The Core Value of Family­–Application for Brands

Number Three in the Core Values Series about The New American Middle—The Center of Everything

May 20, 2021
two people cooking

Brands Need to Be Big, Yet Small Enough

The NAM orbits around four big universal values: family, community, spirituality, and environmental stewardship. Understanding the “Core Four” values can greatly increase relevance in small grassroots campaigns to individuals and small demographic clusters, but because these values are universal to the NAM audience, they can also be applied large-scale to the group as a whole. This is an important distinction, since messaging that is both personal and taps into the sentiments of a mass audience is uncommon.

When addressing a large audience, national brands tend to focus on product features and benefits. As they get closer to a point of conversion, they shift to messaging this in a way that’s more targeted to the individual. As we stated before, everyone has product. A general product pitch can easily become just part of the market noise. Consider the failure of traditional advertising to communicate relevance. Consistency of brand message is a fundamental ingredient to success.

Understanding the NAM audience provides a clear pathway from large-scale advertising to personal grassroots, bottom-up marketing relevance.

Application—Home Decor Brands and the NAM

Over the years, our agency has conducted multiple surveys exploring consumer decisions on color-trended home decor. Here are some of the generalized findings:

  • The majority of consumer respondents cited family as the top influence in making a final decision on home decor products. Our surveys have found that between 50% and 60% of consumers cite the product’s importance to their family as a primary motivation to purchase. The choices are related to special gatherings and family comfort.
  • Other “Core Four” influences such as environmental stewardship and community (local, virtual, and a brand’s internal community culture) rose and fell based on the product being studied and the context of the purchase. Family was the common and primary influencer.
  • A home is where memories are made and a better life is realized, and therefore consumer decisions are based on much deeper meaning and purpose.
  • Consumers make many home goods choices based on how those products enhance the family experience. Many home improvements are not related to the home’s valuation but instead relate to the quality of the family life they support. Supporting family life is the main reason for making most home improvements unrelated to reselling or flipping.
  • House improvements are primarily made to increase the investment of the family’s home.

In reviewing multiple surveys and studies—many conducted by our agency—consumer sentiment regarding home decor may be summed up with the following responses:

“I want to create memorable spaces for my family. When we gather, I want something that reflects who we are and who we want to be. I want peaceful but also fun colors and items so we all look forward to being together even more.”

“I want choices so I can use my creativity to express myself and the many activities appreciated by my family. I want to be able to explore and enhance my family’s experience. I choose beautiful products that reflect who we are and that bring additional meaning.”

“I want products that are unique and show artisanship. Everything seems like it comes from a big-box store, but my family isn’t. There are so many choices out there. I don’t want to settle for me-too products when my family gets together.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced and accelerated all of these “Core Four” consumer values. The 2020 Pinterest trends report revealed the following increases in the types of pins related to home updates with family as a focus:

mom hugging toddler
woman sitting on couch on laptop
man walking down street with mask
person delivering pizzas outside

“Too Big to Care”

The American dream is often expressed in terms of growth. The trouble is that, these days, the corporate American dream is not always a family’s dream. In addition to the positive motivations of the “Core Four” NAM values, this population has also developed an allergy to big institutions, politics, technology, and banking, all of which are seen as a systemic direct threat to the core value of family. As a result, the NAM tends not only to resist, but also to react against these big influences. A further exploration of this can be seen here.

More to the interests of our clients is the impact of the “too big to care” influence among NAM consumers. On one hand, the NAM expects brands to play a part in social engineering by standing for values that are similar to theirs. Thus, big brands can only remain relevant by using their power to fill in during the 2020 COVID crisis. Ogilvy’s 2020 “Small Unites” campaign is an excellent example of reaching down into the soul of the community. It reaches the individual but does it in a big, universal way. At least in our small-ish community of Fort Wayne, the spots are sponsored by Chase. It is an excellent example of a big initiative that recognizes the value of small retail and the integrity of small towns everywhere.

Others who rise to the top include brands that reward frontline workers or help offset the increased need for food banks for displaced workers. Consumers turn to the brands they trust to fill in where they otherwise see failure among the other big influences. They look to brands that are taking leadership positions. Though these brands may be big, they take action to demonstrate their societal responsibilities.

The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer reported the following about consumers:

  • 62% believe brands should play a critical role in fighting the pandemic
  • 90% of global consumers expect brands to take care of their own employees during the pandemic
  • 89% expect brands to support frontline workers with free or discounted products
  • 83% expect brands to help bring people together and to show compassion

But brands that remain overtly focused on just transactions, or disingenuous brand positions such as “greenwashing,” are what we call “too big to care” brands.

Most consumers want to know how a brand is making a difference. They expect to hear how their favorite brands are making a difference from all forms of media. It is serious enough to warrant clear messaging to the target audiences.**

woman jumping and man sitting on couch

Positioning: NAM Family Values

White space can usually be found by comparing NAM values among brand competitors. Too often, brands design campaigns based on audience profiles or personas, but these campaigns are missing deeper motivations that could be added for much higher message relevancy and resonance. For many brands, understanding the importance of these “Core Four” New American Middle values can mean owning a space that is missed by their competitors.

At Britton Marketing & Design Group, we work with a lot of paint brands. Much of the industry creative tends to feature beautiful rooms, but not many beautiful faces. And of course, a consumer ad is not about an engineered chemical or even the concept of color. Paint is a product we use in our homes and the rooms in which our families gather. We repositioned one underperforming brand specifically for millennials, a group interested in making their space specifically about them. The marketing focus was placed on the people in the rooms, not just somebody else’s beautiful room. Success happens for many reasons; however, it must be pointed out that success began after people were mixed in. This brand has since increased market share.

Menards, Home Depot, and Lowe’s TV commercials commonly lead with paint. They do this by showing people enjoying the process of painting. For those of us who have painted, it might be a stretch, but those first-home buyers see people just like them and it makes a difference. These smart big-box home improvement centers concentrate on paint even though they have tens of thousands of products in their stores. From years of working in this segment, our agency has learned that paint buyers typically spend over three times more than other shoppers.

 

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article will help brands rethink the definitions of family and the ways in which brands can activate using this core value. Transactional relationships might work for commodity-oriented brands, but for brands that aspire to elevate consumer affinity (and profits!) by being more, well then, let’s talk.

 

By Jeff Britton, CEO and Cofounder of Britton Marketing & Design Group and [B]RIGHT Brand Performance Group
 
** Beware the “viral attitude.” Care should be used when attempting to lighten up the current mood with attempts at humor or a form of escapism. Like jokes about Lincoln’s assassination, it’s still just way too soon!
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