With 28% of Americans Now Single Consumers, How Brands Can Change
Marketers know the horror stories of inappropriately targeting single consumers and are more careful about how they do it now that 28% of Americans fit in that demographic vs. 1960, when 13% of the country could be treated more like an afterthought.
In one of the epic fails from marketers trying to reach this demographic, Gerber — known for baby food — created “Singles by Gerber.” The meals in jars available in stores in 1974 were, as CBS puts it, not received well by the college students and young adults Gerber targeted. “Dorm life not being the most conducive to infantalizing food consumption, the products died.”
But marketers appear to not only be paying more attention to the sentiments of single Americans now, but they’ve been collecting and analyzing data that gives them a better idea about how to market products and services right.
For instance, in the article Ellen Byron writes on June 2 for the Wall Street Journal, another brand is doing much the same as Gerber did — putting a meal in a container — but the packaging, messaging, and targeting doesn’t infantilize adults.
Consumer-products companies are taking note, catering to what they see as a lucrative market for single-person households by upending generations of family-focused product development and marketing. Appliance makers are shrinking refrigerators and ovens. Food companies are producing more single-serving options. Household-product makers are revamping packaging.
“We have to go beyond the paradigm of the middle-class family of four for growth, so smaller households have been a huge focus for us,” says Jen Bentz, senior vice president of research and development for Tyson Foods Inc. Among Tyson’s offerings for the demographic are Jimmy Dean Simple Scrambles, microwavable eggs in a cup that let singles skip buying an entire carton of eggs.
Looking beyond the family of four, she says, “is a really big shift.”
Marketers Aren’t Assuming — They're Asking and Looking at the Data
In the old way of thinking, single people had more spare time than larger households. Byron notes that Betty Crocker found out people had less time to bake. Hence, the brand now sells “Mug Treats” — the single-serving, “add water and nuke” version of baking.
Byron notes that the brands are now charging more for the single-serving versions of food, like bags of romaine lettuce, than they are for the full heads of lettuce and entire cake mixes — and single Americans are willing to pay it.
But the price differences may not all be about packaging.
One reason people living alone often pay more for household products they like is that they needn’t justify the expense to a partner, [Patty] McGrath says. “They’re very interested in brands that promise social benefits, and that in and of itself tends to be a price premium.”
Subgroups Within the Demographic
While Gerber assumed single Americans were young, Byron reports that they’re now generally Millennials and Baby Boomers.
Both groups may have surprisingly similar needs, but for different reasons — which will necessitate different marketing messages. For instance, the “Charmin Forever Roll” that’s a 12-inch diameter toilet paper roll — which is being sold online, as a test — appeals to both groups.
“[The] toilet-paper roll appeals to both segments, P&G found. Young people appreciate the convenience of not having to change the roll so often, and aging consumers find a bigger roll easier to handle, the company says.”
Even Bigger Households Are Smaller
Households have fewer children, and many homes aren’t listed as families anymore. So the singles targeting may continue to work here, too.
“Tyson Foods estimates that households with one to two people make up 59% of total U.S. buying households and about 51% of total U.S. retail food and beverage sales. Tyson expects households with one person to be among the fastest-growing U.S. consumer segments over the next 15 years, says Tyson’s Ms. Bentz.”
What do you think, marketers?
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