Habitat refocuses marketing after admission brand ‘lost its way’

Habitat is shifting its marketing strategy to focus on the brand’s “personality and wit” rather than its products, as it looks to remind people what it stands for as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Video: Habitat’s new “This is our Habitat” campaign

A new campaign is launching this week across digital, print and cinema as the retailer ramps up its marketing spend. Using the tagline “This is our Habitat”, the ads aim to get across the fun side of the Habitat brand, which marketing director Jocelyn Dowden admits can get lost amid its focus on design.

She says: “Fun is an important value in terms of how people respond to their home. Creating a nice home should be enjoyable and as a brand we want to recognise that. We weave our personality, wit and humour into our products and we want to represent that in our advertising.

“There is a risk in a design-led business that you can come across as aloof and taking yourself too seriously. We want to get across our warmth and accessibility.”

Habitat is coming out of a difficult period in its history in which Dowden admits the brand became “confused”. It was traditionally known for its strong design focus, innovative products and competitive pricing but under a series of different owners the brand lost its way.

“Habitat has had very varied ownership. Ikea took it upmarket, Hilco downmarket. It became confused. It had lots of good products but there was confusion as to what Habitat stood for,” says Dowden.

Now owned by Home Retail Group, which also owns Argos and Homebase, the Habitat brand is expanding once again. Its three flagship stores in London are still open and there are now 18 mini stores located in Homebase shops with the 19th to open this week. It is targeting 40 stores by the end of the year and is also available across a further 200 Homebase and 700 Argos stores through click and collect.

Under its new owners, Dowden says Habitat is remaining true to its values, focusing unique, original and affordable design and on striking a balance between its original designs and new innovative products. Dowden claims there is still excitement around the brand, with people “delighted” when a local store opens and the company getting a lot of interest on social media from people in the local area.

According to YouGov’s Brand Index, customers still place a lot of value in the brand, with its reputation the second highest in a list of 31 general retailers with a score of 16.4, behind just Ikea. It also has a relatively high quality rating at 16.4, putting it seventh in the rankings.

Dowden believes part of the reason for this is nostalgia for the brand but says that can only carry it a little way. That is why the company chose to focus on what makes it relevant to customers now in its new marketing campaign, reintroducing it to old customers but also targeting younger consumers that might not have shopped with Habitat before.

“On the high street you can’t trade on your history you have to deliver what people want in terms of price, environment, service and product to maintain loyalty and survive. We have got to the point where the business is in the right place to shout and say that Habitat is back,” she adds.

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