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Restoration Hardware Weighs In Heavy

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When I first heard that Restoration Hardware was delivering 7 lb. reflections of its founder, I feared that science had finally mastered cloning and was sending us all little Gary Friedman (‘Chairman Emeritus) babies.   Turns out it’s even worse.

It seems that Restoration Hardware, which owes its success to the retro look, is also committed to retro marketing.

RH Spring 2013 catalogs

RH Spring 2013 catalogs


Chairman Emeritus Gary Friedman

Last week in my mail I received the latest RH catalog –  make that catalogs with an ‘s’ –no, scratch that – -make it ‘Source Books’ – all 7 lbs and 1600 pages of it.  It is huge, glossy, painfully self-conscious, and utterly uncalled for.  Comprising 5 separate parts (‘Interiors’, ‘Outdoor & Garden’, ‘Objects of Curiosity’, ‘Tableware’, and ‘Small Spaces’), it prominently features the heroic, studiously casual, Ralph Lauren-style visage as well as philosophical meanderings of the founder, Mr. Friedman.  It also features a sober collection of furniture marketers, as well as such fashion-forward innovations as deconstructed furniture.  Yes.  You can now have this for your home.

RH Design Team

RH Design Team


Deconstructed chair









You can find some other worthy commentary in the MorningNewsBeat blog.  And the philosophy of Mr. Friedman in the inside cover pages (“uh, do you mind if I, um, quote myself?”) is worth a quick look.

Now, to be fair, I’ve bought things at RH before (although I can’t remember the last time), and among the weirdness they do have some very nice stuff, although it always seemed overpriced.  But I can’t figure out why they would invest anywhere from $3 to $18 (depending on who you ask) to send this bulky material to my house.   I didn’t ask for this crap!  How does this ever pay back the millions invested?  New users?

Beyond the RH website, the catalog itself is available online as an iPad/iPhone app, which seems more consistent with how people shop.  And sending this enormous bulk of paper, in addition to being highly wasteful, now requires effort on the part of environmentally-conscious recipients – to execute recycling properly.  Mine went to the bin right after the photo shoot.

More likely, it is a true ego reflection of the founder – – and reveals his most basic underlying philosophy: size matters.  In a final unintended irony, an almost whispered disclaimer on an insert commends itself on sending this catalog ‘twice a year rather than monthly’, and encourages consumers to ‘participate in the recycling programs in their communities’.  No kidding.

Please recycle!

Please recycle!


Marco Rubio and the New Watergate: Missed Opportunity

These days it’s simply not good enough to have a token effort at social media – if you’re in, you need to be all-in.  A recent column by Kate McMahon on MorningNewsBeat (below) summarizes it nicely, using the recent case of Marco Rubio and comparing Poland Spring’s inaction to Kraft’s opportunistic action for Oreos during the Super Bowl (instantly creating and Tweeting a catchy message during the blackout).


Oreos Super Bowl

The new imperative is not just to manage your followers in real time, but to take advantage of the ability to jump on opportunities real-time, as they present themselves.  So there’s a defensive reason (manage potential crises proactively) and an offensive reason (take quick advantage of spontaneous good luck by leveraging through social media).

The full text and link to Kate’s commentary is below.  By they way, MNB is a great quick digest of a variety of consumer and retail issues, every day.



Kate’s Take: Drip, Drip, Drip

by Kate McMahon

Welcome to Watergate 2013.

We are referring, of course, to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s awkward lurch for a bottle of Poland Spring water and subsequent slurp during his Republican rebuttal to the president’s State of the Union address last week.

Within minutes the Twitter universe lit up with #watergate tweets, and social media watchers anxiously waited for Poland Spring to capitalize on its prime-time product placement moment.

And waited.

And waited.

Even Rubio himself good-naturedly tweeted a photo of an empty Poland Spring bottle right after the speech and has since parlayed his guzzle into a $125,000 boost to his campaign PAC coffers through the sale of Rubio water bottles (certainly abetted by a “Saturday Night Live” spoof).

But as the hours ticked by, and the gulp was replayed on newscasts, parodied on YouTube and the talk of Twitter, Poland Spring remained radio silent.

When contacted the next morning a spokesperson said: “I haven’t seen what’s going on on Twitter.”

Not an acceptable response, particularly for the top-selling spring water brand in America, owned by the multi-billion dollar international conglomerate Nestle.

And finally at 1:20 p.m. Poland Spring weighed in with a Facebook post showing a tiny Poland Spring bottle looking at its reflection in a mirror with the caption: “Reflecting on our cameo. What a night.”

Witty, yes, but way too late. The headlines that followed shouted “squandered,” “missed opportunity” and “fumbled.” The Huffington Postcompared the 14-hour lag to “roughly 14 years in social media time.”

Turns out Poland Spring stopped posting on its two Twitter accounts as of July 2010 and January 2011, respectively. Really?

The lead-footed response had the bad luck to follow a timely moment of social media marketing by Oreo during the Super Bowl blackout. Oreo was already in the game with a commercial, but tweeted “Power Out? No Problem” and a picture of an Oreo with the caption “You can always dunk in the dark.”

(Tide also sent out a tweet saying “We can’t get your blackout. But we can get your stains out” and Walgreen’s chimed in with “We do carry candles” but it was Oreo that got all the attention.)

In fact, the Oreo tweet was retweeted 10,000 times in one hour and lauded as the advertising winner of the night.

And it illustrates the phenomenon that major nationally televised events are essentially “two screen experiences” – what people are watching and what they are tweeting simultaneously.

Since Oreo had a commercial airing during the Super Bowl, cookie execs and its ad agency team had gathered in a “mission control center” to watch the game and monitor social media channels.

With all the key players on hand, they were able to design – and get approval for – a witty graphic within minutes.

Granted, Oreo had a multi-million dollar investment in the Super Bowl telecast and Poland Spring had no way of knowing its product would capture the nation’s attention, thanks to a parched freshman Republican from Florida.

But the two cases illustrate that real-time interaction with consumers on social media is dictating the discussion. If you aren’t prepared to join in, you will find yourself left high and dry. 

Comments? Send me an email at kate@morningnewsbeat.com .