Column One:
Eye on Unmarried America

June 18,  2007  



Marketers notice influence of single consumers

By Thomas F. Coleman

The single consumer is getting more attention this year than ever before.  Marketers and economists are finally noticing the impact that unmarried consumers are having on the American and global economies.

"The Singles' Economy" was on the agenda of this year's World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland.  "The people who now dominate and shape the rich world's urban centres are well-educated, single professionals in their twenties and thirties," a summary of the panel stated.

Panelists included commentator Arianna Huffington, Brad Anderson (CEO of Best Buy), Prof. Esther Duflo (MIT), Kim Mi-Hyung (Kumho Asiana Group, S. Korea), Katherine Marshall (World Bank), psychologist Dagmar O'Connor, and moderator Peter Sullivan (Editor-in-Chief, Independent Newspapers, South Africa).  The panel focused on whether businesses are successfully tapping into this emerging demographic.

Even in such unlikely places such as South Korea, single consumers are being noticed by the media.  According to a news report this month by KBS World, "Unmarried people in their 30s are leading the consumer market these days, replacing married couples in their 40s and 50s."

A recent Korean survey found that single people spent more than all other age brackets, regardless of sex.

Single women in their 30s spent about 50 percent more than what the average woman spends on cosmetics. The situation is the same with men. Single men in their 30s spent an average of 20 percent more per month on clothing than married men in the same age bracket.

"These figures explain why marketers are mainly targeting 30-somethings who are not married these days," the KBS World news report concluded.

Meanwhile, single consumers were the focus of attention of a new report published in the United States last month. The report -- "Singles in the U.S.: The New Nuclear Family" -- was compiled by Packaged Facts, a division of

The publication examines the attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyles of today’s single consumers, including never-married, divorced, widowed, and separated adults -- a demographic segment which now accounts for a majority of American households.

Several trends converge to make singles the new majority of American households.  People are marrying later (or not at all), divorce rates remain high, and increasing numbers of adults are cohabiting rather than marrying. 

The information in this report is based on interviews with industry participants and an analysis of articles appearing in general, marketing, and trade publications, government agencies data, and product advertising. The report also draws on a study of how singles are portrayed in advertising.

A press release from Packaged Facts explains how the report "profiles unmarried adults using demographics such as gender, race, age and geographic distribution, which open a window into singles' behavior and opinions, including home-buying tendencies, financial attitudes, income levels, and preferences in shopping, technology, and entertainment."

"It also includes insights from an exclusive study on how singles are portrayed in advertising," the press release adds.

"People are single, because they increasingly choose to be. The days of the pathetic single sitting all alone at home moping over his or her lonely existence are over," said Tatjana Meerman, Managing Editor of Packaged Facts. "Secure in their independence, singles don't want to be marketed to as seeking the old-fashioned ideal of the family."

According to the report's author, Lisa Flynn, the report will help:

  • Marketing Managers identify market opportunities and develop targeted promotion plans for single consumers.
  • Research and development professionals stay on top of competitor initiatives and explore demand for products targeting singles.
  • Advertising agencies to develop targeted messages and images to singles.
  • Business development executives understand the dynamics of the market and identify possible partnerships.
  • Information and research center librarians provide market researchers, brand and product managers and other colleagues with the vital information they need to do their jobs more effectively.
But the advice doesn't come cheap.  A copy of the report can be purchased from Packaged Facts for $3,500.

Considering that the federal government estimates that single consumers contribute $1.6 trillion annually to the American economy, and considering that reliable marketing information about single consumers is scarce, I suppose the price tag on the report may be cost effective to businesses who want to cash in on the singles' market.


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© Unmarried America 2007

Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.  Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried America. E-mail: Unmarried America is a nonprofit information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and voters.