Idle Hands Prove Innovative for Housewares1 Mar, 2011 By: Jackie Jones Response
Consumers who learned to be self-sufficient during the U.S. economy’s downfall provide inspiration for the housewares industry and the DR measures used to market new, multifunctional products.
Hampton’s latest foray into the housewares space is with its Furniture Fix, a product that hones in on the multifunctional trend seen lately within the industry. Furniture Fix lifts and fixes sagging upholstery for a variety of furniture, and is currently being advertised through various short-form DR channels, including television and online.
"Direct response advertising is still very important in our primary launch of a new item, and we continue to use short-form as one of the primary formats in our arsenal," Heroux says. "However, we recognize that consumers are empowered with unprecedented access to information on a global scale. As a result, our marketing approach has evolved and this means leveraging a wide array of technology, from traditional media to print, PR, online and Internet marketing."
Hampton Direct Inc.’s Total Pillow — a direct response television hit in the housewares space — continues to see success on retail shelves around the U.S.
How DR Brings It Home
Almost every successful housewares product — from modern day winners like the Total Pillow to classics like the George Foreman Grill — makes its way to retail eventually, and that can be especially rewarding when tapping into the sometimes-underappreciated value of independent retailers, Reynolds says.
"There’s a strength retailers have in the housewares business and that’s a big positive for innovators and for people who are looking to try new concepts," Reynolds says. "In particular, there are independent retailers that are more willing to try new products vs. the larger ones that have to feel more comfortable with innovations."
The need for retail within housewares marketing can’t be ignored, but it does provide its own challenges for brands. Though there’s a clear benefit to having your product on retail shelves, it usually requires a lower price point to ensure a higher level of sales.
"Housewares can be a tough business right now. Even the biggest brands are operating on a lower margin," says Doug Garnett, president and CEO of Atomic Direct and Response Editorial Advisory Board member. "Given these low margins, building any consumer value for themselves and getting people to say that their product is unique because of various advantages is almost impossible with nearly nonexistent ad budgets."
Garnett believes this is where direct response television could serve the housewares industry best. Long-form could be especially useful in portraying just how innovative the industry really is, he says.
"Both short-form and long-form DRTV work for housewares, and long-form would be beautiful for many housewares products. They’re perfect for demonstration, they have great stories behind them and you could build significant value with long-form DRTV," Garnett says. "These guys put out extraordinary innovations and continue to do new and exciting things, but they have to offer products at low prices at retail, probably because they never stop to tell people what these innovations are in the first place. They definitely need advertising to communicate to the consumer, but can’t necessarily afford it. DRTV gives them a way to afford it."
The biggest challenge housewares faces in 2011 remains the need to balance the pace of innovation with communication in the marketplace, Garnett says.
"If you make an innovation and no one knows about it, does that innovation really exist? If you never tell people about your product, it’s as if that product doesn’t exist," he advises. "We’ll do research and find out there are 10 outstanding innovations in the housewares market at any time that consumers don’t know about. The marketers have gotten way ahead of their consumers, and they need to start talking to them instead."
A well-rounded marketing approach is key to that needed communication for brands in the housewares space and beyond, Heroux says.
"Tapping into the online conversation, utilizing social media and integrating traditional and online marketing is and will be a trend used by progressive and smart DR marketers," he says.
The housewares industry continues to gain ground, with cookware, bakeware and cutlery dollar sales increasing between 4 percent and 5 percent in 2010, according to the NPD Group Inc. It will likely continue to be resilient in 2011, Reynolds adds.
"In the economic downturn, people stayed at home more and got really comfortable with their homes and how they used their kitchens. That hasn’t changed," he says. "When we really started keeping data, we learned that the housewares industry will follow the economic trend line down, but not go down as far, and the same happens on the upturn. As the economy bounces back, people are still buying the products they need. Housewares tends to be a leader despite any economy because no matter what, that’s where people are: at home."
Whatever the market conditions, creativity in housewares will always thrive.
"There’s a lot of innovation in this space, and innovation drives any kind of world, and especially so in housewares,” Reynolds says. “You don’t survive unless you innovate."