The Core Value of Family­–Pandemic Impact

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

May 8, 2021
two people geared to paint

Family Dynamics Reinforced and Challenged by the 2020 Pandemic

The pandemic and lockdown(s) of 2020 had a significant impact on families. After the initial shock of a national lockdown, and after getting used to spending way more time with each other, many families began to think about the place where they lived—their house. If those walls could talk, many would have been screaming, “PAINT ME!”

Many families walked into the backyard to get some peace and quiet, and while there, they decided to plant some bushes, build a deck, and act on some of the backyard office ideas they found on Pinterest. Many families spent their quarantine working on home improvement projects, and as a result, shortages and back-ordered materials were reported by all the big-box retailers. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic may have revealed some cracks in our system for national readiness, and broke others open, but it also highlighted and reinforced the importance of other things, the core of value of family being a prime example.

Meeting Consumer Need (or Knead)

COVID-19 has put NAM values to the test, both reinforcing and deconstructing cherished beliefs. But in the middle of the middle, one thing became certain: we sure like to bake bread. Online searches for “bread maker” were up nearly 800% over the same time last year. If you needed a new sourdough starter, you asked your friends on Facebook, and one (or ten) of them would happily send a sample starter from their “mother.”

Sales of canning supplies also spiked as the summer unfolded and we had to figure out how to preserve all those new tomatoes and zucchinis grown on patio gardens. Maybe there is a campaign centered on the pioneering spirit in there somewhere? In the era of the pandemic, successful brands assist families as they pioneer new at-home experiences.

There are widespread reports concerning the erosion of consumer brand. This makes sense if we consider the erosion of brand meaning itself. Brand after brand has scaled up and focused on product in the belief that bigger is always better. What is lost is brand relevance. When brands sacrifice relevancy for efficiency they risk eroding their consumer base. We think that most marketers understand this, but without understanding the NAM individual and the NAM group as a whole, they are often left with an either/or choice. Even so, we see that consumer confidence in some brands does remain high.  In some instances, it is higher than ever before. For instance, the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer study indicates that the majority of consumers believed brands and private companies reacted faster than the government did when it came to responding to the pandemic. Sixty-two percent of consumers didn’t think they could get through the pandemic crisis without brands playing a critical role.

man holding bread
woman by window on tablet

Dreaming in Pictures

Each of us has a preferred reality somewhere in our fertile imagination. This is especially true when it comes to our hopes for our families. We want our families to be safe. We want them to remain healthy. We want them to have fun and be productive, perhaps even change the world a little bit for the better. We all want a better life and when we look outward, we look for brands that can help us realize the better life we imagine for ourselves and for our families. Brands that help us see those dreams, that help us better picture our ideals, are the brands that will succeed. Jerry Seinfeld might have been right when he joked, “nothing is fun for the whole family,” but brands that help us achieve our family goals will do better than those built on forces seen as status quo.

For example, Valspar’s new 2020 “When It Matters” campaign shows actual people painting. The event. The experience. People active and living in a space and making it better. By including people, they have parted company from the usual color cards animations, abstract splashes of paint, or beautiful rooms devoid of actual people. OK. A little messy, but well, aren’t all messes authentic? Consumers can be easily intimidated by the painting process. Valspar shows it can be done, and it can even be a little fun. 

And by the way, we all dream in pictures, not in long strings of words, so showing is always better than telling when it comes to furnishing the consumer’s imagination.

person sitting in truck with it open on beach

Subaru—A Case Study for Big Enough

Dogs are our best friends. Subaru has gone big with dogs in their advertising and has done so in a way that feels very personal. Even non-dog-lovers fall head over heels for those adorable driving dogs. Like a faithful friend, the Subaru brand demonstrates its commitment to its customers by supporting multiple charities that benefit dogs and pets in general.

And it’s not just dog-lovers—Subaru has made the word “love” synonymous with its brand: “Love. It’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru.” It is the right kind of love too. Some automakers want us to love the style or performance of their vehicles, but Subaru owns the kind of love associated with the core value of family. It’s a massively important difference from loving a car for how it handles or because of new color and trim packages. Subaru has positioned its brand in a decidedly different way from how most car manufacturers do. We love our families. We love the dogs in our families. That’s why, Subaru suggests, that we lovingly pass our safe and reliable Subaru down to the next generation of the family.

For such a small presence in a big category, Subaru has found a valuable market position, one that has helped Subaru regularly sell more cars than might be expected for such an outsider brand. Much of that success is due to the fact that the brand understands the power of marketing around the core value of family. It is difficult to compete in an industry dominated by giants. Subaru has decided: if you can’t be first in a category, then invent a new category and be first in that one!

Subaru has also found a big way to be little. They’re just big enough. It can be done.

Stay tuned for part three, where we go in-depth into why brand should apply a values-driven approach in order to reach the New American Middle audience with precision and clarity.

If you missed it, here’s part one of our Core Values­­–Family series.


By Jeff Britton, CEO and Cofounder of Britton Marketing & Design Group and [B]RIGHT Brand Performance Group

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