CMO profile: Establishing Koala as a furniture brand

VP marketing for Australia's Koala brand talks through the latest campaign and remit


Mark Khademi built his marketing career working in service businesses, first in the energy sector, and then later as head of marketing for the challenger mobile brand Amaysim.

But in his new role as vice-president of marketing for Australia at online furniture maker, Koala, he finally gets to market something tangible.

“This will be the first time I have worked in a business with a real product that I can touch and feel,” Khademi tells CMO. “Which means I now have to think about things like stock forecasting and planning, and about ranges of colours, which is a reason why the job was appealing to me.”

While the products are significantly different to anything he has marketed previously, Khademi sees significant similarities between Koala and his previous employers – especially Amaysim – in terms of being a challenger brand.

Since its creation in 2015, Koala has carved out a strong brand presence in the mattress market. However, that success has also created a challenge for Khademi when it comes to building recognition for Koala’s broader furniture portfolio.

“Koala is already the market leader in Australia for mattresses, and we are really well known with the most awarded mattress range,” Khademi says. “But as a business, as much as half of our sales come from furniture, but we are just not known as a furniture brand.

“Our customer advocacy is 92 per cent, so we are doing a really good job. It is as much around the service proposition, and that fact that you can order today on the website and it will be there this afternoon. Compare that to a traditional retail experience, where you could be waiting months for your product to arrive.”

Changing dynamics

In April, Koala launched its first above-the-line campaign focused on a product other than mattresses – in this instance, sofa beds – featuring a humorous video creatives distributed across a multiple media channel. By focusing on sofa beds initially, Khademi says Koala is tapping into changing dynamics in Australian households.

“Australians now are starting to welcome people back to their homes, so the timing for us made a lot of sense,” he says. “People are needing more from their homes in new ways – adaptable spaces that can accommodate different requirements – and a sofa bed plays really nicely into that.

“It is very adaptable, very clever, very comfortable, and if you think about the campaign, it is all about real life scenarios where all of these could require a sofa bed.”

Koala's latest marketing campaignCredit: Koala
Koala's latest marketing campaign

Khademi says further campaigns will follow throughout the year as Koala showcases different elements of its product range, including several new launches over the next 12 months, with a major announcement scheduled for June.

“There is more creative to come, of a similar ilk,” Khademi says. “The real ambition is to now establish Koala in Australia as a furniture brand, rather than a mattress brand. That is the big opportunity for us and that is definitely my plan moving forward.

“Taking the brand into furniture I don’t think will be a challenge, but it is just not something we have focused on before.”

Khademi also sees opportunities to further promote Koala’s sustainability credentials, including its certification as a B-Corp, its support for the World Wildlife Fund, and its membership of 1% for the Planet, which sees it give away one percent of gross sales annually for the good of the planet, people and animals.

“We are a real values-led business, and that was the approach from day one,” Khademi says. “There is an opportunity for us to share more of the good work we are doing in that space, and that is something we are looking at moving forward.

“There is a real depth of credentials around sustainability here, and the brand has a lot of cachet in the market – it is just a really fun, exciting brand to work for.”

Khademi says Koala also won’t be resting on its reputation for customer service and support, with further investments planned to enhance and improve customer experience.

“Whether that is around online shopping or the delivery experience, there are a lot of opportunities for us to get even better there as well,” he says. “We have disrupted the category from a mattress point of view, and there is an opportunity to do that with furniture, with the same proposition around quick delivery, 120-night trials, and really easy returns.

“There is a real gap in the market for that in furniture.”

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