MarketFocus: Do-It-Yourselfers

These days, more and more families are finding their homes sweeter than ever before. Low interest rates, low mortgage rates, and the availability of home equity loans are enticing many homeowners to make an even bigger investment in their own homes by tackling various home improvement projects...all by themselves.

Affectionately referred to as "Do-It-Yourselfers" in many advertising circles, DIYers are known for their insatiable appetite for knowledge, ideas, and discounts, making them a desirable target for advertisers. Whether a homeowner is putting up new drapes, or adding an additional bathroom, they are emotionally ready to spend money and are always open to new ideas.

The stats regarding the DIY marketplace are impressive. A 2001 report by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies concluded that nearly 26 million homeowners make some sort of home improvement each and every year. Another study by Simmons shows that DIYers are split evenly between men and women, with most falling into the 35 to 44 age category. Nearly 40 percent earn an annual income of more than $75K, with the overwhelming majority of DIYers being white and living in the southern region of the country.

It has been said that home is where the heart is, and for advertisers, it is most certainly where the money is. The 2003 American Express Home Improvement Index surveyed heads of households across the nation who were planning to make home improvements during this year. Survey statistics show that on average, home improvement budgets will rise to nearly $4,000 this year, up nearly 31 percent from the year 2000. Whereas home improvements can range anywhere from a $5,000 deck addition to a two-story addition with a $67,000 price tag, US Census statistics show that the type of home improvement that accounted for the most spending were indeed room additions.

"Cocooning" homeowners have literally shut the door on the idea that they need to hire someone to come into their own house to make needed improvements, especially since the price of labor can often end up taking up nearly 50 percent of the overall project price. "During the first half of 2003, we have seen a real shift in the number of people doing home improvement projects on their own as compared to hiring a pro," says Richard Johnston, senior research analyst at the Home Improvement Research Institute.

This is welcome news to the massive home improvement stores such as Home Depot, Lowe's, and Menards, who have enticed the DIY target with their one-stop shopping advantage. "Advertising to the DIY market is nothing new for us," says John Ross, vice president of advertising for Home Depot. "The (Home Depot) brand has always focused on the education of our consumers, empowering them to take control of all their home improvement needs." Consolidation in this industry has, however, meant the downfall of a number of regional home centers and "Mom and Pop" hardware stores, all of which were known for their rather large local advertising budgets.

Once a home improvement project is chosen to be tackled, many rarely skimp on the needed supplies. Yet, DIYers can comparison shop with the best of them. In fact, the American Express survey cited that nearly 77 percent of respondents said that deep discounts on an item would almost always persuade them to buy.

A steady increase in Internet usage has been attributed to more and more consumers going online for home improvement advice and expertise. Internet sites such as and have attracted millions of customers. Advertisers have also enhanced their Internet offerings for the average do-it-yourselfer. For example, homeowners looking to change the lighting in their kitchen can visit General Electric's Lighting Virtual House, which allows consumers to identify ways to incorporate better light into their own homes.

As more and more women become both heads of households and homeowners, the female DIYer is a growing segment of the overall market. Many home improvement manufacturers have shifted much of their advertising to women, with ads and marketing material catering specifically to them.

Female DIYers have also been targeted in both print and broadcast. General interest magazines ranging from Real Simple to Oprah routinely have simple home improvement projects highlighted within their pages. Top-rated cable home improvement programs such as TLC's Trading Spaces and HGTV's Landscaper's Challenge have also pulled in the female DIYer, depicting magical home transformations with an entertainment twist.

"We are far from your typical home improvement show," said Kathy Davidov, executive producer of TLC's Trading Spaces. "At the beginning though, we obviously tapped into the appeal of the DIY market by taking something hugely popular and putting a twist on it."

Tricia Despres is a freelance writer, who has worked at Starcom Mediavest and Discovery Communications.

BehaviorGraphics' House and Home Category
The 2003 BehaviorGraphics Quick Profile by Simmons Market Research, on the House and Home category quickly gives one an inside look into this profitable segment of the population. Heavy readers of magazines, these people are also extremely centered on the well-being of their own family.

Hardcore print publications such as Workbench and the Family Handyman stand side by side in terms of popularity, with more casual print offerings such as Country Home and House Beautiful. Cable networks such as HGTV, The Food Network, and TLC are considered favorites, especially considering the number of DIY-type programs running regularly on each network.

Advertisers in the financial (63 percent above the national average) and pharmaceutical categories are cited as the best bets to advertise to this category of people. The study also shows that DIYers spend an average of 7.9 hours a week on the Internet.

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