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LENORA KIRKLEY ETHAN ALLEN

By Published on .

For generations of Americans, Ethan Allen did exactly what it was intended to do. With 90% consumer brand-name recognition, it recalled the American Revolutionary war hero and the 18th Century furniture of his time.

But as it faced the coming of the 21st century, the 80-year-old manufacturing, distribution and marketing company knew its product needed to be updated.

The effort began when the company decided to alter Ethan Allen's older-skewing image. As a result, it reduced prices 15% and redesigned products, moving to casual-contemporary styles.

To go with the new home fashions, Ethan Allen devised a more modern and inclusive marketing campaign, overseen by VP-Advertising Lenora Kirkley, 37.

A mother of two young daughters, Ms. Kirkley realized Ethan Allen was competing not just with other furniture stores but with such expenditures as new cars and family vacations.

The company started out by making over its logo, then it modernized many stores. Next came a targeted media campaign, primarily through publication of its 24-page Interiors magazine, mailed to as many as 8 million households six times a year.

After that, the company launched a $20 million TV and radio campaign from Grey Advertising, New York, tagged "Everyone is at home with Ethan Allen." Commercials feature the store's new target-everyone from young workers to empty nesters.

Ethan Allen has seen the benefits: 1993 sales grew 9.5%-to $384 million-over 1992. But that's not all. A residual effect is that the consistent marketing effort has smoothed demand curves.

"We no longer have the peaks and valleys ... we once had," says Ms. Kirkley.

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