Elevating or celebrating the commonplace has become a recurring theme in advertising for products from Dixie paper plates to home products from Martha Stewart, who presumably wouldn't be caught dead using disposable dishware.
Ice cream shop Carvel has chimed in with a line of cakes to celebrate small victories, such as getting an "A" on a report card. Steak house Benihana reminds consumers in its new campaign that even a mundane event such as wallpapering a room is cause for a night out.
Toyota Motor Sales USA, of course, has been reminding consumers for more than a year that it is for "everyday people."
CELEBRATE EACH DAY
"Celebrating the everyday and the small, little rewards in life are one of the biggest trends we've been tracking," said Myra Stark, senior VP-director of knowledge management at Saatchi & Saatchi, New York; Saatchi's Torrance, Calif., office created the "Toyota everyday" campaign.
Ms. Stark said the movement intersects three consumer trends -- the 1990s as the "experiential decade," with adventure travel becoming increasingly popular; the "simplicity movement" as consumers attempt to downshift by trading in high-pressure jobs for ones that allow more family time; and the move to embrace "authentic" products and services.
There's also, of course, a practical reason for the everyday emphasis.
"Making the ordinary extraordinary is good because from a business standpoint, you're going to increase consumption," said Paul Kelly, president of Silvermine Consulting.
In the case of the Dixie Everyday brand of paper plates, the positioning came after Fort James discovered consumers were already using its products, well, every day.
WHO USES DISPOSABLE PLATES?
William Schultz, VP at Fort James and its general manager-tabletop, said research found 91% of consumers said they used disposable plates regularly for meals and snacks; 21% told Dixie researchers "not a day goes by without our household using disposable plates."
Still, consumers tended to stock up on paper plates only during summer holidays. So the marketer's new strategy is aimed at allowing Dixie merchandising and displays to appear on a less-seasonal basis.
Why are consumers using more paper plates? One reason is they're eating more takeout meals, according to Mr. Schultz.
Benihana's new strategy isn't so much about celebrating small moments as it is a play for that ever-more-precious commodity, consumers' time.
"Time has become the ultimate luxury," said Gad Romann, president-creative director of Romann Group, New York, agency for the 61-unit Japanese restaurant chain. The company uses three vignettes in a new 30-second TV spot highlighting special moments in people's daily lives, with the new tagline: "There's always a reason to go to Benihana."
"Customers are evaluating a lot of their experiences as to what their return will be. . . . It's not monetary necessarily; it's how is that time going to be used," Mr. Romann said.
$1 BILLION BRAND FOR MARTHA
Investing time to do things right is the philosophy of Martha Stewart, whose line of home accessories, called Martha Stewart Everyday, aims to bring high quality to everyday life at affordable prices.
Ms. Stewart insists the word "everyday" doesn't mean ordinary.
"We think every day should be special, elevated to something better than the average," said Ms. Stewart, who added that her line is, in fact, aspirational.
"We should aspire to great things. Instead of a red geranium, why not plant a fern or a begonia garden?" she said.
Bringing the Martha mystique to the home of the blue-light special has been a raging success. According to Ms. Stewart, sales of Martha Stewart Everyday towels and sheets alone will hit $1 billion this year, excluding the paint lines available at both Kmart Corp. and Sears, Roebuck & Co.
The brand will expand into new categories this year as well, including kitchen appliances, housewares and gardening equipment. While the linens will remain exclusive to Kmart, Zeller's, a 300-store chain in Canada, last week started carrying other Everyday products.
MAKE BRANDS APPROACHABLE
The trick, however, is not diluting the special quality of a brand in making it more approachable -- a fine line the wine industry also is now walking.
"Wine should be integrated into everyday life," said Bob Carroll, VP at Sebastiani Vineyards.
The wine industry has benefited from recent studies that indicate a 4-ounce glass of wine every day is good for health, leading the Wine Marketing Council to hire Bozell Worldwide, Chicago, to test a generic wine marketing campaign tagged "Wine, what are you saving it for?"
The effort is scheduled to be tested in Albany, N.Y., and Austin, Texas, this fall.
"The marketing thrust is to find a way for infrequent wine drinkers to reconsider wine as only appropriate for special occasions and to consider it compatible with everyday life," said John Gillespie, president of the Wine Marketing Council. "In that sense, it's not too far off from Toyota."
"The struggle for most wines," said Courtney Buechert, managing director of Leagas Delaney, San Francisco, agency for Sebastiani's Nathanson Creek brand, is to open wine up to everyday usage while still maintaining its special occasion image. "The question is, how can you have your cake and eat it, too."
For Carvel Ice Cream, the question is how often consumers eat cake. The Northeast regional chain is running a $5 million campaign for its line of Lil' Love cakes aimed at rewarding children for small achievements, and tapping into parental guilt for not spending enough time with their children.
The theme, from Della Femina/Jeary & Partners, New York, is "Surprise someone special tonight."
Parents, said Tom Fuchs, Carvel VP-marketing, "are looking for ways for kids to feel special."
Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo, Louise Kramer.