"Der General" steps down - housework in flux

Dirk Ziems

Managing a home used to be a prestigious activity. The person responsible for this, usually the housewife, basked in the glory of successfully cleaned laundry and home. The communication of brands corresponded to the standing of the task.
For instance, the cleaning product “Der General” gave the housewife the feeling of leading a crusade against dirt in the home. War was declared on the dust and whoever wins a war is a hero.However, these times are past. The attempt to maintain cleanliness in the own four walls has been socially downgraded and replaced by gainful employment at the centre of attention – cleaning the home has been reduced to a “secondary theatre of war” or side issue.

But what does this loss of prestige mean for the communication of household brands? With its research that is particularly close to everyday life, concept m has for many years been following what impact social change has on consumption. In a new study we have for the first time specifically investigated how manufacturers can react to changing life in the home.

It can basically be observed that managing a home is not a static affair but changes with a person’s biography. Personal goals can develop (“it doesn’t always have to be 100% clean for me anymore”), changes in the family like e.g. having children bring new challenges. Social developments likewise shape the attitude to the home – especially the changing role of women.

The classic ideals of managing the home invariably related to the “only housewives” who are becoming increasingly rare in this form. The changing situation of women and families has shaken the key images of housekeeping. In particular, much of the know-how passed down through generations is being lost. Who can still prepare a Sunday roast today without looking up the information in an app?

Housework is no longer regarded as a calling today but as a tiresome chore, often accompanied by a perceived loss of worth. Many young women thus avoid the issue as far as possible.

Faced with these circumstances, how can brands of laundry and cleaning products or household appliances still tell exciting and involving stories?

Many manufacturers try to get round this hurdle by focusing communication on “effortless use” – on the products cleaning as if by magic. However, this marketing strategy is not uncritical as many consumers do not trust the magic and just attribute less effectiveness to the products or appliances.

Another way of addressing modern consumers exploits the trend towards new domesticity. The own home (and especially the bathroom) is increasingly becoming a dependable place of tranquillity where life can go on shielded from the hectic outside world. The products can hence be positioned so they contribute to an upgrading of the own four walls. If someone manages to warm to the household, it gets a different character and new function. It is no longer a matter of working through tiresome duties but “making things nice and cosy for yourself“ – from this point of view housekeeping can be understood as caring for valued things.

If you are interested in further details of the study, please contact Thomas Ebenfeld (thomas.ebenfeld@test.local).

Dirk Ziems
Dirk Ziems ist Experte für tiefenpsychologisches Marketing und berät auf Basis von Markt-, Medien- und Kulturforschung weltweit Unternehmen und Konzerne in zahlreichen Branchen und Ländern. Als Mitbegründer der Global Research Boutique Concept M und der Marketingberatung Flying Elephant begleitet er Themen wie die Adaption von Erfolgsprodukten in neuen kulturellen Kontexten, das tiefe Verständnis neuer Konsumgenerationen in China und USA, die Transformation der Werbekommunikation in der neuen digitalen Medienwelt oder die Neuorientierung der Brands in Post-Corona-Zeiten. Dirk Ziems ist auch als Gastdozent an verschiedenen Universitäten tätig.

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