Home Improvement Faces Opportunity

Brands Can Bust Through with Forward Facing Trends

Let’s start with the good news. As a result of the economic downturn, we’re now working with consumers who are ready to work—on their homes that is. While massive remodeling projects are pretty much out the window, consumers are more engaged in smaller, more affordable, do it yourself projects. It’s no longer about sprucing up the façade to aid in a home’s resale value. Homeowners have changed their focus toward important fixes that will protect their investment and save them money, long term.

It’s about the Guts

Recently, homeowners have begun to shift their attention to money-saving home improvement projects that are eco-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

Best selling products for the year to come are insulation, heating and cooling products, energy-efficient appliances and plumbing (low flow toilets, LED lighting and anything Energy Star rated) as well as new airtight windows and doors.

In addition to these practical matters of upkeep, consumers are looking for home décor solutions that inspire family well being and togetherness. There will be a continued demand for products that reflect changing lifestyles (new ideas for baby rooms, converting spare rooms for extended family) as well as the tools and materials needed to fix-up patios and game rooms for better family time.

Brighter paint palettes will also be in demand, as consumers attempt to cheer up and hone in on some creative urges that have been building during downtime.

Who and How

The known targets for home improvement are Baby Boomers (aged 40-50). Simply put, they have more time for home projects. However, it’s important for brands to foster the next crop of DIYers who we identify as Millenials. The eldest of this group are reaching age 30 and though they are less likely to own a home, they demonstrate the key attributes of a DIYer. They are much more independent, value-minded and eco-conscious.

For both these groups, messaging that reinforces self-reliance, creativity and the sense of accomplishment that can be derived from home improvement projects will be effective.

Store Brands

Consumers are banking on store brands. Over the course of the recession consumers, out of necessity, were forced to try all manner of store brands from toiletries to frozen dinners and the same can apply to wrenches. Through this initial trial, consumers have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of many store brands and continue to purchase these products for their value.

Right now there is a great opportunity for home improvement brands to pump up their own private lines of everything from hand tools to appliances. DIYers are looking for a steal.

New Communication Channels

Going forward, brands need to be active participators and sponsors of conversations that surround home improvement. A perfect example is Benjamin Moore’s Expert’s Exchange on Facebook, which allows DIYers to seek out advice from their peers as well as industry specialists when looking for a new painting technique or product recommendation. These types of sites work equally well for consumers who want to post the fruits of their labor and express their self-satisfaction with a job well done.

lets-be-friends!

Other methods of keeping these conversations fluid and continuous involve using mobile communication channels. Advice through mobile messaging (such as an expert on text 24/7) or troubleshooting apps could go a long way in establishing the opinion leadership of a brand.

There remains plenty of room for innovation for the home improvement category in the online arena and brand marketers can tap into hundreds of niches utilizing custom blogs and message boards. Several new groups seeking information have recently cropped up including self-sufficient women and consumers interested in building Green.

Tried and true methods for reaching interested consumers are a helpful and communicative in-store staff and free, brand-focused workshops. Essential modern tools include a comprehensive and easy-to-navigate brand website that offers online instructions, installation tips and support.

THE BIGGEST DESIGN TRENDS FOR 2011

Bright Colors

bright+bold

Attribute it to the dark economic cloud if you will, but from cleaning products to paint buckets, consumers are clearly being drawn to bright colors. Rainbow-colored packaging, images and text can be found across consumer categories at The Home Depot, Walmart and the corner hardware store.

Modernism

super-sleek

Simple, sleek designs are finding favor lately, particularly packages in perfectly geometric shapes in muted shades of green and silver. As consumers look to the future to escape the recent past, modern elements and minimal text resonate.

Energy Saving

re-energize

From the bathroom to the kitchen, consumers are looking to save money, and lately more and more energy-conscious consumers will foot the bill for a pricier tag if it means long term savings. Products such as low-flow toilets, gadgets that monitor home energy use, energy-saving appliances in the kitchen, truly great weatherproofing products and low-energy light bulbs that last are worth the pumped up price. A word to the wise brands: Green is no longer a fad, so pump up these promises on packaging.

Natural + No PVC

The days of battling hard plastic packaging with scissors is over.  The days of battling plastic ties are not. But consider it an environmental win.

no-more-PVC

A few other ideas to keep it clean:

- Differentiate by reducing the amount of packaging

- Packaging should be recyclable

- Consider packaging that can be repurposed (attractively-shaped tubs

can be cleaned and repurposed as planters)

Regardless of which direction you choose to take your brand, remember that clear communication is key with a DIY consumer.

Packaging that makes shopping easier by defining a hierarchy, grouping line offerings and really just keeping it simple will help DIYers find what they need and eliminate any reservations they may have about setting foot in houses of hardware.

easy-to-shop

This group needs to be encouraged and empowered to take on home projects with just a bit of education, communicative packaging and customer service. Right now there’s an excellent opportunity for brands to increase customer base and traffic in-store, getting more consumers engaged and building loyalty for the long haul.

Rochelle Fainstein, Sterling Brands

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