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Singles

Dave Mastrofski, Vice President

Every couple of weeks at C+R Research, we gather our analysts together to discuss new methodologies, case studies, trends, etc.  At a recent meeting, various analysts presented trends from J. Walter Thompson’s annual “The Future 100: 2019, Trends and Change to watch in 2019”. We were intrigued by many of them, in particular, Trend #93: Single Rebranded: With the number of single people of all ages rising globally, outdated stereotypes about singledom are being overhauled. 

Why were we intrigued? Well, we were ahead of this trend by 4 years: back in 2015, C+R and agency partner TPN launched a proprietary consumer research study on single adults, stemming from the revelation that for the first time in US history, the proportion of single adults outnumbered those who were married. That trend was interesting in its own right, but we suspected that this shift represented a serious opportunity to the marketing world, since everywhere we looked we saw marketing that was decidedly married-centric. According to JWT, marketers, and brands are starting to recognize (albeit belatedly) that singles today represent an affluent, empowered, pan-generational opportunity—and one that will not be patronized. 

Given that singles are identified as a trend for 2019, we decided to “dust off” one of our original blogs on this subject from 2015 as many of our myths and truths about singles remain relevant today; we coined this single cohort the New Independents. 

JUST DON'T CALL ME 'SINGLE'

Early in our research, it became very clear that for as many conventional wisdom myths that we might have held for married people, there were at least as many stereotypes out there that marginalize singles. For starters, we heard that just the term "single" itself had some stigma attached to it. Research participants told us that, sure, the term was technically true for households of one; but for many the word “single” seemed to imply a fault or an uncomfortable state before being able to achieve "couplehood." In fact, though, the group of single adults in the study much more often painted a picture of enjoyment of freedom and flexibility in their singlehood that they were in no hurry to trade.

While we felt fine using the term “single” as a technical description, we recognized that the fundamental changes in households of one required an improved term. We named them the New Independents.

As the study progressed, we found we were able to bust many myths that seemed to still be based on the "single minority era" 50 years in the past. For example:

  • MYTH #1: Singles are lonely until the time that they can finally be coupled.
  • TRUTH: More than ever before, New Independents are fully content with their life status and the freedom of choices it brings.
     
  • MYTH #2: Singles have less spending power, and struggle to establish themselves financially.
  • TRUTH: New Independent households, age 30-50, have a higher INCOME PER CAPITA than their coupled counterparts and spend it more independently on categories like leisure and entertainment.
     
  • MYTH #3: Singles are reckless in their spending and purchase impulsively, making them difficult to market to.
  • TRUTH: New Independents are savvy shoppers who have a unique freedom to purchase what they want when they want to vs. when they need to, indicating a need for a different set of purchase "proof points."
     
  • MYTH #4: Singles are effectively reached by one-size-fits-all marketing plans, most of which tend to be built around family-centric narratives.
  • TRUTH: New Independents do indeed notice the lack of marketing toward them and indicate they would respond to brands that are relevant to their lifestyles.

THE OPPORTUNITY AHEAD

So, the vast majority of marketers don't have specific plans in place to leverage single consumers, and there is a huge opportunity awaiting. Of course, the size of that opportunity will have much to do with the goods and services category in question. For example, there's probably a lot of "white space" in financial services (imagine speaking to the set of people whose financial goals are NOT paying for college tuition or a child's wedding!), while there's probably not as much obvious open singles territory in, say, the diaper category.

The study yielded a set of key behavioral and attitudinal personality markers unique to singles that provide a framework to reach them. By leveraging the markers that are most critical to the category, we can characterize category opportunities based on their alignment with the set of key indicators of "singles distinction" derived from the foundational research and prescribe a path for matching brands to their most opportune New Independent consumers.

In 2015, TPN and C+R co-published our first white paper on this topic: Millions of Singles, Billions of Dollars: The Rise of the New Independents, which contains much more detail about the study and the opportunity at stake.
 

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