Authentic Home Furnishings Part 3: Growth Comes When Leaders Differentiate Their Value Proposition

Over the next few weeks in a three part series, I’ll give you a summary of what was presented at the Authentic Home Furnishing Association’s annual trade show (minus the consultant jokes which were pretty good). If you need more, you’ll have to give me a call. I can’t share confidential information or more than what was shared in the presentation but I can provide clarity where needed.

The presentation was built around three “steps” on a path to growth (granted, Bob Wiley would call them baby steps).

  1. Successful leaders adapt their business (Part 1)
  2. Successful businesses know their consumers (Part 2)
  3. Growth comes when leaders differentiate their value proposition (Part 3)

Part 3: Growth Comes When Leaders Differentiate Their Value Proposition

Differentiating a value proposition is different than differentiating a product. A value proposition is the promise of the whole bundle of benefits; not just the product attributes. It’s like those toothpaste commercials. They differentiate their product based on it’s whitening power, but what about the “sexy smile” stuff? Those are based on the potential emotional benefits (as discussed in the previous AHF blog).

The unfinished furniture industry is already doing a great job differentiating product attributes and product benefits… real wood, custom size and finish, well-made, durable, quality, authentic. But there’s greater opportunity to differentiate the consumer and emotional benefits: what women are shopping for.

Objectives and Keys to Repositioning

So, it became necessary to undertake a repositioning. And the repositioning had two objectives:

  1. Create a new name for Unfinished Furniture Association (UFA) that enables growth
  2. Create a competitively advantaged positioning for UFA members that enables growth

And there were five keys to the repositioning:

  1. Communicate a meaningful point of difference
  2. Reposition the competition to an undesirable place
  3. Send the right emotional cues
  4. Provide a clear frame of reference
  5. Open up the “umbrella” for association membership


There are scores of products to look at to understand the repositioning process; particularly how the new positioning could also reposition the competition to an undesirable place. For example, Tylenol was entering the analgesic market dominated by aspirin. One little phrase positioned them and also repositioned the competition: “For the millions who should not take aspirin…”. Or look at the example of Scope, trying to penetrate a market dominated by Listerine: “Medicine Breath”. With two little words they positioned Scope on the positive side and repositioned the competition to an undesirable place in the minds of consumers.

There are also plenty of examples to draw from of companies repositioning to women. Lowes in trying to go head to head with Home Depot has the big box format to match costs but has designed their stores to appeal to women. Studies revealed to OfficeMax their primary customer was a woman. So, in order to deepen their appeal to women, OfficeMax has come out with entire product lines following current fashion trends. Not the same old manila folder anymore. And Lexis realizes half their sales are to women so their showrooms and sales process reflect that.

Words Matter

Words matter in any repositioning. So we took words like “custom” and “real wood” and “solid” and a number of others we heard and put them into our black box to test with women. And here’s what came out.

The First Word Is – Authentic

It’s a word you can own (nobody else uses it) and that communicates a meaningful point of difference (the first key to repositioning). It also repositions the competition to an undesirable place (our second key). If you’re “authentic”, what’s everybody else?

The Second Word Is – Home

There’s probably not a better word to evoke strong emotion when it comes to shopping for furniture (our third key). “Home” carries with it all the positive aspirations and hopes and dreams women have when looking for that just-right piece… a beautiful addition to their home.

The Third Word Is – Furnishings

This word provides a nice frame of reference (our fourth key) while significantly opening up the umbrella for association membership (the fifth key). Furnishings is significantly broader than “unfinished furniture” and allows adjacent businesses and industries to participate.


For retailers, Authentic Home Furnishings has a much broader reach in the marketplace. No longer is the name of your industry segment and trade association relegating you to a small piece of real estate in the minds of consumers… unfinished furniture. Now you can enjoy a much broader frame of reference: Authentic Home Furnishings. And manufacturers will find it opens up the market for them to be able to sell their great products to an even broader array of retailers.

Authentic Home Furnishings™ successfully meets our five keys to repositioning: a meaningful point of difference, repositioning of the competition, sends the right emotional cues, provides a clear frame of reference and opens up the umbrella. Now we’ll have to see if it can drive the results needed to achieve our objectives of enabling growth for the association and its members.