Home Roundtable: Hearts and minds [Extended]

Myriad dedicated TV programs and social media channels have raised homeowners' expectations. Industry leaders gathered in New York City for this Spong-hosted roundtable to discuss how brands in the space are adapting to the savvier and emotionally invested consumer.

Participants (alphabetical)
-Julie Batliner, MD, Spong
-Maggie Gallant, EVP, Rogers & Cowan
-Jackie Hirschhaut, VP of PR and marketing, American Home Furnishings Alliance
-Chris Phillips, director of marketing, Apartment Therapy
-Emily Small, director of marketing services, MasterBrand Cabinets
-Mark Wagner, VP of brand and retail marketing, La-Z-Boy
-Bradford Walton, director of brand communications, The Home Depot
-Jason Winocour, partner, Hunter Public Relations

As seen on TV
Gideon Fidelzeid (PRWeek):
How has the relationship between brands in the space and consumers evolved in light of the explosion of TV programs devoted to all things home?

Julie Batliner (Spong): The impact of TV shows devoted to the home is very real. As we counsel clients, we make sure they understand how it’s changing the way everyone dreams, plans, buys, and shares. Most of all, it’s about positioning brands in the space as being able to take people through the entire homeowner journey. To do this, you need to create content that helps all the way through the how-tos and the next project you’re going to take on in the home. You need to position yourself as that brand of choice.

Mark Wagner (La-Z-Boy):  When people see these home-improvement shows, they think everything is simple. Guys come in, rip your house up, and fix everything better than ever. It all happens is six weeks or less and it’s perfect.

But when it comes to projects, a brand or retailer can’t just talk about its products. It must provide solutions for homeowners so their projects can be achieved comfortably and realistically. When we do home design, we’ll take on the role of the Property Brothers where we have just as much to do with the process as the products.

The worst thing is when homeowners look back at a project and feel it didn’t meet their aspirations and dreams. So delivering solutions is crucial for any brand in this space.

Maggie Gallant (Rogers & Cowan): I’m often on the set for these TV shows and, from my research, it’s really about empowerment as it relates to the brands. In the recent past, people would go into a store and buy the entire room set as is because they didn’t have access to a designer. HGTV, along with so many brands now influenced by it, now offers that expertise. It empowers homeowners to make multiple decisions, go with different vendors in the same space, and it gives them permission to personalize.

Home is truly where the heart is. There’s so much emotion around it, so the ability to empower people to make it their own is huge. It changes the consumer-brand relationship because the former has more information and can tell the latter more specifically what they want to do.

Jackie Hirschhaut (American Home Furnishings Alliance): This meteoric explosion of TV has given great credibility to the importance of home furnishings. It’s a priority again. And it allows brands in the space to help customers through the shopping and design process, which, in turn, educates them on the broad variety of offerings from such companies.

Emily Small (MasterBrand Cabinets): We’ve used this TV explosion to really underscore the use of a designer in any kitchen remodel. We now see consumers come armed with inspirational folders. They have ideas and want to do things themselves. We encourage that, but there is still a key place to rely on a designer to make sure their ideas are workable and that everything will function properly once installed.

Jason Winocour (Hunter PR): Amid this proliferation of shows are ones that focus on the real-estate component. We’re counseling our clients to tap into the fact this post-recessionary consumer is all about value and ROI on a particular project.

Bradford Walton (Home Depot): These shows have given a level of transparency to the entire process. Home Depot can now help you build a room and, in some components of our business, decorate it with you, too. Consumers are coming in more aware of the complexity. They now know to ask for materials. They understand you can either get new cabinets or you can reface them. They have points of view on insulation, which likely would not have been the case 10, 15 years ago. They’re walking into our stores educated by these shows.

The key for brands is turning that into an actionable plan for them, which is often overwhelming because they may know all the various things they can do, but don’t necessarily know which are right for them.

These TV programs have upped the ante in terms of the conversations that need to happen, whether over social media, digitally, or in the stores.

Wagner (La-Z-Boy): Consumers are coming in much farther along the purchase path than we’ve ever seen before. They have the confidence to do something and not be afraid of the materials and all the components. As a retailer, it’s exciting because you’re able to satisfy them in more complete solutions and, in turn, have them more satisfied. At the same time, they will engage with more of your services and your expertise.

Chris Phillips (Apartment Therapy): The TV shows have created an amazing appetite for a change in the home. We find people visit Apartment Therapy when they’re ready to go more specific. We are up to 11 million unique monthly readers, many inspired by TV.

Gallant (Rogers & Cowan): We have found that people really connect to the talent on our air. These are actual contractors, electricians, and designers and people feel an emotional connection to these individuals and they come back for more because they trust them. So if these individuals are talking about brands and products, they have a very captive audience.

Hirschhaut (Alliance): In the furniture industry, I’ve always found these personalities helped set the tone for consumers as to the ambiance they wanted in their settings, but also gave them the confidence to move in a particular direction.

I’ll also note the following evolution in these TV shows. In their early days, the "experts" would come in to tackle a project. Today, they are much more inclined to go out shopping with the homeowner, go into the retail arena and guide consumers as they make their shopping selections. That is another great opportunity for brands in the space.

Print remains in the picture
Fidelzeid (PRWeek):
The home space seems to be one where the beautiful, picture-heavy layouts of print would still have a unique allure. Where does print rank in terms of importance for your efforts in the space?

Batliner (Spong): Our research shows print still plays a critical role in that first stage of decision-making, the dreaming or pondering stage. Then, depending on the content within the publications, it has a key place during the actionable steps, as well.

Another key factor to consider is in-store displays. Print can sometimes inspire people to go into a store to see how they will put their version of whatever they see in print together. And for brands, it’s about taking what’s in print and making it shareable.

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Is print more relevant in this particular space as compared to others you work in?

Batliner (Spong): Absolutely. In recent visits to media outlets in the space, we’ve heard some are doubling the number of pages dedicated to the home because that’s what their readers want. Those visuals and the curated design are still very in demand. People go to print to get ideas on what their style might be.

Winocour (Hunter): Even in today’s world of mobile and smartphones with bigger screens, they still don’t come close to a two-page spread in an actual magazine. Even something on a Pinterest board doesn’t have quite the impact of a two-page spread of a living room beautifully done in, say, Architectural Digest.

Small (MasterBrand): It’s not jut print media outlets, either. Our full-line brochures are still broadly impactful because consumers want to see those big, beautiful pictures in print. Yes, you can have those photos online, but it’s not quite the same. Moreover, so many people still like to have those physical images from a printed product with them as they go through the process.

Phillips (Apartment Therapy): Apartment Therapy sees titles such as House Beautiful or Dwell as our big sisters in a lot of ways. They’ve been creating beautiful, aspirational pictures for a long time. It’s very complementary to what we do online. They show up at photo shoots with trailers full of accessories and stylists and we translate it online into something a little more do-it-yourself, a bit more approachable and conversational.

Wagner (La-Z-Boy): Some media mix modeling we recently did underscored that print remains incredibly important in this space. Pages in a magazine still connect emotionally with consumers. There’s something about them that continues to be a source of aspiration and inspiration.

Walton (Home Depot): In this space, print serves as an entrée into having a conversation. As noted by others, it inspires. If you want to know more, then websites and the online assets allow you to dive in deeper. I have two print magazines in my bag right now that I’ll look at on the plane home. That’s what inspires me. And in terms of sharing with others, print also works so well. Just think about how many people pass around one physical publication.

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): But you can share photos on a website with somebody else.

Walton (Home Depot): I could, but not with my mom, for example. With people obsessed in this space – and many are – there are so many people with whom I want to share what I’ve done, but online doesn’t resonate with them the same way a printed page does.

Gallant (Rogers & Cowan): The content on HGTV itself is very distinct. If you go online, it’s very different content, with different experts and different nuggets of information. Then you look at the magazine and it’s even more different. You can’t tell the same story in a magazine you can online or on television. But the growth of HGTV Magazine is proof the medium is still vital in the space.

Hirschhaut (Alliance): The home furnishings industry as a whole really depends on print more than anything else, whether it be national magazines, regional titles, or the home sections in newspapers. And the great opportunity there is in the images. Provide great quality product images and it’s a slam-dunk you’ll get into publications. Taken a step further, if you can provide custom, individual images to certain publications, that’s a great tool when magazines are vying for exclusivity.

Phillips (Apartment Therapy): Let me stand up for the online folks. Brands targeting Millennials are moving their media investments more and more online. We’re seeing an enormous move in packaged goods to digital branded content. There are things we can do online with social media and creating videos that print magazines struggle to do. I view that as being complementary to print magazines, though many of our readers, especially those in their 20s and 30s, do not subscribe to these magazines.

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): So print magazines are really important in this sector right now. However, as Millennials become older, will print still be as important in 10, 15 years?

Batliner (Spong): An interesting study came out early this summer that indicated the number of households in their 30s should increase by 2.7 million over the coming decade, which should boost demand for new housing. These are Millennials. And as digital natives who are increasingly become prominent players in that pondering stage, the place for print in this sector will likely change in the next 10 years.

Wagner (La-Z-Boy): It all comes down to understanding your target, your audience, who’s shopping in your stores, and how they consume media. To be honest, that changes every single year. So in many ways, this is a question that needs to be asked every 12 months, not just looking 10, 15 years down the road.

The content challenge
Fidelzeid (PRWeek):
Few sectors offer the endless content-creation possibilities the home sector does with its beautiful visuals and a rapt audience. With that creative bar so high, how does a brand stand out?

Gallant (Rogers & Cowan): The first thing we focus on is finding the right experts to put out there. You need credible, authentic individuals to get people excited because this is the most important and emotional investment many folks will make in their entire lives.

Focusing on different times of the year is also a key element here. People want to be dazzled with what they see from brands in this space much the same way they want to be wowed by Christmas ornaments on the house down the street. You need content that gets people excited about improving their homes.

Winocour (Hunter): Brands must realize people are now shopping for experiences first and then buying products to bring those experiences to life, not the other way around. 

Batliner (Spong): Celebrity designers certainly build awareness and credibility, but consumers want real, organic content where they see "people like me" are doing something and they can do it, too. That helps with the shareability of content and its pass-along value.

Hirschhaut (Alliance): Being a little different or quirky can also help heighten and call attention to products or design themes. It needn’t all be down the straight and narrow.

Small (MasterBrand): We have two buckets of content. There is content that is ever-living that people can always refer to when doing any project. Then you have the more trend-focused content that keeps it fresh. For a brand such as ours, that balance is crucial.

Gallant (Rogers & Cowan): Everyone in the brand business has a voice to its brand. Regardless of platform, you have to stay true to that. It helps people feel comfortable with your brand. It helps establish that relationship with them so they know they are engaging with your brand even as they are looking at different products of yours.

Walton (Home Depot): In the home space, people will tell you if you are giving them something they don’t want. Homeowners crave content that will help them do things themselves. You need to give them content that will educate, be clear, and give them the tools to set their own expectations.

Phillips (Apartment Therapy): We have a very data-driven approach. Our editor-in-chief’s desk looks more like a cockpit with multiple monitors on which he’s getting data from different sources. In real time, we are learning what our readers want us to tell them about by how they behave on the site.

Small (MasterBrand): Going back to the emotional element of home-ownership. Throughout the purchase or project cycle, there is fun, excitement, anxiety, frustration, and, hopefully, it ends in all smiles again. As a brand, the content you provide must remain relevant in order to help consumers through the process and all the emotions that will come.

Wagner (La-Z-Boy): You obviously need to have the content, but it’s equally important to understand how that content engages the consumer and what you, as a brand, want that content to do. What actions do you want taken by consumers? Do you want to drive them to a retail store? Do you want likes? Do you want shares? Do you want conversation?

Understanding how your content triggers the behaviors you look for will be key. So the folks in analytics who really understand all that are crucial to helping facilitate a brand’s content.

Back to the actual content, though, whatever we create we want people to say, "Oh my God, that’s La-Z-Boy?" And we do that by presenting our products in real-life modes and tapping into emotions. Those moments make it more than just furniture and they create that aspiration to go deeper into the brand.

And, as noted earlier, content must empower the consumer. A great way to do that is to enable them to dress up your products in their own ways and share them. Some of our highest-traffic Pinterest content is people pinning rendered furniture.

Path to purchase
Fidelzeid (PRWeek):
How has consumer use of social media evolved from the point they first ponder a home-related buy to the actual purchase and beyond?

Batliner (Spong): Social engagement doesn’t just play one role in the purchase funnel. Obviously, it depends on your target audience. With Millennials, their use is heavy at every stage. With Boomers, they are more likely to use social media in certain instances. But overall, the three main stages where social media use is most prevalent is the information-gathering stage, the project advice stage, and the "pride" stage, where people like to share how the finished project turned out.

Hirschhaut (Alliance): It’s the new window-shopping. That’s how consumers are now starting to get a sense of what might be available to them.

Phillips (Apartment Therapy): Sometimes people are seeking social permission to buy things. So whereas before you may have only asked your husband or wife, now so many people are in on the game. I have a friend who’s talking about what color slate roof tiles he should buy for his house on Facebook – and a lot of people are chiming in.

Winocour (Hunter): The influence of bloggers is huge, but particularly noteworthy is a rise in bloggers who are monetizing their blogs through affiliate marketing. In other words, if someone clicks on that blogger’s particular link, they get a commission on a sale. That’s an area we collectively should be paying more attention to because it could impact that purchase funnel.

Wagner (La-Z-Boy): I’ve seen numerous social media conversations around seeking advice on the direction a hardwood floor should be laid down. As a brand in this space, you must realize people are looking for information, input, and influence on every conceivable topic in the home. And in that process, they are talking about your brands and your products. This is an opportunity to not only enter the conversation, but to become a trusted source – and trust is really the biggest part of social.

In addition, when a project is over you will have people showing off what they’ve accomplished – their "ta-da" moment – and others will voice their issues about a project having taken too long and not meeting expectations. Either way, brands can’t turn their backs on that and must deal with these cases in a timely, honest, and fair manner. The world is watching.

Phillips (Apartment Therapy): Social turns consumers’ homes into mini photo studios. We have readers who select their countertop colors based on what facilitates the best photographs for their social media profiles. Numerous readers ask when our home-design contests are taking place because they schedule furniture purchases and painting projects around them.

When Apartment Therapy started, nobody would ever want their face shown within images of their homes. Today, everyone wants to be in those pictures. In the eight years we’ve been doing this, there has been a big change in how much more people want to be attached to their homes. It’s an amazing source of pride that social media has amplified.

Chasm or common ground
Fidelzeid (PRWeek):
Common perception dictates that what men and women look for in home or home-related purchases can vary greatly. Is that as true today as it has ever been or have more similarities emerged?

Hirschhaut (Alliance): One of my very first projects when I started working at the Alliance centered around Mars and Venus. What is he like? What is she like? We discovered that men seem to gravitate more to function, women more to style. That has absolutely evolved and there’s a lot more cross-pollination today – and manufacturers and brands must be mindful of that.

Winocour (Hunter): Man or woman, the trend is toward personalization and customization. So in the past, men and women would simply pick an entire living room set. Today, every piece is customized.

Men have definitely become more involved in home design, so there’s more opportunity for collective decisions, which is also potentially more opportunity for conflict. Instead of picking one or two items, 10 or 12 items are now being chosen. This gives brands a real ability to offer solutions and compromises both can be happy with.

Hirschhaut (Alliance): It’s all about eclectic decorating today – and that is where a lot of common ground can be found. It’s more than just the shift from buying a whole set at once; consumers are being taught they need not buy everything at one time. Invest in one or two quality pieces first and then come back at a later time for the next pieces.

Walton (Home Depot): The home TV shows have also taught people it is OK to desire a narrative around your room. It has empowered people to curate their own rooms and talk their friends through all the choices they’ve made, where they found each piece, and the changes they've made to make it their own. That sort of sentiment manifests in social media. And that helps people get even more invested in their homes.

And whether man or woman, this ability to customize things to such an extent had changed the value equation. People can pay a certain amount for any item, but they can now get it to look exactly the way they want.

Phillips (Apartment Therapy): Historically, men have not felt that welcome by media in this space. That has completely changed. A third of our readers are men. We have a male founder. We’ve never really had a gender-specific approach. Especially among younger demographics, there are plenty of stay-at-home dads, as well as many men and women who work from home. That very specific demographic is particularly interesting because when you work at home, it changes the dynamic of how you view your home. You’re spending more time there than ever, so of course you want a bigger say in how it is designed.

Gallant (Rogers & Cowan): To really get an interesting snapshot about men’s and women’s role in the entire process, House Hunters is a fascinating watch that truly emphasizes how – man or woman – each consumer is so different.

Common perception would have always told you the woman is the one who will care about the bigger closet. You can no longer assume that. It’s amazing to see that one item in the house where the man will put his foot down and say, "I must have this. It’s a deal-breaker." And sometimes that item is in the kitchen or bedroom, the last place you’d expect it.

I’ll echo early comments about how stay-at-home dads have changed this dynamic greatly, but it’s also the fact women have much more purchasing ability than ever before. With that, the premium they place on function has risen dramatically.

Winocour (Hunter): Home improvement is the highest-involvement category there is, but it is also infinitely customizable. You can certainly customize your car, but there is a finite limit to what you can do. In the home, the possibilities are truly endless. Of course, with that comes the potential for a lot of stress.

When looking at the gender differences, an interesting thing to keep an eye on in the next couple of years is the movement toward smart homes, which is really picking up now. An increasingly popular term is "techorating," as opposed to "decorating."

Will this be an area for collaboration between couples or an area of more conflict as couples seek to incorporate technology and decorating into a cohesive whole? I tend to believe it will be the former, as all consumers will surely see the benefits of technology in the home. However, conflict certainly could arise as it relates too how much couples want to push the envelope in terms of automation and technology. A home that’s too gadget-filled loses its hearth feel.

Fidelzeid (PRWeek): Smart homes present a very interesting dichotomy. The emotional relevance of the home has been established. Many decisions as it relates to technology are intellectual. As smart homes become more prevalent, where do you find the balance in your messaging?

Small (MasterBrand): It goes back to how do you define technology. It could be the pop-up USB port that you can plug all your items into. It could be integrated lighting that can be adjusted depending on your mood. It could be a button that signals your cabinets to open or close. So even tech decisions in the home are certainly personalized and, thus, emotional to that extent.

Walton (Home Depot): It’s an interesting time for home technology. Where we are now with it is akin to where we were with smartphones maybe 10 years ago. There’s so much we still don’t know. What is for certain, though, is it is changing what people expect from their homes and how their homes can make their lives better, whether from a security standpoint or simply making their abodes more conducive to having amazing gatherings. New options are rolling out on an almost daily basis, so this story still is in its opening chapters.

Small (MasterBrand): There’s almost a fear factor in terms of how much to invest because technology is changing so fast and what you buy now very well might be outdated in two years. That actually could make people more hesitant.

Winocour (Hunter): That’s a great point. An early adopter in a core piece of technology spent $200. If it didn’t fly, well, they’re out $200. However, an early adopter in technology for the home could be a much more costly mistake if you pick wrong.  

Phillips (Apartment Therapy): Our readers are getting very excited about the smart home’s potential. This summer our readership was lit on fire by an app with which you could control your air conditioner. There are some music systems you can control from your phone. Our readers love the idea of coming home and having the temperature set and the music going. It’s just the start of a better evening, the start of a better party. So many offerings will be coming out for Christmas and Q1 2015. Customers will have a lot to get excited about.

Walton (Home Depot): This all goes back to a theme we’ve weaved throughout this roundtable – customization. Very early adopters to smart homes had to buy a house fully wired 10 years ago or so. Today, your technology can be customized just like your furniture, your cabinets, and so on.

Batliner (Spong): How much is too much with technology? It’s when it stops being simple. Brands such as Trane and American Standard use the app Nexia, which is a full home intelligence system that not only allows you to control the front door or check in on your pets while you’re out, but it sends information straight to your dealer to say something is wrong. It’s hi-tech at it’s finest, but it’s simple. When it stops being simple, people won’t use it.

Phillips (Apartment Therapy): It also has to be practical. There’s only room for so many apps on your phone. I’ve seen one that tells you how many eggs you have left in your refrigerator. That’s simply not a big enough problem to need an app to solve. However, the ColorSnap Studio app, which allows you to match paint colors and, thus, find exactly the one you want, that is a great app in this space that makes a potentially complicated decision easier.

Wagner (La-Z-Boy): It is very much about how applicable and user-friendly the technology is. Is it truly making life easier and delivering a benefit or has it become cumbersome? So much of what we think about is apps on a phone, but the automation or technologies inherent, underneath, or somehow out of view in a particular product that make it more functional and more beneficial are equally, if not more, exciting.

Emotional reaction
Fidelzeid (PRWeek):
We’ve already noted the emotional connections people have to their homes. As such, this is a sector where consumers are more likely to reach out to brands or entities in the space with questions, compliments, complaints, what have you. Please share a noteworthy such story involving your organization or clients, with a focus on the specific feedback and how you responded to it.

Walton (Home Depot): My story starts with an IM to our call center from someone who was on our website and had questions. It was a conversation around a holiday Christmas tree gift this woman wanted to buy for her aunt across the country who was sick and couldn’t do it herself. She didn’t live near her aunt, so she simply wanted to find a nearby store.

Over time, the conversation developed to where the store was not only located, but the manager of that store decided they would deliver it to this woman’s aunt. And going above and beyond, they actually decorated it for her, too.

It was great how a simple IM to locate a store across the country turned into this powerful, touching story. The original customer also followed up by finding out exactly who at the store initiated the process and made a point to thank them for completely changing the way her aunt thought about the holidays. She is basically bed-ridden, but now is so happy just to be in her living room.

Batliner (Spong): Our client Trane prides itself on being the most reliable heating and air conditioning brand. It gets more than just the occasional customer call or social post telling them that someone’s air conditioner is still running even after a hurricane, flood, or tornado smashed the unit, but the compressor is still going.

As a brand, you have to be careful telling that story out of respect for the tragedy that surely injured or, perhaps, killed innocent people. You must not take advantage of a negative situation such as that. However, once we were certain everyone was safe after a recent such incident, we started an "unstoppable gallery" to tell the reliability story of the brand. That was entirely born from all the customer feedback about how hard it is to stop a Trane.

Wagner (La-Z-Boy): Very recently, someone new to our call center received a call from a woman who was very upset that her custom furniture was not coming in when she needed it to for the upcoming holidays. The conversation escalated to where the call-center representative, in an effort to calm the situation, noted that, "We’ll make this happen for you, but it’s furniture."

The woman on the other end of the phone, very distraught, said, "It’s not furniture. This is the last holiday my mom will be with us before she goes to the nursing home. This is the last holiday my dad, who’s in hospice, will be with us."

Our new employee quickly learned that furniture is a key part of creating some amazing memories and moments and how privileged we are to be a part of that. Obviously, we expedited the delivery of furniture to this amazing family because the furniture she wanted was pretty customized and it did take some time at the factory to prepare it. We replaced it later once the customized furniture was ready. But this story highlights what furniture – and home – means to people.

Phillips (Apartment Therapy): Our tagline is "saving the world one room at a time." We’ve learned that even small tweaks in rooms can have an enormous impact on people.

Mark’s story is hard to follow, but one of the things we get a lot of feedback on is paint color. It’s amazing to see how much that paralyzes people. So we take it upon ourselves to give them the tools, ideas, and a process to choose paint colors.

It’s shocking how happy this makes people. We have brought people into rooms that we’ve painted for them with colors we helped choose and they actually cry tears of joy. We have people thank us for inspiring them to take the cracked mugs out of their kitchen cabinets because friends come by and notice they have a cleaner, more organized kitchen.

Just this week, someone contacted us to talk about how she was forgetting to eat breakfast, but then laid out a breakfast station in her kitchen – at our inspiration – so that every morning she could remind herself to have breakfast. It made a big difference in her feeling more healthy and ready to take on the day.

We always tend to fixate on the big changes, but small things such as the ones I just mentioned, or even a new side table or set of plates, can make a dramatic change in someone’s life.

Hirschhaut (Alliance): I don’t have those stories working for an organization such as mine, but I do have an observation: The brands in our industry are incredibly generous in embracing projects that will help underprivileged groups or individuals. Whenever there is a natural disaster, furniture companies are quick to send product to help families get some semblance of home.

Small (MasterBrand): We don’t sell direct to consumers much, so such stories are not common for us, either. However, we have always had the mindset that we are fulfilling people’s dreams. We have to do our part to make those dreams a reality, even if we aren't dealing directly with a consumer, but rather through a designer or retail outlet.

Gallant (Rogers & Cowan): The emotional part comes from the fact that brands in this space have given permission and the resources for people to make their lives better in a space they are most connected with. When you empower people in that manner, they will respond in a very meaningful way. We capture this all the time on our TV programs – and it’s awesome.

People feel they are in a rut of mediocrity when they don’t love their cabinets and can just "live with them." But they don’t have to. The information they need is out there. There are people that can help them make decisions to make their lives better. And so many brands in the home space are giving consumers the permission and inspiration to do that.

Winocour (Hunter): As noted earlier, what might be defined as something "small" is anything but to a homeowner. That "small" thing might be laden with emotion and it becomes a very big thing for them, whether it’s a $5 solution, $2 solution, or a $3,000 solution. Brands that tap into those solutions can really make an impact.

Phillips (Apartment Therapy): There was this Martha Stewart period where it was about perfection. Now it’s much more about mindfulness. We write about things such as how to live with the unlovable parts of your home. We obviously want to help people improve their homes, but there can also be acceptance and even more of a celebration of your personality than it is about focusing on this unachievable perfection.

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