Sunday, July 5, 2009

Brands that Build Consumer Confidence

An NPR story earlier this year talked about small ways people could regain their feeling of being in control of their own destinies amidst the bumps and bruises of this recession. “Washing your car yourself…buying a small amount of stock” were some of the suggestions.

Fast forward to stories about the Obama's vegetable garden and thousands doing the same thing either coincidentally or because of their example. According to a survey by the National Garden Association, 43 million US households plan to grow their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs this year, up 19% from last spring. These are boom times for Burpee seeds, Ball canning jars, and Scotts Miracle-Gro. The Wall Street Journal ran a story recently about booming sales for devices to help rooftop and balcony gardeners produce plentiful fruits and vegetables in containers. Savings on food costs are an obvious benefit of growing and canning your own. But there’s something else at work here.

By learning how, and caring for the seeds and plants that put food on the table, home gardeners gain a feeling of control, and have colorful reminders of their own competence: the bigger the tomatoes or the more flavorful or more plentiful the crop, the greater the ability. And capability ladders up to feelings of confidence - something we need more of these days, as rolling layoffs and the ongoing recession continue to spook markets and individuals.

Gardening has played role in building feelings of competence on a massive scale before. According to Wikipedia,
“Victory Gardens were vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted at private residences in United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Germany during World War I and World War II to reduce the pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war effort. In addition to indirectly aiding the war effort these gardens were also considered a civil "morale booster" — in that gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown. Making victory gardens became a part of daily life on the home front.”
Businesses that can help consumers feel a greater sense of control and competence stand to win big – in sales and by building their confidence. I wrote about the boom in sewing classes and home sewing earlier this year, before seeing the morale booster angle to the story.

New concepts like Tech Shop may also fit the bill. TechShop is a 15,000+ square foot
"membership based workshop that provides members with any skill level access to tools and equipment, instruction, and a creative and supportive community of like minded people so you can build the things you have always wanted to make. TechShop is perfect for inventors, 'makers', hackers, tinkerers, artists, roboteers, families, entrepreneurs, youth groups, FIRST robotic teams, crackpots, arts and crafts enthusiasts, and anyone else who wants to be able to make things that they dream up but don't have the tools, space or skills."
From a single location in Menlo Park, Tech Shops have been added in Portland, OR, Austin, TX, and Durham, NC, and more are reportedly in the works.

The recession is eliminating jobs, draining our savings accounts and eroding our confidence. Learning a new skill could turn out to do more for our collective confidence than any politician's speech or rise in the Dow. Welding classes, anyone?

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