How Bold Is Your Bathroom? Kohler Wants To Inspire a Remodel

New Campaign Puts Spotlight on Style Rather Than Product As Home-Improvement Market Strenghtens

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Kohler this week is launching its first new campaign since 2008, marking a return to its high-fashion aesthetic.

In previous campaigns, Kohler enlisted fashion photographers like David Lachappelle, who produced flashy, stylized work for the Wisconsin-based company. While it isn't working with Mr. Lachappelle this time around, Kohler still wants to have its work stand out from competitors like Moen.

"The category can look very similar if we're not out in front of it," said Elizabeth Brady, senior VP-global brand management at Kohler. "My job is to make sure we're on the forefront. Our advertising should be just as intriguing as our products are."

Kohler in late 2012 launched the "Bold knows" campaign, but it's jettisoning that theme for a new line: "Never too bold," which was created by DDB Chicago. Though the "bold" line will be the overarching theme, that will play out with variations like "Never too timeless," which appears in the initial TV spot. Later executions will include takes like "Never too chic."

Ms. Brady said the executions will correspond with different lines of kitchen and bath hardware, such as ones that are more classic versus more modern. The campaign will run in TV, print and digital.

Never Too Timeless
Never Too Timeless

The campaign comes as the home-improvement rebounds after the recession. During the downturn, "the remodeling portion of the business was a bigger ask for consumers," said Ms. Brady. But the "replacement business" -- such as changing out a faucet or lighting fixture -- began to grow, because it was an upgrade consumers could afford.

During that time, campaigns were more focused on the products, because marketers were appealing to consumers who wanted to do minor replacements, she said.

But now, Ms. Brady said, the focus is more "aspirational" as the market continues to improve and consumers are gradually consider remodeling entire rooms. "It's easy to focus on the product because that's what we do," she said. "But consumers want to be inspired when they see our product in a setting -- that gets them to think about their spaces and what they can do with them."

Though it is not a hefty measured-media ad spender, Kohler has been upping its investment in recent years. In 2013, it spent $34 million on U.S. measured media, up from $28.6 million in 2012 and $26.5 million in 2011.

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