It’s like collecting art. You do it piece by piece.”
A 30-second spot, titled “Falling,” breaks tonight on major primetime cable and television networks, and shows a woman falling slowly backwards in a bare room. As she leans back—as if to sit—a comfortable cushioned chair appears and she takes in the moment. A voiceover coaxes, “Get that one piece right, and the rest of the room will just fall into place,” as other furniture appears in the room.

Ethan Allen is also sending out a magazine catalogue to more than 2.5 million households this week. Like the print, TV and online ads, the 32-page publication touts the brand’s “attainability.” The first few pages entice consumers to “save on everything” via deals like 10 percent off an entire purchase, plus optional six months of financing.

Dave Moore, executive creative director at McCann Erickson, which created the campaign, said the ads give Ethan Allen a contemporary twist. “Like a lot of classic American brands, [Ethan Allen has] become so well known that people’s perception of them becomes somewhat out of date,” Moore said. Thus, he added, the campaign positions the brand as “elegant, yet approachable . . . and a little more modern than you might have thought.”