Restoration Hardware: When New and Different Got in the Way

I enthusiastically answered the knock on the door from UPS. Instead of a birthday surprise, I was handed a three inch thick bundle of catalogues. This 17 pound package from Restoration Hardware featured their new fall collection of very beige and gray furniture. After about two minutes of disbelief and confusion, I tossed it into my recycle bin.

Rather than create interest, it left me cold. How did they choose such waste and excess when most businesses are pursuing sustainability? They included a note that this mailing actually reduced their previous annual mail out and shared how to learn more about their sustainability efforts. Yet, the visual screamed otherwise.

A neighbor soon posted her disgust on Facebook and many friends agreed. In one single act, Restoration Hardware had generated their own viral word of mouth campaign about their brand – just not the one they wanted.

In our increasingly digital, social and paperless world, how did Restoration Hardware land here?

Of course, I have no insight into how this change began. Yet, I imagined a conversation of “we’ll be different,” “it’s a new approach” and “this will make a statement” could have been started.

I write and talk a lot about how to start a change and how one person can absolutely create the ripple where it all begins. This 17 pound package seemed to be the downside of a new change – when the new was new, but was an impediment to the goal. In fact, seeing this stack of catalogues made the excess so obvious that I wondered why they didn’t see it too.

When you are enamored with the new and the different, please ask yourself these important questions:

1. Does it move us closer to our goal?
2. Does it represent our brand and who we are?
3. What problem does it solve? or opportunity does it create?
4. How can we experiment and test to ensure that this change will resonate and work with our customers and our audience?
5. Are we being bold enough?

On the last question, it may be that while Restoration Hardware was thinking about sustainability in going to a once per year (very large) mail out, were they being bold enough in reaching their customers today?

Embrace change. Try the new way. Be innovative. Add in a big dose of common sense that keeps your goals crystal clear and who you are front and center. New is only better when it gets you where you’re going.

Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults and the author of the newly released Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life.