Friday, July 4, 2014

What was Restoration Hardware thinking?

I bought a chair from Restoration Hardware last year.  It was a knock-off of a classic 50's ant chair and we wanted to try it out to see if we should buy the real thing.  Ultimately we decided we weren't fond of it and bought different chairs from a different store.

So I was horrified a few weeks ago when a package arrived of 13 very heavy Restoration Hardware catalogs -- apparently 17 pounds worth.  While I couldn't resist the urge to skim through them, I bought nothing.  And I felt so guilty about killing all those trees that I thought about contacting them to ask them to take me off their mailing list.

Well, I wasn't the only one that had this reaction.  Twitter exploded with nasty and sarcastic comments like this -- "No thanks @Restoration Hardware.  Come take it back."  And, "Going out this morning to clean up all the dead UPS guys who were delivering Restoration Hardware catalogs today."  (Forbes, 2014)

The Daily Mail has rounded up some of the best reactions and you can check them out here...

It used to be that it didn't matter what people said about you as long as they spelled your name right.  Do you think that's still true?  Is there value to be had in generating brand buzz of the negative kind? 

And, how do you feel about catalogs in general?  Do you get them, like them, and order things from them? 

Forbes, T. (2014, June 20)  Restoration Hardware's Catalog Lands With A Thud.  Retrieved July 4, 2014, from


  1. That's hillarious! Especially the comment about the catalogues being the furniture.

    There was an article about McKinsey stating that negative social media buzz hurts sales. I think it is very risky to generate negative buzz unless it's humorous and not offensive to existing consumers. If a brand manage to handle the negative buzz efficiently, they can generate value of of these situations.

    Transparency and authenticity builds trust. Restoration Hardware could leverage it's brand by using this opportunity to sincerely apologize and reduce their catalogue sizes rather than publishing a one page statement saying they are protecting the environment (

    As for catalogues, if it’s relevant to me I will flip the pages as print is tactile. I usually will not order the items but at times it encourages me to check out their stores. That is probably why there are always spikes on website traffic after the catalogues are being delivered. It’s just a quick and cheap method to reach out directly to potential customers. However, a 3,300 page catalogue is just ridiculous as I think a catalogue is more of a call to action as Restoration Hardware has an online store.

  2. To answer your question about the validity of the old adage "there's no such thing as bad press," I strongly believe that there is nothing but detriment to be had from generating brand buzz of the negative kind. You said it yourself in class last week: you don't shop at WalMart because you don't like the way it treats its employees.

    This is the complete inverse of the blog discussion you started last week about Whole Foods and the positive buzz generated by its charitable endeavors. What Whole Foods is doing works to such great effect because it allows the consumer to feel good about him/herself when buying from Whole Foods, which justifies increased spending and gives the company a marked edge over its non-charitable competitors in consumer preference. And I believe the opposite holds true for Restoration Hardware as well. Just as one is more likely to get his/her groceries at Whole Foods for the feeling of self-satisfaction it generates, it is logical that that same person would refrain from purchasing from Restoration Hardware due to an aversion to the guilt attached to buying from the company, thereby indirectly perpetuating the environmentally reckless practices the company is involved in. To that extent, advertising is about consumer reassurance and reiterating the message that what you are doing is okay (provided that you're doing it with product/brand xyz).

  3. I think the saying, “it doesn't matter what they say, as long as they’re talking about you”, while controversial, is not all bad. Any conversation, even critical conversation allows opportunity for debate. For example: while one person makes a statement about how obnoxious it was to have received the catalogs, another will point out a great product they found, and begin advocating for the company/business itself, and perhaps from there the conversation can spin into the positive.
    As far as catalogs go, I still enjoy them. While I am definitely a digital person, I still enjoy holding printed products in my hand. It’s reliable, you can hang onto it, revisit the content, and without worrying about your device shutting down, or forgetting the page/website. Most of all, I think I’m just one of those people who like to hang onto habits and products of the pre-digital age.
    The only point I can make for rest of society and why they would still enjoy catalogs, is that it spices up your mailbox—most mail consists of bills, and other mundane content, but a catalog, that’s a fun refreshing piece of mail!

  4. In my opinion the company can't think like this: as long as they are talking to me it's fine. For me it's definitely not good if what people say is negative. These negative thoughts can overlap the positive images that the brand has. Therefore, this will never increase sales and most of all can decrease them, so for sure needs to be avoid.

    I don't really get many catalogues and most of them are related to fashion so I will just take a look at the one's who are from the brands that I am used to buy. Actually I think catalogues have no impact on my purchase decision so they are probably a totally loss of money of the company. In other hand, my parents are art collectors and really enjoy receiving art catalogues, mostly auction ones. Probably it's the easiest way to reach them and to make them want to buy something.

  5. In my opinion, everybody will not have great impression about the brand. Maybe some people will never choose this brand because they killing trees. However, some people started to talk about the brand, they shared some funny pictures or some comments. Moreover, people saw the brand on some websites.
    From my point of view, the brand may not be the first choice for people after this strategy but when they need to buy furnitures they will know the brand. This strategy enough to make some people come to their stores. If they have products which can impress people, the strategy will increase the sales.

    Orkun Altinoz