There is just so much choice now – whether you are buying potatoes, bread, chocolate or fabric and wallpaper and paint. Of course, this is a good thing for the consumer (is it really? You now have to read the label to make sure you have the right potato to do the job you want, be it roasting, mashing or for a salad! This takes time!) In the good old days (yes I know – yawn) there used to be the popular brands you had to have if you were to be taken seriously as an interior decorator. The chosen few included Designers Guild, Osborne & Little, Colefax & Fowler/Jane Churchill and Zoffany. This was before you hit the elite, lesser known and therefore, more desirable, exclusive and special, such as Lelievre, Pierre Frey, Nobilis, Rubelli. Not only were they lesser known, they were also more expensive.
So What About Now?
It is very different now. It is fair to say that there is really too much product offering too much choice. In the interiors industry those original stalwarts have seen the rug pulled from beneath them as upstarts invade. Newcomers are offering really very good products at reasonable prices. OK, they may not share the same cachet as those old timers but really how much does that count for today? Consumers seem less influenced by popular brands and brand names than value for money when it comes to choosing curtain fabric or wallpaper. Or what they find recommended as the latest decorating trends when they browse instagram. So it’s almost turned on its head – brands will do OK as long as they are demonstrating that they have the right products in the right colours as promoted by design gurus on social media.
Which in turn makes it hard for brands to hang on to their identities, their own characters. What good is the quirkiness of Osborne & Little’s handwriting, Designers Guild’s brilliance of colour if it isn’t what is being pronounced as the decorating style to go with? And so, do they need to compromise in order to maintain their positions? There is some evidence to say have the confidence to hold on to your own identify.
Evolving rather than Innovating
Colefax & Fowler illustrates this well with its renowned style of classic English Country House, from which it scarcely deviates but rather let’s it evolve. It has earned a reputation amongst ‘middle England’ for being aspirational and therefore desirable. Its classic designs and colour palette offer longevity as well, so good value as they won’t be looking ‘dated’ any time soon.
On the other hand, if the design is different enough and appealing enough to be picked up on social media, it will be a success. This medium has enormous influence and even quite old designs can see a revival is they are endorsed this way. Osborne & Little and Cole & Son have produced almost iconic designs which have caught on with the consumer and enjoyed extraordinary success – be it flocked dogs or pink flamingoes, impossible to predict but fabulous if you get it right.
So, whilst brand may not be the guaranteed winner it used to be, any brand can beat competition and win success – they just need to have the right product at the right time. Simples!