Sunday, September 29, 2013

Selling to the "Singletons"

People who live by themselves today are not alone. That's because 32 million Americans live on their own, including about half of all adults in New York City and Washington D.C. So we should find out what's wrong and push them to get married? Not if you want to make money. As Eric Klinenberg, a professor of sociology at NYU pointed out, these single people (whom he dubs "singletons") are spending more than those who are married. The average singleton spent $34,471 per capita in 2010, according to the federal Consumer Expenditure survey. Married people without children spent $28,017 and the highest-spending married people with children spent $23,179 per person. Klinenberg, who wrote the book Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, wrote in Fortune last year that businesses are already targeting this growing demographic:
Home-improvement giant Lowe's (LOW) released a TV advertisement featuring a lone woman who is renovating her bathroom. Iconic car-brand Chevrolet ran an ad in which a single woman responds to a bad date by going for a drive in a Malibu with a female friend. Even DeBeers, which long pitched its diamonds as the embodiment of a couple's romantic bond, has sold a "right-hand ring" for unmarried women who want to treat themselves to elegant jewelry. Singletons are a rising presence -- and American business has only begun to respond.
So how should this affect our communication strategies? Here are a few ideas:

Target market: You often hear candidates running for office talk about middle-class families struggling to survive. But that excludes millions of people living on their own. Forget families or singletons: just call "them" people, residents, or men and women.

Logistics: Some people don't like communal tables at restaurants, but I do. If the goal is merely cosmetic -- i.e. to avoid the embarrassment of sitting alone -- then make sure you have a plethora of electrical outlets for mobile devices. If you want a more social atmosphere, then people at the table need to order together and share dishes. Not easy, but it works at places with great food in the south, like Buckner's Family Restaurant.

Message: Focus on the universal benefits of your product or service. Eat Life cereal because it's healthy and tastes good (not because Mikey likes it). Use this Ocean Breeze soap because it makes you clean. (Great thinking from Kermit the Frog). Even diapers today could be changed by a single man as easily as a married woman. So don't pigeonhole yourself. Use people, instead of family members, to communicate your message.

Do you have any ideas about how to reach, or not exclude, the growing market of people who live alone? Please share them below.

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