25 artifacts in this set
Cousins and business partners Edwin Shoemaker and Edward Knabusch established a successful furniture company through a combination of invention and marketing. The "La-Z-Boy" reclining chair technology they developed--and the creative ways they advertised it to customers--came to define the cousins’ business.
From the start of the partnership, Edward Knabusch developed and implemented innovative marketing strategies. This photograph shows "the world’s largest lamp," created to draw attention to the cousins' Floral City Furniture store in Monroe, Michigan.
Showrooms of furniture featured artful displays that presented a variety of styles and fabrics available for La-Z-Boy reclining chairs--the core of the business. Signage emphasized comfort, inviting customers to sit down and test "the world's most comfortable chair" for themselves.
With the success of the "Reclina-Rocker," introduced in 1961, La-Z-Boy had the resources to expand its reach to a wider range of customers. The company introduced special product lines to suit individual tastes. The "Colonial Shoppe" mentioned in this photograph featured La-Z-Boy furniture in popular early American styles.
Beyond its showrooms, La-Z-Boy advertised through traditional media--but almost always in clever ways. This early billboard presented the technological innovation of the La-Z-Boy reclining chair with marketing savvy. An illustration of the chair in use extends from the billboard to capture attention.
This print advertisement suggested the motion of a La-Z-Boy chair, demonstrating how its reclining technology provided a range of comfortable positions.
La-Z-Boy Advertisement in American Home Magazine, "Comfort Chairs for Leisure Living," November 1965
In the 1960s, advertisements began to reflect La-Z-Boy's expanded product line. This ad showed how La-Z-Boy recliners met customer needs in terms of taste (with a range of styles and colors) and practicality (with Scotchgard-treated upholstery to repel stains).
By the mid-1960s, La-Z-Boy marketing attempted to persuade consumers that its furniture could fit any lifestyle. This cozy image suggested how La-Z-Boy chairs, combined with other furniture and décor in a specific style, could "make a house a home."
La-Z-Boy advertised in a variety of publications aimed at many demographics. The timing was often strategic. This 1970s "La-Z-Rocker" ad ran just before Mother’s Day. It asked readers, "Isn't it about time you gave mom the comfort she’s always wanted?"
The array of furniture pictured in this advertisement from about 1990 suggested that La-Z-Boy furniture could be part of any household. This marketing strategy continued into the 21st century.
La-Z-Boy co-founder and marketing mastermind Edward Knabusch looked for every opportunity to advertise. This delivery truck included standard information alongside an illustration showcasing the company’s signature product--the reclining chair.
Advertising graphics for La-Z-Boy delivery trucks continued to reflect the company's marketing strategy. This 1990s design showed a La-Z-Boy sofa with pillows, an end table, and a lamp to suggest a coordinated interior.
Clever marketing language made La-Z-Boy's technological improvements memorable to consumers. The adjustable ottoman Edwin Shoemaker attached to La-Z-Boy's recliners became the "Ottomatic" under Edward Knabusch's influence.
Not all of La-Z-Boy's marketing strategies succeeded. The "Americana Collection," which included the "Monticello" recliner, was an attempt to combine early American styles with modern aesthetics. The line fell flat with customers, who preferred either modern or historical styles.
La-Z-Boy Advertisement in American Home Magazine, "A Family Affair with the Bing Crosbys," October 1967
In 1967, La-Z-Boy hired multimedia star Bing Crosby as the first of a long line of celebrity spokespersons. The company capitalized on Americans’'fascination with Crosby and his young wife Kathryn with advertisements featuring La-Z-Boy chairs as a fixture of their home life.
With the success of Bing Crosby's advertising campaign for La-Z-Boy, the company hired other major celebrities -- like popular television host Johnny Carson -- to boost sales.
In the 1970s, La-Z-Boy added sports personalities to its lineup of spokespeople. Football great Joe Namath--the most famous player of his day--starred in a campaign that helped popularize the fitting phrase “armchair quarterback.”
Actress Brooke Shields, also a well-known wife and mother, signed on as a celebrity spokesperson for La-Z-Boy in 2010. Her campaign signaled an update of the "lifestyle" marketing concept, which attempted to show customers how La-Z-Boy furniture could be part of any family's home life.
Edward Knabusch and later La-Z-Boy marketers pushed the company's marketing strategy well beyond the norm. In the 1930s, Knabusch created a goldfish pond at the entrance to his Monroe, Michigan, furniture store to amuse children while their parents shopped. The fishpond became a memorable attraction at Floral City Furniture.
This electrically-powered La-Z-Boy model was a novel sales device. The miniaturized chair reclined automatically, attracting customers while demonstrating a new concept in furniture technology.
La-Z-Boy had firmly established itself as an icon of popular culture by the 1980s. Promoters counted on the fact that even from a distance, spectators would recognize this recliner-shaped hot air balloon (complete with a protruding footrest) as a La-Z-Boy.
By the end of the 20th century, thanks in no small part to 70 years of clever marketing, La-Z-Boy stood among the most iconic consumer brands. A crossover promotion for two well-known companies, this candy dispenser depicts a humorous, yet relatable problem -- according to text on the packaging, the peanut M&M has lost some candy in the cushion of his La-Z-Boy.