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The Good Home: What does sustainability demand of household brands?
At the end of October, Dragon Rouge presented at the Sustainable Brands Copenhagen, a conference that brought together the global community of brand leaders who are all tapping environmental and social purpose to drive innovation and deliver new business and brand value.
This year’s conference tackled the theme ‘Redefining the Good Life’, providing a look into how societal aspirations are transforming the way brands deliver value for their customers. As part of this theme, we looked specifically to the sustainable household and took on the topic of ‘The Good Home’. We covered a lot of ground in our presentation; below we’ve outlined some of the ways brands can position themselves for success against the rising need for greater sustainability in the home. This is the first of four research-based pieces focused on the future of the home. Dragon Rouge’s research and findings span across multiple sectors and will examine home optimised living, home as a community, and experiencing home.
URBAN DENSITY - COMPACTABLE & ADAPTABLE
An expanding population and increased urban density means that living space will become a premium, and the reality for many of us will be ‘one room living’. To maintain a strong relationship with consumers, brands will need to understand and respect the constraints under which consumers will live.
There will no longer be room for big pack brand variants that essentially do the same thing: detergents for whites, blacks, colours, tough stains; paints in big cans where 80% of the formulation is water, and so on. Instead, expect to see compacted versions of products that conserve space whilst also minimizing transport footprints.
Brands that can multi-task, think universal cleaning products, cartridge system washing machines, and IKEA’s modular ‘transformer’ furniture, help consumers navigate these living constraints. Similarly, we’ll also start to see far more active packaging for brands, where packaging has a function beyond simply protecting the product.
In a world of diminishing resources, we can no longer rely on an unrestricted supply of chemicals to fuel our consumption. Wherever possible, brands will need to reformulate and replace non-renewable, harsh chemicals with renewable, natural alternatives.
Surfactants from oil will be substituted by enzymes and biopolymers in detergents; plastic packaging will be replaced with sustainable materials like Sulapac’s wood-based eco-packaging; heat and sound insulation in our homes will once again come from things like sheep wool, hemp, recycled clothing and plastic bottles. These reformulations will drive a world of new claims from brands eager to boost their sustainable credentials.
Disposable will be out, reusable will be in. Many of the resources used in our homes will be reused multiple times before they are finally disposed in order to extract their full value. Water provides an obvious opportunity; water from showers will be reused to wash clothes – at least 3 times – before being flushed down your toilet. Consumers will define these ‘hierarchies of re-use’ and new technologies will emerge to make this possible, opening up opportunities for brand extension. Take Whirlpool’s water filtration membrane for your washing machine, or Calgon’s water purification tab that purifies shower water to wash the floor as early examples.
But value recapture will change mind-sets in other ways with brands likely to tweak their positioning and emphasize their life-time value. LEGO could lead the way in this regard, perhaps even recycling their classic ad campaign: “a new toy every day”. It’s hard to imagine a better slogan for an anti-disposable movement.
OFF THE GRID
It may be driven by the need to save money, or it could be a desire to save on resources, but whatever the reason, more and more consumers are seeking to decouple themselves from the consumer value chain. As a result, we’ll see more households looking to harness the energy they produce, storing the excess to be used when needed – not just to power the home, but also on the move. The brands that will win in this space are the ones who can make this possible without compromising on design, Tesla’s solar roof tiles are an excellent example.
It will no longer be desirable for brands to ship products over long distances to feed consumer demand. Local production will be the “New Green”, with innovations like vertical gardens, community farms and Walmart’s Producers’ Club leading the way. The ultimate expression of Off-the-Grid is the 3-D printer – no longer a piece of science fiction, but now firmly science fact – allowing us to print our own consumables. Brands that understand, enable and embrace the life-choices of future consumers will reap the benefits.
GOOD LIFE EXTENSION
These days, life is no longer winding down at 65, it’s just beginning. We’ll be discovering a new sense of freedom and enjoying the fact that 85% of disposable income is in our hands. Consumers will want to extend their active life, and The Good Home will be packed full of brands that enable these valuable older consumers to make a positive contribution to society for as long as possible.
Kitchen cupboards will be stocked with nutraceuticals and foods with functional benefits; our phones, clothes – and even our toilets – will monitor our health and suggest ‘preventative maintenance’, opening up a new world of brand opportunities. Technology will deliver peace-of-mind even when we’re doing what we love most with innovations like the Ring doorbell giving consumers peace of mind even when traveling.
The Good Home offers a plethora of opportunities for brands to reinvent, revolutionise, refresh, reposition themselves for the future. It will be up to brands to understand how they can become a part of the household of the future in order to better serve their consumers.