Running a household used to be a prestigious job. The person responsible, usually the housewife, prided themselves on the sparkling results of laundry and cleaning generally. The status of the task was reflected in the brand communication.

For example, the cleaner “The General” gave the housewife the feeling of leading a military campaign against dirt in the home. A war on dust was declared, and the winner of a war is always a hero.

However, those days are gone, the effort to keep your own four walls clean was socially downgraded, now paid employment is the focus of attention – cleaning the home has been reduced to a side theatre.

What does this loss of prestige mean for communicating household brands? With its research closely linked to daily life, concept me has been following the effects of social change on consumption for years. A new study looks for the first time at how manufacturers can react to the change in the domestic lifeworld.First, running a home is not a static affair, but changes over the course of the individual’s life. Goals can develop (“it doesn’t have to be always squeaky clean”), family changes like children pose new challenges. Social developments also shape the attitude to the household, and particularly the change in the role of women.

The classic ideal of homemaking related exclusively to the “just a housewife”, a type that is becoming increasingly rare. The change in lifestyles for women and families has meant that the key images of homemaking no longer hold in Germany. In particular, much knowledge that was handed down over generations is being lost. Who knows how to prepare a Sunday roast nowadays without pulling up the necessary information in an app?

Housework today is no longer seen as an occupation, but as a burdensome duty, often with a feeling of being downgraded. Many young women accordingly avoid the issue, as far as possible.

Given this situation, how can brands of detergents, cleaners or household appliances still tell interesting and engaging stories?

Many manufacturers try to avoid the problem by putting the focus of communication on “effortless use” – the products clean like magic. However, this marketing strategy is not without its problems, as many consumers do not trust magic, and credit the powders, liquids or appliances with a lesser effect.

Another way to address the modern consumer exploits the trend towards a new domesticity. Increasingly, the home (and particularly the bathroom) is becoming a reliable refuge to rest, where life can happen away from the hectic outside world. This means products can be positioned so that they enhance the feeling of your own four walls. If they can manage to become a friend of the household, they taken on a different character and new function. It is no longer a question of working through dreary chores, but of “making things nice and comfortable” – seen in this light, housework becomes a process of caring for precious things.

If you would like more details of the study, contact Thomas Ebenfeld, Managing Partner concept m (thomas.ebenfeld@conceptm.eu).

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