Trend Watch: The Rise of Outdoor Living Spaces

Popularized during the financial crisis of 2008, the term “staycation” was added to our lifestyle vocabulary when people began enjoying vacation time in their own places of residence, in order to save money.


Pavilions like this one from Walpole Outdoors
are just one example of luxury outdoor living spaces.

Today, that trend continues to grow for reasons beyond mere economics, including lifestyle choices, avoiding the hassles of travel, and finding innovative ways to increase existing home value.

A key indicator of this trend is  the burgeoning popularity of outdoor living spaces and the upscale features that dress them up.

Need proof? The American Institute of Architects (AIA) noted in a 2014 survey that outdoor living spaces have emerged as the most popular special function room among homeowners. The AIA survey also noted that 69-percent of homeowners increased outdoor living options along with landscaping—an increase of six-percent since 2013. A Better Homes and Gardens study found homeowners view outdoor living spaces as an expansion of the home and a vital family-time venue.

Pinterest—the fastest-growing social media site—ranks “Home” as its top category and “For the Home” as its most popular Pinterest board name. Within these, outdoor kitchens, landscaping ideas, and porch and deck projects receive plenty of pins and repins from the Pinterest audience (87/17-percent women/men in the U.S.; 56/44-percent men/women in the U.K.).

Outdoor Spaces Enhance Home Value

While spending time in personalized outdoor living areas is a source of great enjoyment for many, homeowners are often motivated to focus resources on outdoor living in order to enhance overall atmosphere of the home and increase resale value, as Kleber & Associates found in a recent survey. Other motivations are spending more time at home with friends and family, enjoying outdoor spaces even in inclement weather and connecting with nature.

This outdoor space features built-in appliances from Danver Stainless Outdoor Kitchens.

This outdoor space features built-in appliances
from Danver Stainless Outdoor Kitchens

Outfitting these outdoor spaces can be as simple as placing a portable charcoal grill on the patio or as elaborate as equipping the space with an extensive outdoor living room, complete with a kitchen, fireplace, high-definition television and surround sound audio system. This phenomenon is fueling multiple industries that manufacture products for the outdoors: appliances, furniture, lighting, landscaping, insect repellent systems, water features, electronics, garden products, fire pits, sunrooms, screened porches, hot tubs, heat lamps, pools, decks, ponds, gazebos, pizza ovens and more.


Demographics Driving the Trend

Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) and Baby Boomers heading into their retirement years, are fueling the popularity of outdoor living spaces. Studies show that Millennials are optimistic about the future and place a high value on owning their own homes. According to a survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), 90-percent of Millennials prefer to live in rural or suburban areas rather than in an urban atmosphere. As a result, most Millennials have either purchased a house in the last three years, or plan to buy a house within the next three years.


Feeney DesignRail® systems and
LED Rail Light Kits add sleek design
and ambience

What This Means to Marketers

At Kleber and Associates, we’re always looking for trends that affect the marketing of home and building products. With the advent of spring and rising outside temperatures, we expect homeowner interest in outdoor living spaces to continue to increase—potentially driving sales across multiple product categories.

All indicators point to the fact that outdoor living upgrades and renovations are not just a limited-time trend or movement, but a well-loved staple of the American home, and here to stay. And, personalized outdoor living spaces make a “staycation” more competitive with expensive, exotic resorts.

Want to know more? Click here to download our latest Outdoor Living white paper. Or better yet, let’s discuss how we might leverage these trends in your current marketing efforts. Contact us today at

“The Trillion Dollar Opportunity – Marketing to Hispanic Americans”

imgresDue to the increased prominence and impact of Hispanic Americans across the country, Kleber and Associates has published a white paper discussing Hispanic Americans’ influence on, not only our culture, but, also on consumerism. As the largest minority group in the country – a group of now more than 50 million – Hispanics represent a rapidly increasing level of purchasing power, currently more than $1 trillion. For those of us in the home and building products channel, Hispanic Americans are a highly targeted group, as they have both increasing population and purchasing power on their side, more so than any other minority group in the U.S. All consumer product marketing for that matter should pay special attention to what their audiences think and how they buy. Given the new sphere of influence minority groups have created, marketers must ensure the appropriate messages are reaching them. Read more…

Is a Light Bulb Transforming the Lighting Industry?

Welcome to the Kleber & Associates blog! Is a Light Bulb Transforming the Lighting Industry? Here’s the latest

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy was directed by The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to establish the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize (L Prize) competition. The competition is the first and only government-sponsored technology competition. The overall goal was to challenge the lighting industry to develop high performance, energy-saving replacements for conventional light bulbs that will save American consumers and businesses money. What was the incentive? – A $10 million dollar prize.

Five years later, in 2012, the winner was announced, the Dutch electronics company, Philips Lighting North America who was the only entrant. The winning product, the EnduraLED 10W A19 Dimmable Bulb is a huge advancement in technology. Its lifespan is an estimated 30,000 hours (more than 20 years when used four hours a day) and it produces 900 lumens of light while only consuming 10 watts of energy, making it 83 percent more efficient than standard 60-watt incandescents.

There are mixed reviews about the buzz-worthy L Prize bulb. For one, the $60 price tag is steep for most American families, ironic since part of the multifaceted goal of the competition was to be an affordable alternative and failed to meet many of the original prize specifications. The goal was a $22 price tag in the first year, falling rapidly to $8 by year three.

Also, the trade publication Energy Efficiency & Technology notes that the bulbs that are coming to market are actually a little different than the model that won the competition.

Others are saying Phillips is receiving preferential treatment by federal buyers and other major players who are beholden to the federal government, such as the many utility companies offering subsidies to customers who purchase the bulbs. They think the knowledge of this fact may have further reduced Philips’ incentive to keep prices low.

However, none can argue that the bulb isn’t the most eco-friendly bulb on the market. According to the people at Philips, if every 60-watt incandescent in the U.S. was replaced with the bulb, the nation would collectively save $3.9 billion in energy costs in one year. Such a swap-out would curb the emission of 20 million metric tons of CO2, the equivalent of removing 4 million cars from the road.

What do you think of the L Prize bulb? Worth it or not?

Read more at &

Search and Semantics: What It MEANS For You

Welcome to the Kleber & Associates blog! Here’s the latest on Search and Semantics: What It MEANS For You

Semantics. It’s the study of meaning. And it’s the future of search. As humans we have an intuitive sense of what semantics are. Every day we communicate by stringing words together into sentences to create and send a message. We know that individually, the words have little meaning, but when combined with other words they can hold tremendous meaning. And when we change just one word in the sentence or the order of the words, the meaning can change drastically.

Look at the following two sentences:
1. It’s time to hammer.
2. It’s hammer time.

When you read the first sentence you probably thought of a hammer, nails and a piece of wood. When you read the second sentence, however, you probably envisioned MC Hammer dancing in his signature pants. Semantics. Whether or not you knew it before, you know what semantics are.

Computers, however, do not know what semantics are. They don’t understand semantics because they don’t understand meaning. To a computer every input and output is just a string of ones and zeros.

Here are the same two sentences from above, but this time how a computer interprets them:
1. 01001001 01110100 10010010 01110011 00100000 01110100 01101001 01101101 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01101000 01100001 01101101 01101101 01100101 01110010 00101110
2. 01001001 01110100 00100111 01110011 00100000 01101000 01100001 01101101 01101101 01100101 01110010 00100000 01110100 01101001 01101101 01100101 00101110

This is essentially what search engines have always boiled down to: finding the best match between the input binary code and all of the documents on the internet. As technology has progressed, programmers have worked to make search engines better “understand” what we mean by the words we use in our searches. But there’s still a lot of work to be done. While the example I used above is quite silly, it demonstrates my point quite nicely. If you type in the two sentences into a search engine you will get very similar results, because the search engine doesn’t understand how changing the order of the words changed the meaning and connotations of the sentence. Similarly, typing “hammer” into a search engine will deliver a variety of results from business websites to articles about MC Hammer.

One of the best examples of semantics and computers is demonstrated in Watson, IBM’s genius computer that defeated Ken Jennings on Jeopardy! One of the biggest hurdles that IBM had to overcome in creating Watson was getting the computer to understand the question being asked because Watson, as a computer, cannot interpret semantics. The success of Watson on the game show proves that computers are closer than ever to being able to understand and interpret semantics.

IBM isn’t the only one working on solving the semantic problem. Google is reportedly working on semantic search technology. What might these search results look like you ask? Lucky for us there are already a number of search engines out there that employ semantic search. The screen shot below is from A search for “hammer” delivered a number of possible meanings that I could be searching for. I highlighted two to demonstrate how powerful the technology is: a hammer used for construction and MC Hammer. (click image to view larger)

Subsequently, I can click on whichever meaning I am searching for and receive a list of search results about that one meaning of hammer. Rather than a Google search where you have to sort through the results by hand to find what you are looking for, semantic search is able to organize the results according to the various meanings of the key term.

If you have an iPhone 4S, you’ve also experienced semantic search. Siri relies heavily on Wolfram Alpha (along with Google), a semantic search engine, to interpret questions and deliver accurate results. Considering this, semantic search seems inevitable for Google if it wishes to stay competitive. Combining this with social search will create a very powerful tool for all of us that should deliver extremely relevant, meaningful information.

Advancing the Science of Neuromarketing

Welcome to the Kleber & Associates blog! Here’s the latest on Advancing the Science of Neuromarketing

Earlier we discussed the emerging field of neuromarketing. One company bringing the science of nueromarketing closer to a reality is NueroFocus, part of the Nielsen Group. The company has done extensive research on the human brain and how it affects our shopping behavior. Its latest product, Mynd, could revolutionize market research. Mynd is a portable, wireless EEG device that will allow companies to monitor a subject’s brain activity while they view and interact with a product or advertisement outside a laboratory setting. Brands will be able to gather more accurate data with this device by observing consumers in a natural setting. NueroFocus emphasizes its usefulness for in-store shopper research as well as testing advertisements, product features and packaging. Maybe someday soon we will send customers into building supply stores wearing Mynd to see how their brain reacts to products on the shelf or ask home buyers to wear Mynd when touring a home to see what features they respond to most positively. The possibilities really are endless for neuromarketing.

Your Brain Holds All The Answers

It’s the classic product flop story. New Coke. Rolled out in 1985, Coca-Cola introduced the new soft drink formula after consumer research indicated the product would be a success. New Coke was soon discontinued amid endless consumer outrage. Countless theories exist to explain why New Coke failed but the question of why consumer research was inconsistent with product results has yet to be fully answered. What do product failures say about market research methods like focus groups, surveys, and product tests?

I think these methods of research for marketing purposes are still quite valid but there is an interesting science starting to emerge that could someday enhance these methods for more accurate results. In his book Buy-ology, Martin Lindstrom details research performed by scientists around the world looking into why consumers buy what they do. By using fMRI and SST technologies to monitor brain activity while consumers view or interact with a product or advertisement, scientists have discovered some startling things about the way the brain processes all the information we receive about products.

One of the first discoveries outlined in the book is that what people say about a product may not be an indication of their true subconscious feelings. The first study in the book indicated that graphic warning labels on cigarette packaging actually increase a smoker’s desire to light up. While participants of the study indicated on surveys that these labels reduced their desire to smoke, fMRI data indicated the labels caused increased activity in the part of the brain that drives cravings.

Another finding of these brain scanning studies is that the use of celebrities in advertising can be very ineffective. It was found that mirror neurons in the brain allow consumers to subconsciously see themselves interacting with an object when they see someone else interacting with it. But the trick is that the person must be relatable to the consumer viewing the interaction. If a mother sees an advertisement featuring another normal, busy, family-focused mother in a kitchen preparing a meal with the latest cookware, the consumer is able to relate to the advertisement and subconsciously sees herself in the same kitchen with the same cookware preparing a dinner for her own family. But if the normal mom is replaced with a glamorous, super skinny celebrity with flawless complexion… the viewer has a much harder time relating to the individual and the mirror neurons don’t allow the consumer to envision herself using the product. While consumers may report in a survey they would buy a product because they like the celebrity endorsing it, subconsciously they don’t connect with the advertisement in the way that matters.

So what does all this new research tell us about marketing home and building products? The science of neuromarketing and neuroeconomics is still in its infancy. While the tests are groundbreaking and could open up a whole new avenue of market research, the science isn’t perfected yet. In Emory University’s most recent study, researchers attempted to use fMRI scans of teenagers’ brains to predict the next hit pop single. The study was only able to find a correlation with songs that went on to modest sales of 20,000 units or more (comparatively – the music industry designates a “hit” as sales of 500,000).

So it’s not time to throw out your focus group plans just yet. The ability for companies to scan consumers’ brains for the next big product is still a ways away.

But the research that is being discovered about the way we as consumers process advertising should not be ignored. In the future, neuromarketing studies could very well be a viable supplement to traditional market research to better understand the effect things like ad design, sounds, and smells have on the way we respond to product advertising subconsciously.

For now, advertisers should realize that there is more going on in the consumers mind than they realize. Traditional ideas about advertising and product research are being challenged every day. The ultimate answer to why we buy what we do lies deep in our brain waiting to be unlocked.

Pomp and Circumstance: Who is the Class of 2012?

Welcome to the Kleber & Associates blog! Here’s the latest onPomp and Circumstance: Who is the Class of 2012?

A recent Ad Age article discussed the newest generation of employees and outlined a few distinguishing characteristics of the class of 2012. As these graduates prepare to walk across the commencement stage and into the workforce, I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect and elaborate on some of the key points raised by Beth Ann Kaminkow.

The Great Recession has plagued the majority of these graduates’ college careers. As they were entering college, the economy took a nose dive and since then, they have studied and seen firsthand how the recession has affected economies of every scale. Each year students watched the upperclassman ahead of them struggle to find jobs, only to remain unemployed long after graduation.  College career centers have subsequently responded by preparing students for the tough job market. These young adults know that jobs are hard to find, and they’ve been preparing for it. They’ve been refining their knowledge, gaining experience wherever they can, polishing their resumes and interview skills, and starting the job search early. The class of 2012 knows they need to make themselves stand out from the crowd, and many of them will.

They’re also ready for a career… not a job. Future graduates want job security and they’re willing to be loyal if employers give them a reason to be. Employers need to recognize this and give these bright-eyed graduates a reason to stay with their company for many years to come. Remember that many of these young folks idolize Google, with its modern campus, collaborative work environment, and benefits galore, as the best place to work.

While they don’t expect every employer to be just like Google, we can all learn from its model. Employees like benefits, they like flexibility, and most of all, they like to be treated well.

And speaking of Google, we cannot forget that this is the generation who has grown up with technology. Most of these students have had computers in their classrooms since first grade and a computer (or two or three) in the home has always been the norm. They like technology and they’re good at using it. Information has always traveled a little faster for this generation with its prolific use of the internet, smart phones, and portable devices. These young adults like information on demand and consequently have lower patience levels for slow-moving processes and people. Employers should embrace this need for information. They need to encourage young employees to continue to seek new information and bring new ideas to the table. But they also need to address the inevitable tensions between young employees and other generations who are used to a slower-moving, less technology-driven environment. Bringing different generations together in the work place is always a challenge, but is incredibly rewarding when done correctly.

Congratulations to the class of 2012! We look forward to working with you and seeing the amazing things you will accomplish in your careers.

Search Plus Your Brand, part 2

Welcome to the Kleber & Associates blog! Here’s the latest on Search Plus Your Brand, part 2


Yesterday, we dove into Search Plus Your World (catch up here if you missed it).

Here’s how this new social searching platform can have great potential for your brand:

Let’s say John Doe is looking to remodel his bathroom. Because Google is the largest search engine, we’ll assume he uses Google to search out how-to tips and product recommendations. For now, let’s assume that John Doe has a Google account. On his personal search page he sees a few of the people in his circles have +1’d a particular brand of paint and added photos to Google+ of remodeling projects they have completed using certain floor tiles. John Doe also added The Home Depot to his circles and sees posts from them about bathroom remodeling tips including videos they posted to YouTube.

Now let’s assume that John Doe doesn’t have a Google account. He searches for the same keywords and in the right hand side bar he sees several Google+ profiles from prominent remodeling companies and DIY stores. Next to some of the search results he sees a picture of the person or brand who authored the post.

Because people trust people they know and because the human eye is naturally drawn to pictures as opposed to text, the search results that are associated with a Google profile will most likely get more hits than those that are not. If your brand has a Google profile and is using it to its full potential, you could start seeing the benefits of Search Plus Your World very soon.

Search Plus Your Brand

Welcome to the Kleber & Associates blog! Here’s the latest on Search Plus Your Brand

It seems like every few weeks there’s something new from Google to talk about. This week’s hot topic is Search Plus Your World. You’ll recall that when Google Plus was introduced there was a lot of talk about the concept of social searching, the idea that search would be about more than keywords; it would integrate a person’s social network into the search experience to deliver better results. We first saw this take shape in the form of the +1 button on Google and Facebook Likes displaying in Bing. Search Plus Your World is phase two of the social searching phenomenon.

Search Plus, as most are calling it, will deliver personal search results for anyone logged in to their Google account, including photos and information shared by their contacts on Google+. In addition, a list of related people and pages on Google+ will appear in the right side bar even if the searcher is not logged in to their Google account.

Google also has been slowly adding use of the rel=”author” HTML tag. This tag is designed to designate who is the original author of any content on the web and link it to their Google profile, which Google hopes will one day serve as the central location for information about the author/brand. What this means right now is that, if set up properly, when a post you write or a page you authored shows up in a search result, your picture will display next to the result with a link to your Google profile. For well established brands and thought-leaders, this can add instant credibility to the search result and increase the likelihood that someone will click through to your website. This feature is still being phased in and there’s no word yet on when displaying pictures will become standard issue for anyone with rel=”author” added to their page, but it is starting to show up.

Check in tomorrow to learn how this can have great potential for your brand.

The New Facebook Insights

Welcome to the Kleber & Associates blog! Here’s the latest on The New Facebook Insights

By now I’m sure you’ve either asked or been asked one of the following questions: “Why should my business be involved in social media?”… “Is my Facebook page really generating more sales?”… and “What’s the ROI of paying someone to manage my presence on social media?” These are all very important questions, but unfortunately they are often very difficult to answer with concrete numbers, unlike the same questions about more traditional advertising methods. Until now.

Previously, these questions were usually answered with a narrative explaining how social media differs from traditional media and that included the words “fans,” “followers,” “comments,” “likes,” “retweets,” and “engagement.” These words however, never conveyed concrete figures that could be turned into ROI. And, inevitably, a few weeks or months later the same questions were being asked.

These conversations are now changing thanks to the new Facebook Insights. Think of it as website analytics for your Facebook page. The new Facebook Insights offers a barrage of data including how many fans you have, how many friends your fans have (the potential number of people you could reach if fans share your content), how many people are talking about your page, your page’s weekly reach, and how each of these numbers have changed from the previous week. You can also see what content was the most effective by looking at the reach, engagement, talking about, and virality numbers for each of your posts.

Digging deeper, the Likes, Reach, Talking About This, and Check-ins tabs break the data down by demographics so you know if you are reaching the right audience. These pages also let you know how you reached people (organic, viral or paid), daily breakdown of page views and unique views, the most popular tabs on your page, external referrers, and how people are accessing your page. You can break all of this information down into whatever time frame you prefer for accurate comparisons.

Taking all of this into consideration you should be able to present some pretty concrete numbers on whether or not your efforts on Facebook are reaching the right people and whether or not they are responding.

Demonstrating conversion rates with these numbers is still going to require some extra effort (like asking new customers where they heard about your company, offering deals only on Facebook and measuring the response, etc.), but it’s a good start. But you should not only be using these numbers for reporting… use them for improving as well. Take a look at what kind of content you get the best response from and do more of that. You should constantly be honing and refining your online strategy (not just on Facebook) by looking at the numbers (Insights, Analytics, or any other reports you generate).

I would suggest that you open up your Facebook page right now and click on the Insights tab. Take the guided tour and if you’re looking for more information and ways to use the data check out the Facebook Insights Guide for Page Owners.