Some marketers are taking notice: More ads are featuring singles
and some companies are reaching out to them, such as Coldwell
Banker and Norwegian Cruise Lines. But for the most part marketers
are only slowly adjusting to the new normal. And in some instances
it doesn't make sense to exclusively target singles, according to
interviews with multiple ad agency executives.
"We see many examples of brands -- from soft drinks to
cellphones -- who talk to the traditional 18-to-24 year-old single.
But the new single, the single parent or the more affluent, later
life-stage single is a segment that's still emerging and
expanding," Adam Bowen, VP-strategic planning director at DraftFCB Chicago, said in an email
interview. "We'll need to spend more time with this group, gaining
a better understanding of their unmet needs."
It's a coveted group, for sure. Freed from the restraints of
family life, singles have a reputation for splurging.
"They have more money to spend on themselves and they're more
willing to indulge on things that might seem frivolous or [a]
non-necessity," said Ann Mack, director of trend spotting at
In 2009, singles of all ages spent a higher share of income on
alcoholic beverages, clothing, shoes and tobacco products compared
with other households, but less on housekeeping supplies and
insurance, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor
Still, several ad agencies contacted by Ad Age said they do not
have a dedicated unit studying the single market. One reason is
that some goods are marketed the same no matter the consumer's
Beauty products, for example, are "purposely nebulous about
marital status," said Denise Fedewa, an exec VP-strategy director
at Leo Burnett. That's
because married or not, when a woman is dressing up to go out, "I
think she always goes back to that vision of herself as that
25-year-old single woman," she said.
But some companies are aggressively targeting singles. Coldwell
Banker Real Estate, for instance, touts its YouTube real-estate
channel as a way to reach singles ages 25 to 34. And video will be
prominently featured in an iPad application the company is
"Video is a stronger, better way to communicate with this age
group," Coldwell Banker Chief Marketing Officer Michael Fischer
said in an interview. "You can't ignore the single buyer because
they make up such a big portion of our target market."
Single women accounted for 21% of all homebuyers in 2009, and
single men made up an additional 10%, according to the National
Association of Realtors.
In the travel industry, Norwegian Cruise Line is reaching out to
solo travelers by offering single-occupancy rooms on its new Epic
ship. "In the past, single cruisers have had to pay a double
occupancy for traveling alone, but these new accommodations ensure
affordable and an alternative way of traveling for singles,"
spokeswoman Kristine McGlinchey said in an email.
In the restaurant industry, communal tables are hot -- making it
easier for singles to mingle -- and more eateries are offering
breakfast and staying open all afternoon as a way to cater to
singles on the go, said Clark Wolf, a New York-based restaurant and
hospitality consultant. Also, singles are behind the surge in
trendy food-trucks that "allow for a lot of standing around in
line, which is where people like to meet and talk," he said.
Dating sites such as Match.com that have long targeted singles
are seeing an uptick in business. Match reported an 8% bump in
subscribers for the second quarter, excluding irregular
transactions, according to parent company IAC. And slowly but
surely, more ads are featuring singles to keep up with the trend,
said Adrian Fogel, VP-planning director at Leo Burnett. "We always
put families on because families made you feel better. But the
reality is more people are living alone for whatever reason," she
Ms. Fogel pointed to McDonald's ads, which she said had reliably
featured families enjoying a Happy Meal or sharing fries but now
include more singles, such as recent spots featuring solo diners
enjoying Quarter Pounders with cheese. McDonald's "is about family,
but they've found the balance of understanding that there's a
single population within their adults that they are targeting," Ms.
Ms. Fogel said ads that work for singles are "not about making
them being single a negative. I think it's about trying to connect
them with what they do or love." She cited a recent Bud Light ad
that features a group of men and women browsing a garage sale.
One caution: Singles expert Bella DePaulo said too many
marketers engage in "matrimania," assuming that all that singles
want to do is find a mate.
Conventional wisdom is "all singles want more than anything is
to be coupled, so that's what we should sell them is a ticket to
coupling," said the psychology professor at University of
California Santa Barbara and author of "Singled Out: How Singles
Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized and Ignored and Still Live Happily
Ever After." But the reality is singles are "leading full,
meaningful, happy lives, and they don't need to be patronized or