A Flamingo, Peacock and Hedgehog Walk Into a Home: Behind One Furniture Retailer’s Marketing Pivot

British brand DFS has overhauled its creative approach since the pandemic

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Though furniture retail is a crowded market, many businesses in the category saw a surge in demand during the pandemic as more people stayed indoors and reassessed their homes. Since then, as home furnishing sales cool down amid rising inflation and a cost of living crisis, retailers have had to find new ways to stand out from the competition.

DFS, a U.K.-based furniture retailer specializing in sofas, is one such brand that has overhauled its marketing strategy to adapt to changing business pressures. Its new campaign, created by London-based agency Pablo, aims to shift perceptions of DFS from just a sofa retailer to a brand that can help customers discover their personal home style.

Titled “The Animal Thingdom,” this campaign builds on DFS’ new brand platform about unlocking people’s individuality and self-expression, “What’s your thing?”­ The platform launched at the end of last year after Pablo won DFS’ advertising account.

The latest ad celebrates a variety of personalities through the lens of the animal kingdom. It introduces viewers to a cast of quirky characters from a self-confident peacock, to a flamingo who loves the Insta-famous shade millennial pink and to a family of homebody hedgehogs. With a playful sense of humor, each animal is seen fully expressing their individual personalities and being true to their own styles and tastes.

Similarly, DFS encourages its customers to do the same, promising at the end of the spot: “What’s your thing? Whatever it is, we’ll find one of these things to match.”

(Captions for the video have not been made available to Adweek. We will update the video once captions have been provided.)Pablo, DFS

“In the process of turning a house or flat into a home, the place you live becomes a living, breathing representation of who you are,” said Chris Turner, planning director at Pablo. “Your home is the primary expression of your identity. We want to make sure [DFS] is best placed to help you find a sofa to match that, no matter who you are.”

Driving emotional connection

Like many other retailers, DFS was forced to pivot during the pandemic as more of its sales shifted online. During that time, DFS saw its online sales increase by about 76%, Turner said—though now sales are more evenly split between online and stores.

But the pandemic-fueled rise in ecommerce helped DFS realize that it needed “a more holistic approach” with its marketing, he added. While showrooms remain important to driving sales, the business has been focused on boosting its digital experience as well.

For example, DFS is trying more often to tap into cultural trends and provide design inspiration through social media platforms. It has also improved its visual search and augmented reality tool, which allows users to visualize how sofa models will match their homes.

DFS is one of the U.K.’s largest advertisers, and it has traditionally been more associated with “the sale,” Turner said. Since hiring Pablo last year, it has been working more on “tapping into that emotional core around the home,” he said.

For the past several years, with former ad agency Krow, DFS ran a series of stop-motion animation ads featuring famous British comedy franchise Wallace and Gromit. Those characters helped “soften” the brand, which “historically was very sales driven and didn’t have a lot of warmth or love from people,” said Pablo business director Gina Hood.

The “What’s your thing?” platform aims to further “drive that emotional connection,” she said.

“It’s shifting the brand position from an expert, top-down authoritarian figure, to being much more helpful, giving people the confidence to unlock their individuality and make their homes more comfortable,” Turner added.

So far, that approach is paying off for DFS, said marketing director James Brewer: “The results show it’s working earlier than expected, with a dramatic shift in emotional connection for the brand and significant movements in perception against key metrics for reappraisal.”

CREDITS: 

Marketing director: James Brewer

Senior creative manager: Kim Knowles
Agency: Pablo
Executive creative director: Dan Watts
Creative directors: Charlie Gee, Tian Murphy
TV creatives: Chris Bovill, John Allison
TTL creatives: Rohit Tharakan, Fei Waller
Managing partner: Sam Morgan
Business director: Gina Hood
Account director: Dan Hughes
Senior account manager: Isobel Kai
CSO: Mark Sng
Planning director: Chris Turner
Head of production: Tom Moxham 
Acting head of production: Charlotte Lipsius
Agency film producer: Sophie de Lacey
Senior project managers: Amanda Nixon, Emily Henderson
Business affairs: Sarah Brown
Production company: Drool
Director: Freddie Powell
Executive producer: Genevieve Sheppard
Producer: Jess Wylie
Director’s assistant: Joe Paul
Director of photography: Patrick Meller
Production designer: James Hatt
Production manager: Harriet Staples
Production assistant: Bella Russell Flint
1st assistant director: James Sharpe
Creature effects supervisor: John Nolan
Puppet captain: Rob Tygner
Edit house: Trim Editing
Editor: Thomas Grove Carter
Assistant editor: Joey Henshaw
Offline producer: Noreen Khan
Post house: Untold
VFX supervisor: Alex Grey
VFX lead: Jack Harris
Asset lead: Mary Doyle
Colorist: Aubrey Woodiwiss
CCO: Neil Davies
Executive producer: Tom Igglesden
Producer: Ella Glazer
Sound house: 750mph
Sound design/mix: Sam Ashwell, Mike Bovill
Audio producer: Olivia Ray
Music supervision company: Birdbrain
Photographer: George Logan: Photographer
Senior producer: Ben Hills
Photographer agent at Horton-Stephens: Paul Cowen
Set designer: Adi Van Zyl
Retoucher: Mark Baxter