Izzy turns to stories to spread the word about its brands

February 25, 2010
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It might have been just another product launch: a creatively designed pamphlet that touts the benefits of a new product. But since the acquisition of six industry-specific brands in 2008, izzy+ has found a new way of marketing its new products and explaining how its brands are related: storytelling.

When office furniture manufacturer izzy+ launched two new products from Harter by izzy+ — Olivia, a lounge and side chair hybrid, and Truman, a lounge seating solution — the seating products were introduced as the main characters in a children’s-style book, “The Adventures of Olivia & Truman.” The book was targeted at designers attending the sixth annual Harter Valentine’s Day blitz.

“There are actually four pillars of this blitz to the design community,” said Debbie Goode, director of marketing communications with izzy+. “It’s to launch two new products, a textile program, and the third element of the promotion is the relationship between Harter the brand and the izzy+ brand.”

Harter is German for heart, and the brand uses an image of a heart in its logo. When the branding using the heart image took place, Harter began to run promotions during Valentine’s Day.

“This year, now that Harter is not just Harter but part of the izzy+ family, we started to look at how can we talk to all of that, make it engaging, make it fun, but also reflect elements of the izzy+ brand,” she said. “The result of that is using storytelling as a way to make it fun and engaging, and tell the story of these two furniture products.

“Seating and furniture products are not necessarily considered to be glamorous, but they certainly are a lot more fun and engaging when they’re put into a storybook.”

The storybook also contains a ticket with a unique number that could mean a trip for two anywhere in the world, going along with the story’s theme of finding a place in the world of office furniture. The launch of the new textile program is introduced as a wardrobe for Olivia.

“It’s always a risk, but that’s what we’re about. The last thing we want to be is a typical furniture company, and we do everything we can to not look like a typical furniture company,” she said. “That’s what really has made izzy+ unique. It’s everything from our story to our product to our brand.”

The concept of storytelling has started to spread to other areas of the company, as well.

“The biggest issue that we’re really having as a company right now since the acquisition of these other brands is that the front end of our business — particularly our sales reps — have so much to talk about,” said Goode. “In limited time, you have only so much time in front of someone, and you’ve got to make it quick, concise and interesting.”

No firm commitments have been made, but Goode said the company is looking at doing a series of books tied to its various brands. The company is also tinkering with a Web initiative.

“We’re doing a big Web initiative also that basically does for all of the brands what we’re just now trying to do for the Harter brand with this particular promotion. It’s what is the bigger story about izzy+ and these various brands, and what does all that mean to people who end up using some of our products,” she said.

“There is a big initiative going on to redesign izzyplus.com and the individual branded Web sites. As we are working through that process, we are talking a lot about the storytelling process. That’s going to be the most important aspect of the Web: how we tell the story.”

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