SPRING LAKE — Tim Ruffini sums it up in two words: “Better together.”
Ruffini, the brand director at what used to be just izzy, uses that phrase to describe the company’s new name
“We are rolling out the izzy+ brand name at NeoCon this year. What this represents is the umbrella brand that oversees the product brands,” said Ruffini. “When we say izzy as a product, that is traditionally what people have known as izzydesign. When you say izzy+, that encompasses the mother ship or parent company. Izzy is one of those sub-brands.”
The brands represented under izzy+ are ABCO, Fixtures Furniture, Harter, Zoom Seating, izzydesign and HÅG. Izzy+ currently owns all of these product brands except for HÅG, which is a strategic partner. Izzy+ is the sole distributor of HÅG in North America.
“At NeoCon, the big launch, people will see plus signs everywhere. The plus sign represents that when you add things together, it’s better together. When we add the izzy, Fixtures, Zoom, ABCO, Harter and HÅG, it creates a better portfolio for our sales reps to provide solutions to the marketplace,” said Ruffini.
Izzy set itself apart in the industry by staking a claim as a small company that can wrestle with the big boys, long before adding the plus sign to its name.
“For us, it’s all about brand recognition,” said Ruffini. “We’ve had a very focused message since our launch in 2001 and that message continues to be around people and collaboration. Trying to be consistent with that message within that brand has allowed us to have that perception in the marketplace.
“The proof comes when we provide products or new purchased companies that are aligned with that vision. It’s more than smoke and mirrors. There’s actually product that aligns with that thought process.”
Ruffini said that another aspect that helps the company appear larger is its partnership with HÅG. Along with its growth, however, has come a growth of challenges — most notably, keeping that small company feel.
“We want to be a fresh approach to the industry. When we launched, we wanted to put the smirk and the smile and the glint in the eye, and have people actually smile about office furniture. The challenge is, how do we continue to be fresh eight years later? Izzy+ is a way for us to continue to raise the bar and keep that brand message fresh.”
The new name shouldn’t have too much of an effect on the products. Ruffini said izzy+ still plans to have each of its brands focus on what they do best.
“Fixtures Furniture will continue to be the expert on learning product. Harter will continue to be the expert on furniture that works anytime, anywhere. What izzy+ does is kind of pull all these chickens together,” he said.
“By bringing the izzy+ management, it allows us not to step on each other’s toes in terms of product development. It allows us to see the portfolio as a whole, and that way, I think it’s a much more efficient process.”
On another level, Ruffini said, the company’s big product statement this year will take the form of Dewey by Fixtures Furniture.
“Dewey, outside of the izzy+, is our most significant launch this year,” said Ruffini, noting that the project originally developed under the izzy brand, but once Fixtures Furniture was acquired, Dewey switched hands. “Fixture Furniture is the appropriate vehicle to take this product into higher education and also cross over into corporate health care learning.”
For izzy+, it is important to keep to the main message of people and collaboration, and Ruffini is encouraged about what the company found in its research for the product.
“What I think is most exciting about Dewey is the research we found about the new styles of learning,” he said. “What are the teaching styles? What are the learning styles? It’s not even like it was for me 10 years ago. For us it was really about collaboration: What’s happening inside the classroom itself and how can a collection of not only tables but storage enhance that learning style?”
As Ruffini mentioned, Dewey consists of a series of tables, Help Desk, Lectern and Buddy lectern. The focus was to turn from the “teacher-to-student” lecture style of teaching and make the classroom more “peer-to-peer.” Dewey also comes with iPod docking stations and scalable power options.