Hello, Home Executive Officers!

Khan dives into capturing the new target audience- the home executive officers (HEO)

‘Housewife’ as the target audience, was once a regular on marketing documents. Then the phrase became passe, was less in use. Inadvertently, if it was used, it got hastily amended! “Housewife, sorry, I meant homemaker”. The phrase “homemaker” cues being in step with the times. More importantly, it captures the true role, flair and contribution of the ‘lady of the house’. 

Does ‘home maker’ still fit, though? Recent data suggests ‘home making’ itself, has evolved significantly. What is ‘at stake’, in homemaking, operationally, financially, emotionally, physically has expanded at multiple levels? This evolution has only been accelerated by events, in recent times. 

As we synthesized several hours of first-hand interactions, mindsets, choices, data, the tone, we sensed a shift. Cueing a new language, authority and range of responsibility. Demanding that it be acknowledged with a new ‘title’, potentially. 

A professional mindset holds sway in “running the home”. For a decade, and continuing, interactions with homemakers have been revelatory – they believe, proudly, they “run their home” . And do so with a “working woman mindset even if they are not working women themselves”. Having goals, results, plans, milestones. The home has been re-shaped from a place of ‘hard work’ to ‘smart work’. Home chores are organised, scheduled, addressed in phases, with “earned” breaks. 

Smarter, savvier ‘ways of working’: ‘Working smart’ is deploying better planning (pre-soaking items in advance, weekly menus, fixed schedules); sensible aids (pre mixes, ready to cook ingredients), technology (depending on budget & lifestyle - mixers, refrigerators, microwaves, online recipes, informal group updates, being plugged into latest authentic information, “being able to find out about anything”). 

The desire for control, customisation, style overtoil, mess, the effort: The “sacrificial, self-denying hard work” ideal had shifted, ever so slightly, in an age of modern aspiration. Driven by awareness, even if not affordability. Homemakers, no longer, associate themselves with over romanticized stereotypes, for instance, ‘always cooking and cleaning’. Their aspirations, even if distant from their lived experience, propel a more expansive self-image. A new wished for reality, they strive to achieve, in degrees, gets projected in desire for some more control (neatness, order, method, pastel colours), lots more customisation (suited to lifestyle, budget, inclusive, modular) and definitely elements of style (‘atmosphere’ plus functionality, evolving tastefulness, flaunt value). 

Key shifts in how time is spent in the home. Most women believe that technology has empowered them immensely. Over the past few years, women want more male participation in household chores. Women who cook at home, all by themselves, is reducing, too. And working women are increasing. 

More connected, decisive, open minded engagement. Being candid and unapologetic (even on hard questions) is becoming more frequent. Including being frank about their limitations, changing the equation with their spouse, ‘keeping an eye on’ whilst ‘staying relevant to’ their children, ‘handling’ new-age family and in-law relations, confessing to ‘leading from behind’, relying on ‘empathy tribes’ and more. All this contributes to the ‘lady of the house’ being more connected, decisive and open-minded. 

The shift from coping to creating to custodianship 

What do these accelerating developments suggest to designate the ‘lady of the house’, as? 

Like we say, for a new “client” or a recently promoted one - get the designation right! What next after ‘housewife’ and ‘home maker’, potentially? 

Painting with a broad brush, there is an evolution to summarize. The housewife designation cued the ‘lady of the house’ coped. Managed her affairs, quietly, avoiding or minimizing blame. The homemaker designation cued she made her presence felt, more imaginatively, carving a niche of ‘creativity’ in addition to ‘getting chores done. 

Now, there appears to be a woman who has custodianship of the household. Strategic, sustainable and operational “custodianship” in addition to coping and creating responsibilities. She is, by degrees, leading, delegating, outsourcing, shaping, co-opting, in an inclusive, collaborative way. This includes the evolving roles, ‘rules’ and contributions of family members, including her own. She realises, in degree, she does not have to do everything, for the home, all by herself. She adopts a professional mindset, savvier, more efficient ‘ways of working, ‘leans into’ control, customisation and style, is part of the change in how time is spent at home by the family, makes her voice heard. Sees herself, progressively, empathetically, warmly as an anticipator, planner, change driver, knower, persuader, influencer, decider, team builder, delegator, “owner”, custodian. There is a home executive officer, HEO, in town. 

Target audience, not just housewife, no longer only homemaker, actually, almost akin to home executive officer. Hello HEO.

The author is Shaziya Khan, National Planning Director, Wunderman Thompson India

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