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multigenerational households

Full House New economic realities have given rise to more multigenerational households. Here’s a look at who these consumers are and what resonates with them. By Christine Birkner | senior staff writer

 cbirkner@ama.org

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iven the U.S. job market’s continued challenges and other economic realities presented by the current marketplace, nests aren’t emptying as quickly as they used to—or staying empty for long. Since the recent recession, the number of households with more than two generations living under one roof has grown. In 2013, one in six Americans lived in a multigenerational household, according to Generations United, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that serves as an economic resource for policymakers on issues affecting intergenerational collaboration. And in 2012, 36% of 18- to 31-year-olds (or 22 million consumers), lived with their parents, the highest share in 40 years, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Research Center. “It’s no longer a stigma to live at home. It’s kind of expected or understood among millennials,” says Sarah DaVanzo,

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chief cultural strategy officer at Sparks & Honey, a New York-based marketing agency whose study, “Marketing to the Modern Family,” offers tips for appealing to multigenerational households. “Whether you’re a CPG brand or a financial services brand or an entertainment brand, it’s important to understand that you’ve got several generations of parents and children under one roof. Those are extremely different generations and each generation has its own set of experiences, its own values. The popular TV mom for boomers is Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show, and a TV mom for Gen Z is a Teen Mom [on MTV].” Although the recession played a part in creating the multigenerational household boom, the trend could be here to stay, says Donna Butts, executive director at Generations United. “People came back together because of the economy, but they stayed together by choice. Many of them

found that living together helped with caregiving, with education, with expenses, with passing on culture and family history. People who are living in multigenerational households, in general, feel pretty positively about it.” Moreover, a recent Pew study found that 61% of Americans believe that it is the responsibility of adult children to welcome elderly parents to move into their homes. “Our society feels strongly that adult children have the responsibility to take care of their parents, to let them into their homes and take financial responsibility for them,” says D’Vera Cohn, senior writer at the Pew Research Center. Those elderly parents often weigh in on purchase decisions for their grandchildren, which means that marketers should target both parents and grandparents with kid-related offers, says Terry Young, CEO and founder of Sparks & Honey. “Grandparents … have become built-in nannies. They’re caregivers for the kids and they’re making decisions about which products are purchased.” Multigenerational households also represent an opportunity for home furnishing and home improvement brands, as families create new living quarters or remodel their homes to accommodate their adult children or grandparents. “When you have grandparents living in the home, the way you design space is very important. An aging population requires different components to be built within products in the home,” Young says. Simply depicting multigenerational households in ads will appeal to these consumers, Young says. For example, Chevrolet included multigenerational families in ads that ran during the 2014 Winter Olympics, with this voiceover: “While what it means to be a family hasn’t changed, what a family looks like has. Chevy is built for whatever shape your family takes.” “It’s an example of a major brand saying, ‘Family configurations have shifted and the modern family looks different, and the way we portray families in our advertising has to shift,’ ” Young says. “A lot of brands are saying, ‘We don’t have to have this sanitized family of a mom and dad and two kids.’ It’s so much more diverse and the imagery has to catch up with that.” m

marketing news | March 2014

MN March 2014 1-64-2-19-14.indd 16

2/20/14 3:48 PM


Full House  

New economic realities have given rise to more multigenerational households. Here's a look at who these consumers are and what resonates wit...

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