The cover story for this week’s Boston Globe Magazine says it all: “Single and Loving It”….
What the article’s writer, Keith O’Brien, presents isn’t some shocking new concept for any of you who live in the real world, right…? Still, marketers are having trouble even acknowledging there might be something other than couples and perfect nuclear families out there. So, when we hit the estimated point in 2008 when a majority of households will be headed by an unmarried person (a shift that O’Brien notes has already taken hold in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and 15 other states), the majority of brands might be living in a timewarp.
Remember how the 50s housewife used to be the icon of womanhood? There was some serious lag time before brands figured out the vast majority of women no longer looked, acted or thought like Harriet Nelson (if they ever did).
Now, we may be facing a similar tortoise-slow reaction to western world trends in the women’s market: solo-hood.
The stats (including both men and women), as noted in O’Briens piece: In 1970, only 7.8 percent of Americans, aged 30 to 34 had never married. By 2003, the number of never-marrieds aged 30 to 34 had exploded to 27.9 percent.
“An absolute zeitgeist” is how Tom Collinger, a marketing professor at Northwestern University described today’s singles in the Globe piece. I needed to check the definition of “zeitgeist” to get the full effect of that statement : “the general intellectual, moral and cultural climate of an era.” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition)
Now, Mr. Collinger may be just a marketing professor in one of the nation’s top advertising education programs, but using a word like that makes you stand up and notice, doesn’t it? I know I’m paying attention — and perhaps you should be too.
The well-regarded pollster authors of the recently published book, What Women Really Want(Free Press, 2005) call “singular sensations” the NUMBER ONE TREND for women in the coming years. Solo women of today are absolutely not the left-behind spinsters of yesterday.
In fact, their survey revealed a big shift in the emotion behind singularity, from anxiety or woe-is-me to personal choice:
“When asked an open-ended question about the reasons they thought women were single, not one respondent said, “Because they haven’t been asked,” or “Nobody has proposed.” Rather a plurality volunteered the primary reason as “Haven’t found the right person” followed by “Personal choice/never wanted to be married.”
You better believe this group of 22 million unmarried women (never married, divorced and widowed) is having a significant affect on our culture. Solo women are more likely to be thriving than complaining.
Has your brand changed its tone and learned how to deliver in that spirit?