A Uniquely Holistic Business Model
Since its inception in 2014, the home goods and bedding company Boll & Branch has focused on making sure every step of its supply chain—raw materials, processing, design, packaging, and shipping—was deeply considered not only from a quality perspective but also from an ethos of sustainability © and ethics. Boll & Branch founders had built a company that followed its products from seed to market, ensured ethical wages and employment practices, and used 100% organic and Fair Trade Certified™ cotton—the first bedding company to achieve this.
Remarkable Business Looking Unremarkable
Like many businesses in the past decade, Boll & Branch launched with a direct-to-consumer approach and was doing fairly well. The issue was that, to the average consumer, Boll & Branch looked extremely similar to any other bedding company serving the high-end suburban market, from marketing and messaging to photographic treatments of products and families. When the company received investment from a private equity firm, the founders decided to partner with Combo to address one of the mandates of the investment. The assignment was to update the Boll & Branch brand to better reflect the unique and almost unbelievably holistic approach that had remained behind the scenes up to that point.
Combo strategists quickly learned about all the decisions up and down the supply chain and manufacturing processes that exhibited the Boll & Branch approach. The team zeroed in on what made the company’s end-to-end approach fundamentally different from anything else being done in the category and how this translated to a new way of defining craftsmanship within the home and bedding category. The identity work centered on creating a perception in the market that accurately matched how special the reality itself was. Research for the brand identity work gave way to two major insights about luxury bedding. First, while plenty of European brands were at the highest end of the spectrum, there wasn’t a key player in the American luxury space. Second, the Boll & Branch product was comparable to the quality of the European luxury brands, setting it up to move into that luxury space in the American market.
Moving into the Rare Air
The definition of luxury has changed from being about badge value—a Dolce & Gabbana belt buckle, for instance—to being about substantive qualities. Market observation reveals that consumers are buying higher-end products based on how those higher-end products are made, what they’re made of, and who made them. Based on this cultural observation, the Combo strategy team built the new Boll & Branch brand from the tenets of their supply chain. How the business was conducted from start to finish allowed the brand to evolve into a contemporary luxury home goods brand focused on a new sort of holistic craft that started at the absolute beginning of the supply chain—planting cotton seeds—and ended with the bedsheet in the home. This new definition of contemporary luxury allowed American brand Boll & Branch to compete with European heritage brands by declaring a paradigm shift toward a new normal in luxury and demonstrating how it’s done.
Designing for the home goods and bedding category meant working within established aesthetics around softness, joy, lushness, coziness, and comfort. Combo designers built on these signifiers of the category while evolving the brand according to the identity work laid out by the strategy team. Because of Boll & Branch’s remarkable craftsmanship, the visual expressions needed to bring in an element of craft that had not existed previously in the brand in order to elevate it into a more premium space. The idea of craftsmanship also necessarily encompassed the stories of the people who not only designed the products but also stitched the fabric and grew the cotton. The messaging also allowed for demystifying common misconceptions about bedding products like thread count and cotton quality.
The design team used typography based on an original Roman typeface that spoke to a handmade quality. They also redesigned a premium monogram, defined a sophisticated, pared-back color palette inspired by the products, and brought a level of artistry into brand content that, for example, made use of sculptural gestures in the photographic point of view for products and materials. Finally, designers created a logo lockup, “Est. Different,” playing off the luxury trope of identifying the year a heritage brand was established to clearly speak to Boll & Branch standing apart from everyone else in the category.