New independents: The new majority
Over the past few years an important shift has taken place in the demographics of the United States. Married people have become a minority. This change has obvious and important cultural ramifications and this year’s SXSW Interactive conference featured a session dealing with the marketing opportunities that have emerged in its wake.
The session featured Anne Marie Stephen, the founder and CEO of Kwolia, and Manolo Almagro, the managing director of TPN. The central idea of their presentation was that approaches to marketing need to adapt more rapidly to fully capitalize on the transformation and better serve those who make up the new American majority.
A brief discussion of media representations of singleness opened the discussion. Stephen and Almagro discussed the framing of single individuals as sad and lonely and suggested that this mindset serves as a sort of implicit justification for the continued insistence on marketing as though multi-member households remain the ideal. The duo wasted no time in advocating for a change in the way single people are discussed, and even offered up the term “new independents” as a better way to those who remain unmarried.
Almagro highlighted that 25% of millennials anticipate never getting married and a cultural shift that takes this fact into consideration opens the doors for new services and marketing strategies. It was discussion of this potential that comprised the meat of the presentation.
Spending habits were an important topic of discussion. New independents spend their money differently and learning about their tendencies opens all sorts of opportunities for new services. Stephen, an unmarried woman herself, highlighted the distinct relationship that new independents have to food: they cook less. This is especially true for new independents as they age and become more economically secure. Stephen has experienced this herself as her lifestyle has taken shape.
“I think I forgot how to cook,” she said.
On this topic, Stephen and Almagro pointed to the emergence of Eenmaal, a restaurant uniquely designed for a solo dining experience. Their emergence is timely given that the number of dinner reservations for one have grown sizably in recent years. Eenmaal represents creative marketing that responds to changing demographics by creating an environment where being alone is not made to seem like an anomaly.
The unique relationship between new independents and money, however, extends beyond food. Almagro discussed their tendency to make big purchases to commemorate personal milestones like job promotions. They are able to do so, he said, because their money is not shared; they can spend it without taking anyone else into consideration.
“They are free agents,” he said. “There is no decision tree.”
Another key feature of new independents is that the value sociality. They key, Stephen said, is that “social” does need to always translate to “romantic.”
“Being single is not about dating apps all the time,” she said before discussing Wiith, a social app designed to bring people together to do nothing more than hang out.
Being a new independent comes with its own set of challenges. Getting all the housework done, for instance, is especially difficult. In a household of one, the burden always falls on the same person. The speakers pointed to Hello Alfred as an app that represents entrepreneurs on the cutting edge of finding ways to provide new independents with, as they put it, more hands.