Home / Elections 2019 / Opinion /  Opinion | Are marketers addressing the urban Singles?

Shaziya Khan, national planning director, Wunderman Thompson India, a leading advertising agency, has an interesting take on the growing trend among people to stay single. Earlier, singledom signalled dependence, even deprivation and passive choice, she says. Marriage Fomo (fear of missing out) dominated family discussions. However, now the marriage story has shifted. “Singledom often arises from abundant or certainly active choice and meaningful independence. And the joy of missing out (JOMO) marriage is being exercised wilfully," she adds.

Khan’s comments are relevant in the light of a new report, The Future 100, put together by Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, a specialist unit offering research, innovation and data analytics across its global network. The annual report gives insights into trends that are in store for 2020. One among those is about how single people like to be addressed. Titled Singles Lexicon, it says that singles now prefer to be called self-partnered, “consciously uncoupled" or sologamists. “The tone of deprivation, worry, even despair around singles is becoming a thing of the past. There is a new-found, even well-earned independence supporting this JOMO marriage choice. Education and career are significant new factors influencing marriage-related decisions," points out Khan. Although Wunderman’s research around singles does not cover India, one finds this trend emerging in big Indian cities, where educated women are joining the workforce and are in no hurry to look for a partner. Independent marketing and branding consultant Sanjay Sarma agrees that remaining single by choice is still an urban/first-world trend, with more women leading the movement. “The choice may be a consequence of unfortunate physical, emotional and psychological trauma induced by decades of patriarchy and misogyny; or a happy decision based on empowerment, freedom and independence. Either way, it is about taking decisions and making choices that others have made for you all along. And that can be extremely liberating," he says.

The Future 100 report makes it clear that traditional vocabulary about single lifestyles no longer applies. In another one of its reports, The Single Age, a respondent told Wunderman Thompson Intelligence that if brands were to address him as a single person they will be “immediately off my consideration list. I would find it quite patronizing…Although I am very happy being single, my typology is not singledom". Sarma says that terms such as “sologamy" and “self-partnered" have emerged from pop culture (Emma Watson can be credited with the latter) and smart marketers will not overlook them to push their brands. They are feel-good indulgences to side step any negative connotations that may be associated with ‘being single’. “The choice of being single must be respected as much as any other status," he adds. The Wunderman report says that marketers have so far focused mostly on traditional life stages—youth followed by marriage and family life. But it’s time to view singles as a powerful economic demographic, which spends on houses, travel and other luxuries. It says that in Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Germany, single households accounted for more than 40% of all households in 2016. In China, the percentage of single adults grew from 6% in 1990 to almost 15% in 2017.

Anisha Motwani, brand and innovation expert, says only 1% of adults are single in urban India. As a consumer cohort they are so tiny that it would not make economic sense to tailor products specifically for them, she says. However, the communication can certainly be tweaked to woo this fiercely independent, driven and ambitious consumer segment. This is an attractive cohort for companies to hire as employees as well, she adds. Ironically, a lot of products designed for singles are about finding companionship—matrimony sites, dating apps, singles bars, solo travel services, etc. “While they may work for ‘forced singles’, they just don’t make the cut for those who are single by choice, and who need mainstream products and services to fit into their ‘single lifestyle’," says Sarma.

“Food delivery, for instance, is a lifeline for singles across the world. But the category wasn’t created for them alone. Similarly, financial services, real estate, travel, housing and, even apparel and jewellery, are categories where products may be designed to benefit singles. But it would be absurd to launch a toothpaste or a cola," he adds. The best example of tapping into the singles segment commercially is the Singles Day sale held by Alibaba each year on 11 November. In 2019, it clocked sales of $38.4 billion in 24 hours with a lot of high indulgence luxury and tech products flying off online and offline shelves. It’s a marketing masterstroke, says Sarma.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff

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