Many warn of the potential dangers of mixing politics and work.
That volatile concoction took center stage at the International Home + Housewares Show when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivered the keynote speech at the annual industry breakfast.
Bloomberg— as accomplished and influential as a financial information tycoon as he is as the three-term chief of Gotham— covered an array of topics that bridge politics and business, primary among them the movement to restore domestic manufacturing fortitude. And he didn’t dodge tough, non-business questions on such issues as gun control.
But if the industry is looking for a hook that best justifies Hizzoner’s appearance at a trade show for pots and pans— and myriad other household implements— it was his commentary on the urgent fight against obesity in this country. The proposition of healthier eating has become the binder for cross-category housewares development— from non-stick cookware to task-simplifying kitchen tools to oil-less fryers to portion-control plates to hydration bottles to body mass scales.
Hardly new to housewares, the do-it-yourself nutrition movement continues to gain momentum as more public institutions enact restrictions to protect children and adults alike from the dangers of a fattening lifestyle. Some may question government regulation of the sale of oversized sugary drinks or over-caffeinated energy drinks, but few would deny the good intentions of such political intervention.
Politicians assert the goal of such health-motivated legislation is increased awareness of potential dangers and not the all-out prohibition of their potential causes. Bloomberg suggested in his speech such measures are akin to empty calories if they are not accompanied by thorough and consistent consumer education.
The same is true for the housewares industry. Excitement over the introduction of the latest products designed for a healthier lifestyle easily is doused when the details that inspired their introduction have faded by the time the products get to the shelf.
For an industry with limited marketing resources, though, the effort to develop comprehensive educational support for topical product initiatives should be commended.
Advanced web content and social media campaigns are combining with participation in instructional TV programming, charitable crusades and grass roots community programs to engage consumers with more than just bells and whistles. And don’t discount the importance of detailed trade marketing and education to make sure the holistic messages behind products resonate at point of purchase.
These can be challenging, costly endeavors for a business that puts so much stock in hot pricepoints and gross margins. They can be worth every penny.
Family values are strong in housewares these days. Healthy eating. Clean living. Family time. The industry isn’t just responding to these values. The industry is helping to cultivate them.
The effort doesn’t stop with the launch of a new product inspired by a genuine cause, such as the fight against obesity. That’s just the beginning.
Like serving as the mayor of New York City, the key to multiple-term leadership in the housewares industry is getting the word out and keeping your word.
Who says politics and work can’t mix?