Can brands help homes evolve to meet new needs and desires?

  • Categories:

    Industry Trends, Marketing Insights

  • Date:

    June 16, 2022

Can brands help homes evolve to meet new needs and desires?

Industry Trends Marketing Insights

For many, the COVID-19 pandemic not only changed the way they work, but it also shifted the way they think about how and where they work: their home.

Join Wray Ward’s Amy Raymer, insights and brand strategy senior director, Heather Dumford, creative director, and Leslie Gillock, insights and brand strategy executive director, for a conversation about how these changes impact the way brands help their audiences make real connections with products.

Can psychology and anthropology trends help us understand how people use their homes and adapt accordingly?

Amy: Thanks to something called neuroplasticity, our brains are wired to change and adapt to our experiences and surroundings. Of course, we've had to do that several times since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

For many, COVID-19 shifted how they work and play and view their homes. People, especially remote workers, have had to adjust how they use the spaces in their homes.

Meanwhile, we've all had to reassess our values and how work fits in. We've had to reevaluate self-care and wellness and find new ways to separate work and life, often using smaller and even isolated areas for work. Home now performs double duty for so many, and they need to figure out how to create a space that works for them in all their worlds.

Heather: While it's made us reevaluate our existing space to create mini, flex spaces, it's also shifted our mentality of what we look for. It used to be older homes with clustered rooms and privacy. Later, everyone wanted the open floor plan. Now people are trying to find these pockets of privacy such as the closet office.

Psychological and anthropological trends are closely shaping how people design and remodel their homes.

Leslie: COVID made us think harder about function. Today, its role is much more important in how we purchase, design and live in our homes.

Amy: Everything has to work harder. We have to create this new compartmentalization for ourselves. Everything has to serve a function. It has to look and feel good. It has to feel like home. And we have to work harder to get that feeling because the boundaries aren't as clear anymore.

Heather: While our homes often reflect our styles and tastes, it's crucial that our spaces adapt to serve the various needs of the people who live there. My kids need a space that encourages independent play, and I seek private space to focus on work or unplug and relax. While the functionality of our spaces has adapted, people still want their home to represent what they love and value. We've been forced to let people in on a personal level with virtual calls — which isn't necessarily a bad thing — so how can we let our personality shine (even if we're calling in from our former coat closet)?

From a product perspective, sage green is really coming onto the scene to create a soothing environment. Though natural, soothing tones provide relief, homeowners are getting bolder in their design choices and DIY projects. We need more stimulation as well, and design plays a huge part in fulfilling that need. People feel empowered to create and personalize their spaces now more than ever before.

Amy: From a psychological standpoint, mental health has become much more of a priority. If you're in your home more now than you were pre-pandemic, the home has to do more for you and create spaces that make it more appealing to work from home while still separating work life and home life. But yes, everything has to do heavier lifting and serve multiple purposes.

Heather: Biophilic design has been bleeding into other trends including calm nature or NatureVerse design concepts. People want a sense of grounding, but we're so plugged in all the time. Our psyche is trying to find that balance and how we can support it, and that dynamic isn't going away any time soon. Our craving for nature and non-digital textiles is only going to grow with our dependence on technology.

Amy: Automation has increased. We crave more simplicity and automation, even in things like our blinds, shades and shutters or smart home features. Nothing in the past two-plus years has been easy, and we're looking for new ways to make life simpler, especially when our home has to be a reprieve and a workspace.

How are brands responding to these trends?

Heather: First, some brands already have a natural connection to what’s happening now. Take VELUX skylights. You can infuse your kitchen space with natural light, which helps you focus, but when it's time to cook dinner, you can draw the shades and create that sense of ambiance. From a psychological sense, this change puts you in the right frame of mind.

Furniture design is also becoming more efficient. We’re seeing couches with USB ports where you can work from your couch or little capsule offices so that you can work from the corner of your living room.

Leslie: Right. It can't just be pretty anymore. It also has to have an extra, meaningful function.

Amy: With all that said, it's still so early that I don't think we've really seen the true measure of how brands are adapting and will continue to do so. What used to work before might not work now. We've seen more brands trying to go back to the human experience and our environments. But oftentimes, these changes are more reactive than responsive.

I would encourage brands to create online consumer panels. They’re a great way to get informal input before going down a path that you may not need or want. Even quick questionnaires can help provide real-time feedback. It’s important to be sure any marketing is adding value and not coming off as tone-deaf.

Leslie: A lot of what brands are responding to is a heightened interest in what's already there. Some outdoor living trends aren't new at all, but they’re accelerating and becoming more important. It’s almost as if we lit a fire under some of these existing trends. For example, people are thinking more about indoor air quality than ever before.

Heather: We used to get design influences from Europe, and they would trickle down into product and home design in the United States. Now, brands are forced to really think through these tried-and-true designs and what purpose they serve. In the first year of the pandemic, brands were almost afraid to talk about COVID-19, or even themselves. Now they're more confident in talking about how their products can adapt to better serve.

Amy: Yes, brands aren't afraid to be a little bolder now that we're a few years and a lot of lessons into the pandemic.

What can brands do to respond and capitalize on these ideas moving forward?

Heather: We always encourage our clients to converse with their customers. Listen to what they want or need, and think about how to support them.

Amy: I agree. Conversations with customers should start with product development and innovation, knowing that these products and spaces have to work harder now. If one brand doesn't feel authentic or fill a need, there are plenty of other options out there. The more brands invest in insights and dialogue, the more prepared they’ll be to meet these needs in a timely manner.

Heather: Anyone can manufacture something, but you can't lead with just your product anymore. You have to lead with your soul. Your solutions will reveal your authenticity. We're seeing more influencers who really add that soul aspect, and I think we're going to see more of it as brands buy into the notion they have to be genuine.

Amy: We challenge our clients to be a source of connection and reprieve. The world is heavy right now, and we're all trying to adapt to a new normal. This puts brands looking for new ways to connect with their audience in a tough spot.

Heather: We're trying to get our brands invited into people's homes. Product choices are truly personal, and authenticity is crucial.

Amy: I am curious to see how all of this evolves. It's the first time that we, as marketers, simply don't know what we don't know. Research is going to be extremely important.

Heather: It's time to start tapping into these deeper psychological aspects. The most successful brands will present the solution before people even identify the problem.

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