Leon’s launches stylish campaign with new AOR

Bimm is working towards changing the way Canadians perceive the 110-year-old furniture retailer.

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Leon’s has enlisted a new agency of record (AOR) as it embarks on a new campaign aimed at showing how it has been keeping up with the latest design trends and growing its consideration among younger Canadians.

In the lead spot for the new “Surprisingly Stylish” campaign, a trendy but somewhat pretentious couple are entertaining friends that are commenting on how much they love the furniture. The couple says their designer got the pieces from a “boutique” called “Leon’s,” pronounced with a heavy faux-French accent.

The campaign was led by agency Bimm, which was selected as the retailer’s AOR late last year following an RFP process in the summer and fall. Leon’s previously worked with Taxi as its AOR.

Bimm’s mandate covers all creative and strategy across channels, including mass, social, digital, in-store, promo and CRM. One of the key goals for the agency is to update the way Canadians perceive the brand when it comes to the styles it stocks. Lewis Leon, marketing manager of Leon’s, says the retailer’s buyers have “almost remerchandised” its selection in recent years, but needed to communicate what people expected from legacy brand had changed.

“We don’t want people to just think of us for the big puffy brown couch in the basement,” Leon says. “As a 110-year-old retailer, we have a great legacy, but there are also some styles we are more associated with, so we needed to go out there and dial up the style message.”

While Leon’s has always had a lot of brand equity with older demographics, the goal with this campaign is to reach millennial families who are getting older and looking to outfit their homes, but might not have Leon’s in their consideration set. That goal is being met, in part, by making on-trend pieces front and centre in its creative, but also by doing more brand-building on top of the promotional and sale-focused marketing that previously dominated its mix.

Leon’s has attempted to reach younger Canadians in the past by adding some emotional weight to its predominantly promotional marketing mix, like its 2016 “Part of the Family” campaign which attempted to show how furniture was often at the centre of heartwarming family moments. Leon says while that emotion-driven campaign resonated with consumers and made sense for its marketing approach at the time, bringing in more humourous elements that the Leon’s brand was known for in the ’80s and ’90s is now a way to stand out and break through the clutter in the marketplace.

“People seem to expect us to have an element of comedy to the brand,” Leon says. “We are a mass-market retailer, so we can’t just focus on downtown Toronto. We have to think of that younger millennial living in Thunder Bay or Saskatoon as well. It’s a challenge to reach the whole country with one type of messaging, but that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Screenshot_20190516-214828_InstagramAside from the TV spot, the “Surprisingly Stylish” campaign also includes digital display ads, social content and in-store elements. It also debuted a new flyer earlier this week, and Leon says that one priority for the brand going forward will be creating a more cohesive and integrated voice between its promotional and mass-market messaging, as well as via what consumers see in-store and in ecommerce.

“Whether it’s promotional TV or flyers, they have to complement what we’re doing on the brand campaigns,” Leon says. “We were finding they were too far separated before. With more of the things you are going to see coming out, the strategies between branding and promotional work will be more in-sync.”

Leon adds that the new flyer is also being delivered by Canada Post instead of other flyer delivery services, one of the changes it is testing with its marketing to not just update and integrate its approach, but find ways to get more visibility around it.

Legacy retailers, such as Leon’s, The Brick and Hudson’s Bay, have not only seen increased competition from up-and-coming trend-focused banners like West Elm, Urban Barn and EQ3, but new direct-to-consumer rivals, such as America’s Casper and Vancouver’s Article.

Mike Walsh, president of Leon’s, says the retailer plans to open its first smaller footprint location in British Columbia next month, adding something new to the larger showroom locations that make up the rest of its retail portfolio. Walsh says the store will be deploying different kinds of technology to bring Leon’s full assortment to life within the smaller store, and if the location’s performs well, will give it another way to expand its retail presence during a time when the market is focused on smaller-footprint bricks-and-mortar stores and online shopping.