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Single and Loving It: A New Perspective on Marketing to Solo Women

by Andrea Learned  |  
June 6, 2006

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?

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Andrea Learned is a noted author, blogger, and expert on gender-based consumer behavior. Her current focus is on sustainability from both the consumer and the organizational perspectives. Andrea contributes to the Huffington Post and provides sustainability-focused commentary for Vermont Public Radio.

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  • by Yvonne DiVita Tue Jun 6, 2006 via blog

    It sure feels good to be acknowledged. I've said this for awhile - as the mother of two young girls over 25 (one recently married, another on her way)I taught them to take that walk down the aisle IF and WHEN they wanted to, and not let society judge them for not making the step, if that's what they chose. These are dynamic and intelligent young women who are taking their mother's advice to heart. Finally, we boomers can say, "I did something right. I taught my daughters that marriage for marriage's sake is just a bad idea." As you know, Andrea, stats show that more young women are graduating from college and going on for graduate degrees than men. More young women are moving into traditionally male dominated fields of work and study... and, if you read my blog this Thursday, over at Lip-sticking, you'll learn something else that's new about this group of powerful consumers. Think: zoom-zoom.

  • by Monica Powers Wed Jun 7, 2006 via blog

    I think single womanhood is one of the last remaining taboos in our society. There is still a certain stigma to it, or perhaps lack of understanding that makes this an uncomfortable conversation topic. Women who are single by either choice or circumstance are leading rich, full lives and are fully in control of their finances, careers and futures in ways our parents' generation could not have anticipated. Marketers need to catch up and starting viewing solo women as a viable and powerful segment.

  • by Christine Pilch Wed Jun 7, 2006 via blog

    Very interesting post, Andrea. I read the Globe article too with great interest, being a single 41-year-old female marketer in MA. This is a topic obviously close to my heart, and I always consider the singles market with respect to clients' needs. But what it comes down to over and over when I do my clients' positioning work, is that the majority of my clients' business comes from one or both members of a couple. I haven't yet had a client who would have benefited from gearing their advertising to appeal specifically to singles. Perhaps one day I will, as I agree that singles are a distinct market force.

  • by Andrea Learned Wed Jun 7, 2006 via blog

    There isn't one business that should move all its marketing budget away from couples or moms and over to solo women - so that's a great point, Christine. However, as more and more brands are realizing just how much they can benefit from running a variety of campaigns to appeal to the gamut of customer profiles - it is worth considering the solo perspective. It does depend on the industry/category - but unmarried women (who can be never marrieds, divorced or widowed.. so, include all generations) will be pleasantly surprised (if not blown away) by brands that learn a bit more about them - in order to tend to their needs more effectively. Adventure travel companies, for one - have figured it out.

  • by Heidi Schmidt Wed Jun 7, 2006 via blog

    I could not agree more - it felt GREAT to be acknowledged by the Globe article. It started with Ally McBeal and exploded with Sex & the City: showing single women in their 30s with careers and full lives that were not married. I began to feel part of a club instead of an unmarried outcast. Companies started marketing to us once they realized that career women without families had disposable income to spend. In fact, I have recently launched an apparel company devoted to single women! Swish designs hip, fun stylish tee shirts for single women in their 20s, 30s and beyond. We wanted to help support single women and make them feel GOOD about being independent and on their own. As our slogan says, 'Single Is Fabulous!'

  • by barney Sun Jun 10, 2007 via blog

    Many traditional societies still believe that marriage should be the ultimate objective to achieve for a woman.I have heard men in the family making choices like "I will marry someone who is worth my losing my single independent status for"...."I will marry the right person"....however, we do not realize that women today are now following their career interests similar to men..infact, in traditional societies women are still expected to do housework, have babies, be the perfect wives to their husbands....why are we not giving women the same freedom like men to marry when they want and who they want? With successful careers, why are women not given the same space as men to make their decisions...? These are important questions to consider....and I do feel that just education in an institute is not the answer...but education of the mind is required which will come through self introspection and reflection over time...

  • by Grace Wed Aug 13, 2008 via blog

    I don't really have much to say much but just to send you to this website that has turn my entire life around. I recommended you watch the video so that you know what it has to offer before doing is

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