Art Imitates Life On TV

The 64th Primetime Emmy Awards did more than simply validate how popular a show like “Modern Family” has become due to its comedic prowess.

Eric Stonestreet’s second Best Supporting Actor win in three years for his portrayal of a gay, stay-at-home dad, (not to mention Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s nomination in the same category), emphasized the seismic - and increasingly obvious – readjustment of the modern American family archetype. 

In recent years, we've seen a clear trend develop in media and entertainment, with gender role shifts becoming more socially accepted. The “Family Ties” nuclear family we knew from yesteryear is no longer the norm; in fact, there is no longer one accepted norm. Instead, sitcoms like “Modern Family,” “Parenthood” and “Guys with Kids” have introduced a new wave of storytelling that depicts homosexual parents, stay-at-home dads and C-suite moms that today’s audience find more relatable. 



And it’s no wonder these roles are being reinvented on screen; there is a direct correlation to the more evolved American audience, which has become increasingly more accepting of non-traditional gender roles and lifestyle preferences. The “burden of balance” is something that both sexes now openly toil over.

Today, women are getting married and having children later, frequently opting to focus on their careers more so than in previous decades. According to the New York Times, men lost two and half times as many jobs as women during the 2007-09 recession - not to mention the fact that 40% of women now out-earn their husbands. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the number of men opting to leave the workforce in favor of becoming full-time dads has more than doubled within the past decade. This dilutes the stereotypical nuclear family, and creates a new target for advertisers and the entertainment industry. 

So, what does this mean for us? As marketers, it is vital to have a thorough grasp on who our audience is. When it comes to the modern American family, we need to let go of those preexisting conventional paradigms and remind ourselves that it is no longer 1957, nor even 1997. It’s important now more than ever to think in terms of psychographics, not demographics. For example, while a consumer may be a “40-year-old, stay-at-home dad living in suburban San Diego,” what is of more relevance is that he is “a blogger, an occasional surfer and crossword puzzle enthusiast.” These are the insights we need to uncover in order to effectively profile our target(s).

Where we used to see brands spending substantial marketing dollars in an effort to reach moms and featuring them as such in campaigns for products like cleaning supplies, today there is an increasing chance that these tactics will only marginalize and alienate today’s consumers. In order to acknowledge the new era of the domestic dynamics, we will likely start to see changes in focus group recruiting methods and how we conduct target segmentation sessions with our brand teams. 

And tell your Connections Planners: if they want to understand the modern family, watch “Modern Family.”

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