Decisive Public Relations

DFS outwitted by agile sloth

Blog post   •   Aug 24, 2015 13:00 BST

I love this response from Sofaworks which appeared in the national press recently after larger rivals DFS took legal action to force the company to change its name. It’s a great example of a brand showing agility - and a great sense of humour - which I hope will pay dividends with consumers.

You can see the full advertisement here:

What on earth possessed DFS to take legal action in this instance? Perhaps the communications staff at DFS HQ were drowned out by the lawyers (a favourite theme of mine), who were concerned that shoppers might be confused by the ‘similarities’ between Sofaworks and the DFS-owned Sofa Workshop. Whatever the case, I bet the DFS lawyers didn’t see this response coming.

Full credit to Sofaworks - and/or their supporting agencies - for coming up with a brilliant, engaging response - not the turgid legalese that sometimes makes it into print in situations such as these. The advertisement paints a very positive picture of Sofaworks - humorous, professional, human even - and shows DFS in quite the opposite light. I particularly like the reference to ‘…consistent low, low prices, not yo-yo prices…’ And introducing Neal the sloth was a strike of genius. It’s an advertisement packed with humour and strong key messaging.

No doubt Sofaworks had some time to prepare for this situation. But I still think this clever advertisement demonstrates agility and a willingness to take a risk. And it has clearly paid off for them. By comparison, DFS and Sofa Workshop look like corporate bully boys without the slightest shred of commonsense or humour.

Sofaworks boss Jason Tyldesley says the two companies operate in very different segments within the market. He now has to decide whether to appeal or change the name of his company. He is not daunted by the latter option, claiming the success of his company is based not on awareness of the company name, but rather their unique proposition - putting an end to endless sales.

A DFS spokeswoman said: We’re pleased that Sofa Workshop has been successful in its action against Sofaworks with regards to passing off. Sofa Workshop is a small, quality brand that has been established since 1985 and we’re happy the outcome allows the brand name to remain protected."

I suppose that humourless response says it all, really. I bet the DFS lawyers are very pleased with themselves. But I think Sofaworks win this contest by a knockout. And Neal the sloth doesn’t really care.