Do It Yourself

If we are indeed headed for a recession, which industries or segments are going to be the most resilient? What new or unusual market research opportunities might arise? One trend that will almost certainly continue and deepen is the do-it-yourself (“DIY”) aesthetic. The recent housing bubble brought DIY to the fore for homeowners (and earned companies like Home Depot and Ace Hardware a lot of money). Moreover, the DIY trend has itself become, well, trendy, with events like Make Faire, the renewed interest in gourmet cooking at home and online mashups. Many small businesses have already made a partial leap into DIY with SaaS allowing users to “roll their own” phone and CRM systems and PayPal enabling small scale transactions. Some small businesses are even doing their own market research!

Although the DIY trend seems to be part of our changing zeitgeist, consumers eager to save money and squeeze more from what they already have are likely to drive the change. I doubt we’ll see the level of ingenuity on display at blogs like the excellent Afrigadget, but some of these extreme DIY examples point to some interesting possibilities for businesses. For example:

  • Are consumers buying more or less of your product based on its modifiability or durability? (e.g., Honda Civic “tuners”)
  • Are consumers re-purposing your products for other, unanticipated uses? (e.g. using the game controller from the Wii to construct an interactive whiteboard)
  • Does it matter whether or not you have a reputation as a “hack” friendly company (e.g., the Roomba)

So, how do you measure and qualify whether and how consumers are reusing, re-purposing or otherwise relating to your brand in a DIY context? You might address this question with traditional MR methods like surveys and focus groups, but perhaps those approaches yield more actionable data after you’ve identified what consumers are actually doing. Maybe a more interesting approach would be to gather together several companies who have an interest in the topic and initiate a sort of neo-syndicated ethnography project to collect data on what consumers are actually doing when they re-purpose or reuse products in novel ways. After a bit of more traditional MR, business could fine-tune their messaging – perhaps not too overtly – to emphasize how their brand is DIY friendly.

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