By Katy B. Olson
“Did you know [that consumers] search for ‘DIY’ 100 times more than ‘interior design’ and our industry is doing nothing about it?” the Decorative Furnishings Association asked in a to-the-trade email sent out yesterday. The DFA’s answer: Do It for Yourself, its new consumer-focused advertising campaign, kicking off this fall. The campaign is designed to introduce the would-be do-it-yourself crowd to the benefits of professional interior design. But first and foremost, says the organization’s president, Chad Stark, it’s all about getting interior designers themselves aware—and fired up.
To that end, the initial step was yesterday’s email targeting the association’s interior designer contacts and introducing them to the initiative. “As an industry, we need to unite and start communicating direct-to-consumer the true value of choosing independent design firms over free design services at retail stores and online,” it continues, explaining the association’s three-step approach: the Do It for Yourself brand, encapsulated by the #DoItFor hashtag; an advertising concept grounded in the emotional impact of a professionally designed space; and an interactive website prototype that showcases firms’ work, making it available to consumers in a streamlined format centered on the value of professional design.
DFA board member Katie Miner, president of Design Centers International and general manager of Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC), has been involved since early discussions on the marketing plan. She and Stark, who is spearheading the initiative, delved into the backstory with EAL:
Tell us about the process of creating the #DoItFor brand. Where did you start?
Stark: Creating #DoItFor was such a fun process. I started by collecting feedback from the DFA board members, STARK clients, and other friends of mine in the industry to better understand the challenges facing their businesses. Friends of mine in the start-up world were also able to give me some really powerful insights into consumer behavior in the home sector. Having been consumed by STARK since graduating college, this has been a great “start-up” feeling project for me personally! One of my friends had spoken to [marketing/branding firm] YMEE for a different project and suggested I reach out for this one, which I’m glad I did, because they are doing a stellar job!
What has designer response been like thus far?
Stark: Designer response to this initiative has been overwhelmingly positive. The DFA was not very well known in our industry before this year, and those who did know it did not know what it was all about. Everything about this effort—from its branding and consumer-centric focus to the pending crowdfunding campaign—is innovative, and it is helping create an identity for the DFA that was previously lacking.
Designers are on board for a digital initiative that is working for them instead of against them, and as a nonprofit initiative, it is easy to communicate that we really are doing [this] with showrooms’ and designers’ long-term business models in mind.
What are the next steps, and how are you involving designers?
Stark: We are initially alerting the design community through the DFA member networks. Yesterday, we sent our first e-blast to the DFA mail list, and every member was encouraged to send this to their personal industry networks as well, which I did myself. DFA media members have given us free advertising pages in their fall issues to drive traffic to our landing page at DoItFor.com, which right now simply states our objective, lists supporting companies, and captures email addresses for potential campaign contributors. The first ad hit newsstands this week, and we are starting to get sign-ups!
What are some of the ways in which interior designers can participate?
Miner: Interior designers can participate by signing up to be a part of the Do It For Yourself website. Participating designers will join a supportive, nationwide group of trusted professionals offering transparency in their business practices. Transparency provides consumers with a better understanding of the industry as a whole, which is the first step needed in order to make the decision to hire a designer.
How can consumers participate?
Miner: People can see examples of the types of services individual design firms offer, as well as their fee structures [on the Do It For Yourself website]. People don’t want to waste time or be embarrassed by trying to figure out how to work with a designer. The information on this website lays the groundwork for how to hire a designer so people can more confidently determine exactly what they need and who can provide it for them.
Walk us through the crowdfunding. When will it start, how much do you intend to raise, and what will the funds support?
Stark: Crowdfunding is a concept perfected by start-ups like Kickstarter over the last few years. It has become the de facto way to fund an idea when leveraging a large network of minor contributors; I say contributors instead of investors, because being a contributor locks you into the website when it launches, which promotes high-end trade brands direct-to-consumer. We are not going to reinvent the wheel...and will be taking a similar approach, except on our own website instead of on theirs, so we can control the messaging a bit more.
The campaign will launch this fall with a short video explaining what the money will be used for, different contributor levels and their associated perks, and mock-ups of the website. We intend to raise $200,000 from designers, showrooms, manufacturers, media and design centers. The money will be used to further develop the advertising campaign and plan and build the website, and the rest will be spent on digital ad buys to drive traffic to the site once it’s completed. Membership to be listed as an official trade resource will likely increase once crowdfunding ends, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to get in on the ground floor!
What are some of your personal hopes and objectives for the campaign?
Miner: There is so much attention on design with blogs and television shows and now with online design services, so the consumer’s desire to learn about design is at an all-time high. My objective is to build on that enthusiasm by starting more meaningful discussions at the local level (ADAC) about the value of design services. Hiring designers isn’t just for the super wealthy. Today, it is a far more democratic process with service offerings at numerous price points, all of which can help you live a better life in your home.