With consumer confidence wavering in the wake of the last few years, buyers need more than motivation to make a purchase. She needs assurance the product on which she is spending her hard earned money will perform as she expects. Unfortunately, the salesperson’s word is not enough these days and a recognized third party—a celebrity— is often good support, regardless of whether there is any connection to the endorsed product. Buyers likes translate across markets based on a perceived connection to that celebrity.
Think Miley Cyrus at WalMart or Isaac Mizrahi at Target. These retail giants can attract a different kind of buyer, broadening their respective markets. WalMart is bringing in younger buyers with Cyrus and Target is gaining more trendy shoppers. Aligning with the values of a particular celebrity or the aesthetics he/she represents translates into consumer trust.
This rings true in all types of flooring products. “One of the most important benefits of celebrity licensing is consumers trust their decorating decisions to these tastemakers,” said Arash Yaragi, principal, Safavieh. “A consumer could see a rug and like it very much but the fact that Martha Stewart’s name appears on the back instills confidence.”
That was the idea behind Kathy Ireland’s line with Shaw. “It is a great way for the consumer to connect with someone they recognize and trust, plus it gives our dealers a differentiated product selection and selling system that is not offered by all dealers,” said Heather Yamada, creative services marketing manager. “It offers a recognizable brand that they can relate to.” Reaching the female consumer was also part of Shaw’s aim with the Kathy Ireland line. “She relates well to the female consumer, is family friendly, has a positive impact in the media and great community outreach,” Yamada explained. Her personal brand slogan of “…finding solutions for families, especially busy moms,” reinforces a positive, supportive message. Her website also links to efforts toward furthering education, health and environmental sustainability.
Capel Rugs will also take advantage of name recognition when it launches a line at the High Point market from notable textile designer, Kevin O’Brien. “He has an established following at such stores as Anthropologie, Barney’s and Bergdorf Goodman,” explained Tami Watras, director of merchandising. “It is a new group that we’ll reach and it will expand both of our followings.”
As a company known for traditional rugs, Watras said his designs and color palettes are different from anything Capel has ever done. With buyers in the market for transitional looks, the line will offer just that. “His designs are very fashion-forward, young, hip and relevant to what the consumer wants at this point.”
“The Hemingway name creates brand specific awareness and instant credibility,” said Mitch Tagle, president. “He was a rugged, rustic, American icon whose legend got better with age and we envision the Ernest Hemingway hardwood flooring line as a collection of rugged, rustic, American wood flooring that will look better with age.” The authenticity, strength and originality Hemingway represents to Americans are characteristics DuChateau hopes will translate to the collection.
Celebrity licensing pros at Safavieh know these lessons all too well, boasting no less than three famous names across their lines of area rugs. In 2006 the mill began work with interior designer Thomas O’Brien; in 2007 with multi-media mogul Martha Stewart, and in 2009 with reality TV star/designer Thom Filicia.
“We wanted to differentiate ourselves with exclusive collections created by talented, internationally renowned designers and to bring new life to the rug category,” said Safavieh’s Yaragi.
The success of his line encouraged the rapid addition of Martha Stewart the following year. “Her collection, along with her appearance at the Atlanta Rug market caused an industry sensation,” remembered Yaragi. “We chose her obviously because of her loyal fan base, for her retail partner relationships and for her exquisite taste and color palette.” Safavieh felt partnering with Stewart elevated the category for everyone in the industry.
Working with Filicia is beneficial because his fans and customers bring a different demographic to the rug market, Yaragi said. As a TV celebrity and respected interior designer, his audience is sophisticated and style-savvy though price-conscious.
Recognizable, likeable faces increases how effective marketing and advertising activity can be, as well as a salesperson’s ability to close a ticket. “The names of our design partners brings consumers into stores and helps close sales,” Yaragi said. Retailers can also make greater profits.
Although a product may cost slightly more for the name, they advertise themselves. DuChateau’s Hemingway line hasn’t hit stores yet, but Tagle expects it will increase company revenues 30% by the end of next year. Anticipation has been building since the supplier first showed the collection at Surfaces ’10.