Brand Experience Brief: RH
This Brand Experience Brief builds on my recent post, “RH Is a Great Brand In the Making,” in which I described the full-scale transformation that Restoration Hardware is undergoing. Their luxury brand marketing strategy is establishing them not simply as an upscale furniture brand, but a luxury lifestyle brand, which I saw for myself when I visited their Boston Design Gallery. I had written the post based on research I had conducted on the brand but I wanted to see in-person how the change is being executed. RH’s attention to detail will make them stand out among upscale furniture brands.
Check out my other Brand Experience Briefs to learn about other new and interesting retail and restaurant concepts, including:
- Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas
- PIRCH (formerly Fixtures Living)
- REI flagship store in Soho
- Carl’s Jr. new sports-themed location
This brand experience brief is about how to take your brand up-market – way up market, like $5,000 chandeliers. The brand I’m auditing and analyzing today is RH, formerly known as Restoration Hardware.
Recently I wrote a blogpost about how RH is a great brand in the making – you’ll see this recap of the brand experience at its Boston location supports that conclusion.
The Newbury Street store is in the building formerly occupied by the Museum of Natural History. It took two years of renovation to turn the Civil War–era structure into what is now what the company calls an RH Design Gallery. And the store reflects the brand evolution from purveyor of quirky Americana home-goods to a full-scale luxury lifestyle brand.
Let me show you three primary demonstrations of that transformation.
First, the product is exquisite and unique. The aesthetic is European, crafted, reclaimed, and weathered – opulent but not stuffy. The assortment extends beyond typical home furnishings to include tabletop goods, art, and what the firm calls “objects of curiosity” like architectural fragments and faux antlers.
Second, the displays consist of artful lifestyle vignettes, including a billiard lounge, a cinema room, library, and even a wine bar and pub – plus an outdoor garden area featuring running fountains. The displays themselves tell stories but the company also uses museum-like signage to convey product details in a compelling way.
Finally, the company publishes “source books” – more than merely catalogs, each is a tome of hundreds of pages of magazine quality photography and editorial. You can get these source books in-store, in the mail, or on your tablet via downloadable app. They are intended as guides to the RH lifestyle and so they are less about promoting specific products and more about sampling culture.
I should mention that the employees at the store were welcoming and helpful, the four floors, atrium, and 40,000-square-feet of space was impressive, and the architecture and design of the building, including a recreation of an 1892 traction-and-counterweight elevator inspired by the model in L.A.’s Bradbury Building, was breath-taking.
If all of this sounds a bit over the top, that is the intent. CEO Gary Friedman is positioning RH to be “one of the most dominant and exclusive luxury home furnishings collections in the marketplace.”
But it’s important to note that this aspiration is not born out of greed or power. Friedman writes on the company’s website, “I believe we are making a difference, creating a ripple…It’s not about the furniture. By chasing our hopes and dreams, we inspire others to chase theirs…We recognized that we were not just a company, that this was our cause, an authentic expression of who we are and what we believe in…We confirmed that this was not just about profits, it was about purpose, and profits would follow purpose.”
So there is a nobility about what RH is trying to do and that’s the most important element of re-positioning a brand. When you brand is grounded in values and your customer experience expresses those values, as the Boston RH Design Gallery does, you can aspire higher and make a successful change.