A recent report published by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the proportion of young adults who are married has declined over time. For example, while 59 percent of young adults ages 18-34 were married in 1978, only 30 percent of young adults are married today. Even after accounting for cohabitation, the trend is very clear: there is a rising acceptance of solo living.
This growing trend creates new markets and new ways in which singles shop. In fact, the purchasing power of American singles is gigantic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2017, single households in the U.S. spent more than $2.5 trillion on all goods and services. One report coming from marketing communications firm JWTIntelligence stated: "In many markets, living solo has become the norm rather than the exception." This has a tremendous impact on marketers that need to adjust to this new trend and be respectful enough not to continue with preferring the family ideal.
Although marketing strategies have traditionally stigmatized singles by trying to capitalize on anxieties, fears, and negative stereotypes, some marketers are shifting trends now, aiming to tap into this market. They start taking advice from special consultants on how to advertise to singles without stigma.
This advice includes instructions on offering convenience, using time-sensitive promotions, and avoiding unnecessary labeling or stereotyping through over-targeting. Pearse McCabe, CEO of marketing firm Dragon Rouge, says that marketers should be mindful not to assume anything: “it’s very much a positive choice, rather than about having trouble finding a husband or wife.”
Some marketing strategies are going even further, with the American Marketing Association recommending that companies market directly to singles on Valentine’s Day to find a niche in couples’ mainstream marketing. While such advice wishes to increase profit plainly, it also evidences an increasing awareness of negative stereotypes. In turn, more confident, unmarried consumers will appear in coveted ads while portraying singles in an empowering light.
Some marketers were quick to lead the trend. For example, singles’ engagement in social lives creates a viable prospect for businesses and products affording opportunities for singles to meet (not to date). Leading the trend, social networking services such as Meetup have added singles groups to their settings. There is also an increasing number of events, clubs, and social activities catering to singles who are not necessarily looking for a relationship.
However, many marketers are still behind. Singles growingly need organized gatherings without the pressure, overtones, or assumptions that automatically equate to a dating event. "We see many examples of brands - from soft drinks to cellphones - who talk to the traditional 18-to-24-year-old single. But the new single, the single parent or the more affluent, later life-stage single is a segment that's still emerging and expanding," Adam Bowen, VP-strategic planning director at DraftFCB Chicago, said in an interview to AdAge. "We'll need to spend more time with this group, gaining a better understanding of their unmet needs."
No doubt, singles are an emerging and increasingly central market that demands businesses to react accordingly by adjusting products, services, and advertising. In the future, singles will likely experience less discrimination, less stereotyping, and more recognition, turning into a powerful consumer bloc.
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