Monday, March 22, 2010

Marketers must react as U.S. households morph

The size and complexion of American households are changing at a pace never before experienced. Marketers must recognize this — and react accordingly.
Three huge trends stand out: the age of who heads the household, the number of moms who are bringing home the paycheck, and minorities as the majority.

• Through 2009, fertility rates have fallen 44 percent since the baby boom's peak after World War II. Demographers predict the rate will fall an additional 12 percent over the next several decades.

The result: Someone older than 65 will head more than one-third of U.S. households by 2037.

• According to a Census Bureau report in January, the number of working moms who are the sole breadwinners in their households reached an all-time high. For the third year in a row, the number of moms as the only working spouse grew.

Of couples with children younger than 18 at home, almost 1 million moms were the only parent in the work force. The percentage of households with the dad as the sole breadwinner dropped to 28.2 percent, the lowest since 2001.

The prolonged current recession is causing cultural, as well as economic, changes.

"The economic crisis is heavily affecting families, and what the latest data show is that gender roles are flexible and are going in the direction of egalitarian roles," said Pamela Smock, a University of Michigan sociology professor.

• By 2025, the majority of families with children in the U.S. will be multicultural, Hispanic, black, Asian or other minority.

These three trends will ensure that marketers change the way they approach the American family. Consumer marketing will be more multicultural, consumption patterns — especially for consumer packed goods — will change dramatically, and growth will be difficult in the coming decade.

Households more connected

Amid these huge changes, today's households are more connected than ever. A recent Nielsen 2010 Media Industry Fact Sheet detailed American media use and delivered these points for marketers to process:

• 114.9 million homes have at least one television, and almost 30 percent have four or more.

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