A few weeks ago, a former co-worker of mine posted an interesting thought on social media. “Are we working from home”, he mused, “or living at work?” As much as we’ve had to adapt to changes in our own lifestyles, our homes have had to accommodate a drastically new way of living.
I was part of New York City’s exodus back in March. My family lives an hour away in Princeton, New Jersey, and when governor Cuomo and president Trump called the state of emergency, I figured that the logical move was to find shelter with people I love and where I could get more space. It was supposed to be temporary. It pained me to see the Manhattan skyline disappear in my Uber’s rear-view mirror.
I’ve been back in my childhood home for six months now, and in that brief amount of time, it’s changed more than it has in the 25 years I’ve known it. Our patio, once a spot of wasted potential, was quickly furnished with outdoor seating, string lights, and a dedicated Bluetooth speaker. Each bedroom suddenly grew a mini home office. My brother, an avid fitness junkie, stocked up on workout gear for the backyard. Realizing the full potential of our home started out as a necessity, but half a year in, we’re starting to fall back in love with the place that we’ve had for decades. Our house had to become everything – a gym, a WeWork, a coffee shop, and a wine bar – and in that process, we became inspired by the fact that it could become anything.
This has had an enormous impact on consumer behavior. Politicians and scientists told us our homes were shelters. We saw them more as blank canvases. Peloton sales saw a short-term spike but the home gym movement was supercharged by the nearly quarter of Americans who will not return to the gym after it reopens. Creating home offices was at first a temporary fix, but now 43% of Americans say they want to be able to work from home to some capacity indefinitely. Our homes are no longer just places of refuge. The opportunity to reinvent them has resulted in Wayfair and Etsy reporting record sales. In the fact that Google search traffic shows a sustained increase for outdoor furniture, home offices, and gardening supplies.
This new relationship between Americans and their homes affects nearly every industry. It asks any brand that operates directly in the home space to expand their offerings to accommodate the expanded role of our homes. It beckons athletic brands like Nike, GNC, and Soulcycle to lean into the fact that the gym and the field are no longer the only venues for sport. Mirror (Lululemon’s virtual gym) went from being a niche product for fitness enthusiasts to a practical gym replacement. The travel industry must quickly adapt to create relevance in a world that can no longer travel. A great example of this is Doubletree releasing its famous cookie recipe for all to enjoy while hotels suffer a reduced demand in guests. Airbnb is creating virtual experiences that allow the wanderlust to explore the Great Barrier Reef or the streets of Paris from their living rooms.
We live in a closed-off world, but our homes are expanding. They’re becoming more than what we initially intended them to be. That’s incredibly liberating for consumers, and it poses a wealth of opportunities for marketers to tap. A home is now a venue for entertainment, fitness, and travel just as much as it is a venue for cooking, sleeping, and bathing. Brands that are additive to this experience will come out on top.
Rohan Krishnan is a former brand strategist at MullenLowe US