It's a hard-knock life for millennial parents, and new research from Saatchi & Saatchi dives right in, exploring multiple ways 26- to 42-year-olds are changing the shape of American families.
Among the most pronounced shifts? At home, there's a decided rejection of Insta-worthy phoniness in favor of realistic clutter. And out in the world, there's a realization that while no version of the American dream will work for them, they can try to fix a broken equation.
"Many of these shifts were underway before COVID," says Jane Jovanovic, executive vice president and strategy director. "But coming out of the pandemic, it felt urgent to re-evaluate the new routines, motivations and outlooks that are lasting."
And because of Procter & Gamble, a Saatchi client, "it was especially important for us to look at how the role of the home has changed."
The research team believes the findings present opportunities for all brands to reconsider their approach to this large demographic.
"Brands did a great job in real-time responding to the pandemic, and all those 'We're in it together' messages helped," says Steffanie Golliher, strategy director. "But this isn't a one-time thing. We're still going through these changes, and we have to look at all the paradigm shifts."
The research explores the meltdown of the nuclear family structure. Many families now have far different communal roles, including platonic co-parenting, three-parent families and co-housing, with plenty of "Guncles" thrown in.
This group is highly focused on mental health and has replaced the pursuit of status with the quest for calmness -- both for themselves and for their kids. That emotional intelligence directs them to strive for "gentle parenting," rejecting the discipline that shaped the last century.
The difference is most profound for millennial moms, still beaten down from the pressure of balancing fast-evolving work demands with the grind of household chores. "There is a sense of freedom in how they see their role in the home changing. But brands need to understand what their life looks like and not add to the pressure," says Amaya D'Amico, strategic planning director.
Because these moms are riddled with guilt -- they don't make enough money, their houses aren't clean, and their kids aren't particularly well-behaved -- they are developing a sense of self-deprecating humor that marketers should tap into.
If it all sounds grim, well, there’s not much to sugarcoat it.
"But we don't see it as bleak," says Golliher. "And neither does the American populace. There is an awakening, though, with people saying, 'Life doesn't look like I thought it would.' There's something very freeing to addressing a new reality. It's a silver lining."
A few companies, including Target, are already translating these shifts into more empathic marketing. Brands would do well to tap into those millennial intentions instead of unrealistic aspirations.
"Everybody just wants to be safe and happy," Jovanovic tells Marketing Daily. "Home isn't a status symbol, but a sanctuary. We need to reflect that in the work we do, by how we help these parents get back in control where they can, and celebrate small wins."
The study, conducted with NowWhat, an innovation and strategy company, is based on interviews with cultural experts and in-depth digital diaries from 16 participants. Ongoing New American Family research includes work with Mintel, MRI and Foresight Factory.