Assembling an Online Brand That Offers Value … and Values

November 24, 2021

blue couch next to window

Burrow Furniture: Creating Values-Driven Furniture for the New American Middle

Remember your grandparents’ sofa? Was it one of those yellow and orange flowered beauties with a repeating pattern of a rustic barn? Or if you’re younger, perhaps it was a nice red and blue colonial plaid with a tufted back and ruffles at the bottom? Even if your grands had exquisite taste, what was considered a value in their eyes is worlds away from what resonates with today’s new consumer supergroup–the New American Middle (NAM).

Unlike the “middle class” of the past, the NAM is a new breed that wants more than just quality or good design in a new piece of furniture. What motivates them to choose one company over another is far more complicated. They want to buy from an authentic brand that understands the way they lead their lives. A brand that is in sync with the social and ecological causes they support. And most importantly, a brand that understands their tastes AND their core values. From responsibly sourced products to eco-friendly manufacturing, the NAM has a long list they consider before making a purchase. And with over 50% of the US population fitting the profile of this consumer group, brands cannot afford to ignore them anymore.

Burrow Furniture is one company that figured this out before they even got started in 2015. Their NAM-focused brand strategy has paid off big time, and they have taken the online furniture space by storm.

mother and daughter at home office looking at computer

WHO IS THE NEW AMERICAN MIDDLE CONSUMER?

The New American Middle is one of the most important groups to emerge since the old “middle class” that traditional retailers catered to en masse over the past few decades. But in no way are they to be confused with this over generalized and outdated demographic. Not only do many of them live outside the geographic area of the Midwest, but they are also not solely defined by income, age, race, or gender.

The NAM is not made up of the traditional nuclear families of the past–they include single parents, cohabiting couples with children, same-sex couples raising children, blended families, and so on. They live and work both in large cities and small suburbs, and they span a wide range of income brackets. They are not in the middle of nowhere, but rather they have become the center of everything. And although they are diverse in many ways, there is one area where they share an important commonality–their core values.

Through our extensive research, and our work with brands such as ArhausPyrex, Vera Bradley, and many others that market to the New American Middle, we’ve studied the NAM from many angles. The result? We’ve uncovered four core values that they hold dear: family, community, spirituality, and stewardship to the planet. As the marketing landscape becomes more crowded and filled with choices, it is more important than ever to align your brand with your customer’s values and establish strong brand awareness. Taking the time to really think about how your brand values support your target audience isn’t just an extra step, it’s now essential for long-term success and growth.

team

AND WHO IS BURROW FURNITURE?

Burrow Furniture is the brainchild of Wharton School classmates Kabeer Chopra and Stephen Kuhl. Frustrated with their furniture shopping experiences, they began discussing how they could do better. Their conversation soon turned into a passion project, and after carefully developing and pitching their business plan to a variety of potential investors, they raised $330,000 in their initial round of funding and received a $120,000 investment from Y Combinator.

Burrow set up headquarters in New York City and proceeded to grow into a team of more than a dozen people. All the brand’s sofas, tables, shelves, rugs, and other furniture items are manufactured in the United States and designed to set a new standard in quality and affordability—not to mention feel right at home in your space.

dog sleeping on couch

IDENTIFYING WHICH VALUES MATTER TO THE BRAND AND THE CONSUMER IS KEY

When they were first building their core strategy, Burrow understood that to compete with the growing number of direct-to-consumer furniture companies online, they had to go beyond the basic goods and services that were currently being offered by startups (think Joybird) and established furniture brands such as Frontgate. They also needed to consider more traditional furniture giants, including the ever-popular IKEA.

After the Burrow team identified their audience (of which the NAM was a key component), they knew their ultimate success rested on more than style trends. By offering higher-quality furniture at better prices, pet-friendly fabrics and more, they wanted to appeal to people like themselves, getting to the heart of what the brand—and its consumers—valued most. They needed to engage. To build trust. And to reflect the company’s core beliefs back to a new and important group responsible for over 50% of consumer goods purchases throughout the US.

couple hanging art

Burrow has successfully ticked all the boxes in branding for the Core 4 Values of the NAM.

They Understand the Importance of Family

Today’s New American Middle encompasses a wide variety of households. It is not one size fits all. One study conducted in 2017 concluded that less than 20% of households fit the definition of what was once called the nuclear family. And recognizing that few household dynamics are exactly alike, Burrow offers over 100 couch options, finishes, and add-ons to suit different lifestyles and home habits.

Families appreciate the versatility of Burrow’s couch designs, with features such as movable chaises and reversible “flip back” cushions that enable consumers to easily change up the look of their sofa. But what really appeals to them is a sofa that can grow as their family grows. Virtually all of Burrow’s furniture is designed in modular pieces that are easy to assemble and easily delivered in a group of smaller packages. By ordering new pieces, a loveseat can quickly grow into a full-size couch and even into a sectional. And delivery is FREE.

To make life even easier for busy families that don’t have time to browse for days when choosing decor, Burrow recently launched a variety of other furniture categories to accent their sofas, such as shelving, coffee tables and even rugs and pillows. While their main goal is to offer choices that appeal to their audience, Burrow also works hard to maintain a high value for the price, keeping within a range that most NAM families can afford.

boxes next to couch

They Support Their Communities

Community is where the New American Middle lives, both physically and virtually, whether it be in their immediate neighborhood or the larger surrounding region, or whether it refers to the online “neighborhoods” of mutual interests that can be found on social media.

Burrow has successfully tapped into this sense of belonging both by partnering with local and regional start-ups like themselves and by building a virtual community with blogs on topics such as “How to Move Without Losing It” and “Discover Your Home Horoscope.”

One example of the brand’s emphasis on community can be found in the creative force behind some of Burrow’s most popular textile products, Johanna Howard.  Howard is a Swedish-born designer who decided to strike out on her own when she landed in New Jersey. Before featuring her designs, Burrow sat down with her to learn more about her background, her inspiration, and her experience as a Black woman running a business in a historically white and male industry.  It is this kind of dedication to community that the NAM recognizes and values. New American Middle consumers are tired of the big, impersonal, nontransparent companies that they perceive as money-grabbers.  They would much rather support companies like Burrow–and they do.

guy relaxing on couch with feet up

They Have Faith

The New American Middle believes in something bigger than themselves, a belief we often call faith. But faith does not always mean religion. This core value may include various types of self-actualization, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, health and wellness. It may also take the form of devotion to social justice movements or even politics. Especially over the past two years, people are realizing just how interconnected and disconnected we all are. From polarizing views of the pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement, companies on the wrong side of the fence with their customers have paid the price with boycotts, a slew of negative reviews, and more.

During the pandemic and political unrest of 2020, Burrow recognized that they needed to reassure their customers that they were indeed on their side. When many companies started being called out for racist views and practices, Burrow wanted to make its point of view clear. It wasn’t enough for them not to be racist. They wanted their customers to know without a doubt that they were anti-racist. One way they got the message out was to feature a blog with one of their top photographers, Aundre Larrow, who had experienced racism firsthand. You can read the full article here. It is this extra effort to touch base and share beliefs that can make all the difference in how a brand is perceived. It didn’t always matter so much that companies share their beliefs. But it really matters now.

couple moving in putting couch together

They Are Eco-Conscious

The safety and the future of the natural environment is top of mind for the New American Middle. But unlike previous generations, the NAM is on the move. Whether they’re changing jobs, upsizing their homes or just looking to try on a new neighborhood or dream city, this group moves an average of 12 times in their lifetime. This makes convenience more relevant than ever.  But given a choice between convenience and convenience backed by sustainability, the NAM will almost always choose sustainability-focused brands.

Instead of manufacturing bulky, heavy sofas and bookcases, Burrow has designed all their furniture to be modular and mobile, cutting down on both the carbon footprint of moving and making it easier to take furniture along when you do need to move, meaning favorite pieces will have longer lifespans in the home instead of taking up space in a dump. Burrow’s modular designs were designed to be packed up and carried with you, saving time, money, and the planet all at the same time.

It’s what the NAM wants. And it’s what Burrow is giving them. Which is exactly what any company that hopes to find success in today’s mercurial marketplace needs to grasp if they don’t want to end up on the trash heap.

kid on counter with jam

HOW BMDG CAN HELP YOU BUILD A VALUES-DRIVEN BRAND

Burrow Furniture is just one of many growing direct-to-consumer brands that have realized it’s no longer enough to target an audience and hire a renowned ad agency in New York or LA. The people and the values behind your business are now every bit as important as the products you sell. And how you tell your brand story is everything.

At Britton Marketing & Design Group, we have done the research, studied our findings, sweated over the details, and learned from countless clients struggling to keep up with the ever-evolving marketing landscape and emerging consumer groups–specifically, the NAM. In fact, we specialize in helping brands identify the values they can authentically express to their audiences, as well as how they can build loyalty through brand experiences.

It’s our passion and our privilege to share the knowledge and experience we’ve gained and to build genuine relationships with our clients that go way beyond analytics and algorithms. As proof, we offer our client list and some of our past work. From fashion to home goods, we’ve taken many brands from humble beginnings to huge success.

If your brand is struggling to understand which values motivate your consumers, especially in these uncertain times, then we can help you identify those values and express your brand identity more authentically and effectively.

To learn more about us, visit bmdg.com or bbpg.agency, or send us a note at jeff@bmdg.com.  Even better, give us a call at (260) 469-0450. We’re ready and waiting to put your brand at the center of everything.

Images: Burrow.com, Instagram

 

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