A PR Guy with a Design Eye – Trendspotting at the International Home + Housewares Show 2013

By Mike Rush, 360PR @Home Practice Leader

My trip out to Chicago for the Housewares Show was fitting.  With inclement weather following me wherever I seem to travel (which I   dodged by a hair), I hunkered down on my flight with 360PR’s latest book club read, What The Dog Saw by Malcom Gladwell, which details the rise of Ron Popeil, inventor of the Chop-O-Matic and king of direct response TV infomercials.  I couldn’t help but think of our favorite As-Seen-On-TV brand at 360PR, The Snuggie, and how we PR folks are all pitchmen (and women), too.

For those of you that have never attended the Housewares Show, especially foodies, there are a number of questions you find yourself pondering in awe:  “Do I have enough storage space below my kitchen countertop to fit this?”  “Will a magnificent lime green mixer still look good in 10 years?” and “If only they were passing out samples…and I had brought an extra suitcase or two.”

After a full day of combing the show floor (which could have easily been a week), I was able to surmise a few emerging trends for 2013:

Colors.  Lots of them.  Retro colors on appliances started to pop up a few years ago – and I wished my mother had held onto her avocado-colored blender from the ‘70s.  But, this year, housewares are emulating ‘80s fashion, with turquoise, fuchsia, baby blue, and hot pink to even KitchenAid mixers in leopard and zebra prints.  Every year, PANTONE, the world’s authority on color standardization, selects the Color of the Year – and for 2013, it’s Emerald Green. Pantone's 2013 Color of the Year

Kids as Foodies. With the rise of food TV for the whole family, like Food Network’s Cupcake Wars or TLC’s Cake Boss, kids are becoming serious foodies.  And food creations are becoming a central part of after-school and weekend fun for parents and kids.  Take 360PR client FamilyFun magazine – they nailed this trend early (check out my favorite “Treat of the Month” from February – Punxsutawney Pudding Cup).  Baking, cooking, and even cleaning up the mess that follows are all activities marketers see as a celebrated and fun opportunities for families – from OXO and Bakelicious to smaller companies like Boston Warehouse’s “Smart Cookie” line of kitchenware, which are designed specifically for kids’ small hands but are clearly not toys.

Brands Playing Nice in the Sandbox.   Last year, 360 launched the first-ever Honeywell with Febreze fan, which merged the $38 billion Honeywell brand with Procter & Gamble’s $900 million Febreze® brand to deliver air circulation AND odor elimination.  This year’s Housewares Show spotlighted a few unexpected partnerships.  SodaStream announced a strategic agreement with Ocean Spray for “a portfolio of juice blend concentrates co-developed exclusively for the SodaStream home beverage carbonation system.”  iRobot’s Roomba also now comes with neat accessories – scent strips developed with Yankee Candle so that the mobile vacuum cleans the floor and freshens the air.