For the longest period in the history of consumerism, we stepped out of home to embrace brands that took us far away from home. In modern times however, there is an increasing tendency to replicate the experience of home in a wide range of categories, starting with F&B and Hospitality. This is not just applicable from the perspective of familiar experiences but amply manifested even in far-flung lands, when we actively seek the replication of ethnic authenticity. A possible explanation is an ever-increasing appetite for realness that seems to be influencing mature consumers in every sphere, not excluding branded products and services. Smart marketers must capitalise on this vibrant opportunity by evaluating the ‘Home-Style’ Range, capable of commanding a valuable premium as well as being the source of desirable variety.
As mentioned initially, the primary evidence of ‘Home-Style’ experiences gaining scalable currency was first noted in the Hospitality and F&B sectors. In restaurants and take-aways, it is fairly common to notice a Home Chicken Curry or Maa Ki Daal, which is preferred by the conscious discerning customers. When probed further, there is a key expectation of healthiness from such a dish which works in tandem with cherished familiarity, increasingly difficult to replicate at home due to the changing kitchen culture. Although in our travels to unfamiliar territories, the choice of a similar item draws firmly from the craving for an unadulterated traditional experience. Which is exactly the motivation for homestays especially in areas of formidable natural or heritage beauty with eager consumers willingly keen to forego the joys of a pampered hotel experience for a taste of rustic luxury. Such behaviour works at the premium level quite predictably but can also be considered to be the inspiration for the hugely popular Airbnb properties, taking us to real homes far away from the real home. Most importantly, pricing does not seem to be a key variable with customers happily willing to pay more to move on from the predictable trappings of branded formula.
When considering the above in tandem with other emerging evidence, the home does come across as a source of rich but often contradictory set of values, which makes it challenging while undoubtedly attractive. It is historically and permanently an inimitable source of comfort where you can be yourself and not have anything to prove to anybody. It is also the hub of safety and purity, where all that comes out is untampered by polluted and untrue influences. It is also the harbinger of the traditional, as our habits and rituals are rooted firmest to how our forefathers lived and is also a symbol of foundation for the entire family, thus a thread for continuity. In recent times, most interestingly, the home is also becoming a cue for luxury, drawing certainly from the associations with heritage and tradition, the duo most capable of commanding an unreasonable premium. Unlike the other sources of cultural value that can be converted to branded experiences, the home is truly the richest for its sheer variety of associative imagery, capable of merry co-existence without losing an inch of credibility.
The possibilities of extending this association beyond the realms of the current must start with the F&B industry which taught the world how to make the most of this foundation. We are certainly ready for the Airbnb of home dining, whereby you can share your home dinner with paying guests hungry for the real thing. Though an organised conduit that will connect the recreational diner to keen home chefs who can provide a passionate quality that is impossible to match in scale-hungry restaurants. Interestingly combining all the associations of the home in a format also competent to command a premium for experience and not just be billed as an aggregate of inputs. Airbnb and its many clones can also provide a recipe service, with ready-to-eat ingredients stocked in the refrigerator for a valid simulation of home dining. Serviced Apartments, currently propping up like thoughtless clones, can be modelled on a ‘Home-Style’ format, with a rooted philosophy in furnishing and appointment of suitably competent cooks. Just as homestays are changing the way we holiday, home-chat zones can refurbish the way we do business conferences. Whereby board rooms in business centres are set up like the comfortable seating area of a house, thus equalising hierarchy and expanding the power of thinking. Even the mushrooming homestay resort in the hills can become a far more formidable entity armed with appropriate vision and muscle.
In terms of other categories, the possibilities are also truly quite endless. Imagine a ‘Home-Style’ range of contemporary fashion-wear that is part of an easy outdoors range especially in summer. Plain prints, happy checks and comfortable fits if blended imaginatively can lead to a formidable fashion statement consistent with today’s minimalistic preferences. The same is true for both tote-bags and handbags, the ability to pack in as much without any fuss defining the design sensibilities. In a slightly contrarian premium rendition, limited-edition handcrafted bed linen and even woollies can be appealing under this banner, replicating a traditional practice of grandmothers down the ages. While beauty parlours can cultivate the ‘Home-Style’ look as simple no-fuss elegance, that uses make-up as an ingredient to cultivate the look without make-up. For cosmetic brands, including hair-care and skin-care, the desire for organic products can extend most appropriately to a range inspired by the home, with the undeniable attribute of proven sustainability.
An OTC Drug company can honestly launch a home remedy series of medicines for common ailments, adding the values of packaging to trusted familiarity. Including cough syrups, tummy cleansers, headache balms and all-purpose creams for primary relief. Makers of tea bags can easily create a home-style ensemble of cold beverages in the same format containing the essence of ‘sherbet’ that was uniquely proprietorial to traditional kitchens. In RTE foods there are no limits to the imagination as tradition can effortlessly be escalated to time-crunched modern generations, with regional skews as applicable. In travel and tourism, a packaged tour with a totally ‘Home-Style’ flavour, ranging from companions to residences to cuisine, can easily command a fabulous premium for discerning customers while a completely plain equivalent with basic features can also be the entry-level product for the budget traveller.
As an interesting twist, even the home décor business can capitalise on the ‘Home-Style’ movement by ushering a back-to-tradition state of thinking, overcoming the recent pattern of homes looking like artificial hotels. Where the sofas and beds are sourced from a characterless global pool in lavish leather and living spaces are set up with undue formality not befitting the warm traditions of home. Imagine thus a ‘Home-Style’ Experience ensemble including furniture, wall paint and even crockery and cutlery. As per brief of the customer’s culture and pedigree, an entire apartment can be done in modern comfort yet staying true to how we actually lived in real homes for generations, keeping intact ergonomics and rituals as well. Imagine as well the possibility in kitchenware, plates and bowls which are meant to keep food in hygienic conditions, for enhancing the aesthetic, nutritional and taste appeals.
In a world where we are constantly grappling for valuable differentiation, ‘Home-Style’ can be a secret recipe in categories way beyond the conventional imagination. As a result of its inimitable ability to represent a wide range of human values, appealing meaningfully to a cross-section of customers primarily as an emotion and only then as a transaction, thus enjoying the unfair ability to demand a premium. It is well known that charity begins at home but we are increasingly realising that even business begins at home.
(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: email@example.com)
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