The Meanings of Home

“A phenomenological study describes the meaning of the lived experiences for several individuals about a concept… From the individual descriptions, general or universal meanings are derived, in other words, the essences of structures of the experiences.” (Creswell, 1998, pp. 51-54)

As human beings we spend a lot of time and energy measuring our experiences in the world. But sometimes, it’s important for us to step back from measuring and take the time to explore our world more descriptively.

There are practical benefits for doing this. Where numbers can help us measure and divide our world, words can help us describe its meaning. For example, 85% of people may agree that they ‘enjoy the feeling of being at home,’ but that doesn’t mean much if you haven’t taken the time to understand what the ‘feeling of home’ means in the first place.

One of the worst mistakes that we, as marketers, can make is to assume that we understand the meaning of something. By taking the time to not only measure experiences, but properly understand their meaning, we have a much better opportunity to understand people and effectively create brands.

To help illustrate this point, below are a few quotes from a recent qualitative study we conducted, exploring the 'meanings of home.'

Home as defined by possession:
“Home is about ownership. Having your own possessions, your own TV, your own furniture and pictures. I looked the whole place over… Having planned it all and watched the construction, I felt like I owned it.” - Respondent (2010)

Home as defined by physical sensation:
“The smells of cooking, the smell of carpet and furniture. You don’t analyze this you just feel it… I feel at home in my room now but I didn’t originally, it took a while to get that feeling.” - Respondent (2010)

Home as defined by interaction:
“It’s the warmth in the people, in the family. It’s the warm feeling you get when the family is together. The feeling you get when you guys haven’t seen each other in a while. That’s what makes it home.” - Respondent (2010)

It could be tempting to assume that the ‘meaning of home’ would be a homogenous concept, but as the quotes above illustrate that's certainly not the case. Like so many of our everyday experiences, what defines home from person-to-person can vary greatly; hence the need for proper qualitative research and analysis.

So what can you take away from this post?
- Everyday experiences mean different things to different people.
- It’s important for marketers to properly explore the ‘meaning of experiences.’
- Better understanding of meaning leads to more effective marketing.