“I am at that awkward age where half my friends are getting married and having babies, and the other half are too drunk to even find their phones.”
The words of a 31-year-old today? Totally.
The words of a 31-year-old half a century ago? Never.
Unlike older generations, we Millennials have the chance to live in a world filled with options:
We can get married if we want.
We can date two or two hundred people if we want.
We can love a man or a woman if we want.
We can stay in the town we grew up in or emigrate thousands of miles away if we want.
You get the picture. In most places, there is no longer any social pressure to follow a predetermined path — or if there is, we decide to shamelessly ignore it.
These choices fundamentally alter the way we build our families. Following the traditional “mom + dad + kids under one roof” model remains mainstream, but when you live in a world where a mere swipe right on a smartphone can bring someone new into your life, where 64% of young people, globally, consider moving abroad, and where Millennials are the only generation more apt to say that same-sex marriage is helping rather than harming society, you can’t ignore the fact that the traditional family construct is becoming obsolete.
For marketers, being attuned to the different ways in which the notion of family is changing can be an opportunity to create new ways to connect with Millennials, who represent the consumer market of the future.
So what is there to understand?
First, it is important to grasp that Millennials see family as a fluid concept, not a static, defined group of people. For example, I consider my closest friends family, and I know I’m not the only one. According to our recent report, 4 in 10 Millennials consider “close friends” members of the family.
However, only a few brands get that “friends are the family we choose.” For the second time last year, Taco Bell hosted its own “Friendsgiving” — an up-and-coming tradition among U.S. Millennials — with selected Taco Bell enthusiasts and online influencers. By tapping into this trend, Taco Bell connected with Millennials and successfully repositioned itself as a lifestyle brand.
Similarly, the Chivas “Here’s to Real Friends” campaign appealed to male Millennials by celebrating and honoring close friendships that are similar to brotherhoods.
Understanding the changing concept of family also allows brands to find new ways to bring some utility into young people’s lives. For example, the reason why I love Viber so much is that it’s a one-stop app that easily connects me to all of those I consider family. One tap, and I access the group conversation that my closest NYC friends and I use to organize our outings. Two taps, and I can hear my sister’s voice free of charge, even though she lives thousands of miles away. Viber keeps my family close at all times in the easiest, most seamless way I could imagine.
Finally, what if one of the roles of brands is to help our society evolve and become more tolerant and open to the fact that diversity is the new normal?
After all, advertising is part of pop culture, just like music and movies are. And pop culture influences the way we perceive things and think about the world we live in. What if seeing the Tiffany & Co. or Honey Maid commercials could make everyone, including our children, feel more positive about same-sex couples? What if the Always #LikeAGirl campaign could help empower young girls and eventually change perceptions about women’s role in the household? A deeper understanding of how the concept of family is changing could help brands actively contribute to social progress.
Fifty years from now, families will probably be structured in ways that we can’t even imagine today. But family — however we define it — will always be a central concept in people’s lives. Brands have an active role to play in shaping the future of the concept – not only by providing value to all kinds of families, but also by helping the “outlier” family models become mainstream. Let’s hope they really step up and do it.