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Direct-to-consumer bedding company Brooklinen is approaching the holidays with a marketing campaign designed to position it as providing comfort amid an uncertain season. Four dollhouse-sized rooms were hand crafted to replicate the brand's "relatable, yet dreamlike aesthetic," while the campaign's broader goal is to deliver memories of seasonal joy and wonder from holidays past, according to Senior Manager of Creative Production Liane Pavilonis.
The "Dream World" campaign centers on four mini room vignettes, including tiny toilet paper rolls, teeny scissors and wrapping paper, and 12:1-scale replicas of home furniture crafted from real Brooklinen products. The model rooms — set in morning, afternoon, evening and night — were assembled remotely as in-person studio productions are mostly paused, and are supported by placements on Brooklinen's website, email and social campaigns, as well as out-of-home (OOH) panels on the New York subway and digital boards around the city.
"When we were concepting this campaign back in May, there were a lot of unknowns in the country," Pavilonis said. "We went with an idea to focus on and spread the word of hopefulness, the idea of waking up to a new day with new challenges and hopefully provide comfort to our customers along the way."
'Steppingstone of optimism'
Despite the overall dip in OOH spending during the pandemic, Brooklinen's holiday campaign in New York includes digital and static displays that exude more of a "motion feel" than the model rooms, per Pavilonis, while other elements online will give "Dream World" a national reach.
"By nature of being a Brooklyn-based brand, a lot of our out-of-home is just naturally within the New York market that we are most familiar with. However, we do take the opportunity to tease out these elements on a national level, which we see largely in phase two," said Katherine O'Keefe, Brooklinen's director of PR and partnerships.
In-store elements at Brooklinen's Williamsburg, Brooklyn, shop include a collage window that harkens to the tradition of Fifth Avenue stores exhibiting elaborate window displays, along with a portal shape on the main entrance that acts as a graphic device used throughout the campaign, tying together the model rooms and holiday theme and encouraging passersby to browse the store.
This year's effort builds on 2019's "Comfort Beyond Words," which used paper recreations of New York cityscapes to illustrate the city's magic during the holidays. Paper settings were constructed to depict bustling streets, people traveling into town to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and the iconic store window displays along Fifth Avenue. But 2020 brought about a new conversation when it came to the holidays, according to the company's leadership.
"Instead of focusing on the external magic of New York, we decided to focus on what it means to celebrate and create magic at home this year," Pavilonis said. "It felt like an opportunity for more self-reflection and allowing your home to become the most magical place to celebrate the holidays, no matter where you are."
Brooklinen is not alone in approaching its holiday marketing this year with inspiration for at-home consumers. Gap, for instance, took an upbeat tone for its campaign this season, centering on themes of togetherness and hope expressed through dance. Meanwhile, Ikea this week kicked off its "Four Weeks of Wonder" initiative that acknowledges the difficult year while promising to ease some of the pressure from the unusual holiday with depictions of scaled-back celebrations and relatable human moments. Brooklinen takes a similar approach to relatability, aligning its messaging to appeal to consumers as many are still spending most of their time at home.
However, the goal of the dollhouse models and accompanying "Dream World" campaign is not to provide a form of escapism into a wondrous world, according to Brooklinen's Associate Art Director Chrissy Ziegler.
"It's a steppingstone of optimism toward a better future and a better world," she said. "Creatively, we wanted to depict a world that is a little out of this world."
At the pandemic's onset last spring, Brooklinen implored its customers to share feedback about their concerns and feelings, with key themes cropping up around uncertainty and the concept of redefining "home."
"When the pandemic first started to impact daily life in March, we as a brand that retails home products didn't really know what would be expected of us," Pavilonis said. "Whenever we have a question about how to carry on, we just talk to our customers, and they informed us early on that they just wanted more photos of dogs in beds, like lighthearted content."
Going that route may have been an astute move for a brand like Brooklinen, as consumers overwhelmingly reported being fatigued by COVID-centric advertising back in summertime. A more recent study by Ace Metrix found that pandemic themes appeared in 32% of holiday ads, with many centering on the "new normal" versus traditional seasonal concepts. Given the unusual state of events this holiday, brands may feel pressure to walk a fine line in their messaging, balancing themes of connection and warmth while avoiding depictions of in-person gatherings.
"We are not the CDC and we are not giving out directions on how to handle COVID during the holiday season. Our goal here is to simply provide comfort, but this is a fun way of doing that," Pavilonis said. "Some of the immediate feedback we've gotten has helped to reinforce that this is the right direction."