There's no escaping the fact the catch all term 'home improvement' covers a very fragmented market. From DIY sheds, to cookshops, garden centres to grocers, everyone wants their slice of the home market. And, on the surface some products appear to have no relation whatsoever.
What, for example, can a power tool manufacturer have in common with a glassware supplier? What common ground is there between a paint brand and cutler? The answer is probably, more than you would think.
In the past week I have attended two product launches at seemingly opposite ends of the market - the first, the new Carl Kammerling fabric tool storage brand Magma, the second the new 'get together' tabletop collection from Brabantia.
Of course, both were big news for the respective suppliers and both represented a new direction or focus for the brands, but apart from that, it's difficult to immediately see what links these two launches. One is aimed at high-end diyers and builders on site, the other at families, fashion-led consumers and, most likely, a female-heavy demographic. But it's the idea of fashion that brings these two ends of the spectrum together.
It's a given that the majority of home, décor and housewares products are designed with style trends in mind. It would be pointless to invest in a launch as big as Brabantia's without making absolutely sure that your design and colour palette were bang on for the current consumer (and this, according to Brabantia is purple, grey and white). And the new offer is certainly stylish, with a comprehensive, good looking range comprising porcelain tableware, oven-to-tableware, cutlery, linens, some woodware and metal (including a great pop-up, matt steel toothpick holder with a pleasingly smooth mechanism). And with pricing that includes dinner plates from £8.95, retailers can offer customers the Brabantia name, and all the aspirational, top-end connotations of the brand, without the top-end price tag (check out the range at next month's Exclusively Housewares).
However, when it comes to the CK Magma launch, does colour or fashion matter as much? After all this is the latest fabric tool storage range, not the latest must-have handbag. Interestingly, the answer from CK Tools was a resounding yes.
The company's consumer research, which includes close links with a panel of almost 200 tradesmen, showed that in the category there was no outright market leader. Users found that the leading brands provided adequate functionality but lacked any individual style. This was hammered home when we were shown five tool storage items from different suppliers with the logos removed. I'm not going to reveal how many I got wrong, but it's fair to say the point was made!
It means that the colours and the look of the Magma range has had a similar investment in terms of time, thought and money as the Brabantia range has. Led by the likes of Snickers, Scruffs and Dickies, workwear and PPE has become a style statement in itself and CK has responded by carrying this through into all accessories.
And so the two ends of the spectrum meet. Despite appealing to utterly different demographics, having no relation in terms of product type and probably very little in terms of target retailers there is common ground here.
You only have to look at their respective marketing/ad campaigns to realise that while worlds apart in terms of product, they are incredibly similar in terms of strategy... Brabantia's recent ad campaign featured 'hunky' men pictured with products and fun straplines, while the Magma launch includes a 'hit squad' of pretty girls presenting products to builders on site.
When it comes down to it, both are doing something different, which adds to and bolsters their existing offer. Both had colour and style as a key part of their design remit and both are hoping for broad appeal across the market because of those decisions.
20 May 2011 | 12:13 |