Market researchers like nothing better than identifying “tribes”, or groups of people who exhibit certain traits that tell us something about society.
This week we have been introduced to the “Plebs” – people lacking everyday basic skills. A survey by WorldSkills found that a majority of Britons are unable to carry out household tasks such as changing a tyre and wiring a plug.
Meanwhile, Marketing Week revealed new research indicating that, although men are taking on more chores than ever in the home, they still need encouragement to bring parity between the sexes.
While the tabloid angle on such stories might be the failure of the UK education system to instil practical skills in the country’s youth, there are lessons here for marketers.
If people are unwilling to do these jobs, or unaware of how to, it does not just mean they are ignorant but that they have probably decided there is no space in their lives for the effort involved.
And neither, therefore, is there space for the products whose existence depends on consumers wanting to keep their houses and cars in order.
The inability to change a tyre is the symptom, not the sickness. It is a symptom of apathy towards all things mechanical. There is a good chance those same people have no idea how to polish the paintwork, clean the upholstery or change the oil in their cars, and neither will they have any inclination to buy the necessary paraphernalia.
It is good news for the local car wash or mechanic, but it is a marketing failure on the part of those brands who could be doing more to encourage personal pride in taking care of a car. It is in their interests to make it a pleasure, not a chore.
Similarly, men who do no cleaning or ironing will not be buying much by way of cleaning products or appliances. It is not because their lives could not be improved by them, but because they do not know or care enough to act.
It may well be true that modern life is busier than it used to be, and people do not have time for these tasks. It may also be true that young people are not being taught domestic skills. But it is equally true that some brands appear to have lost the link between advertising and aspiration.
But all is not lost. The renaissance in British cooking in the past decade or so is evidence that we can still get excited about simple, homely things – given a little encouragement, some confidence and a few ideas. There is no reason that enthusiasm could not spread through the rest of the home.