They're unwed mothers ... and executives with corner offices. They're college educated ... and college custodians. They're secretaries and horse trainers and stay at home moms.
"Today's single women have multiple personalities without the psychosis," said Gigi Carroll, VP/concept director at Draft FCB Group, Chicago. "Marketers romance and support the old stereotypes, perhaps because they're unclear about who today's single women are."
At this week's Marketing To Women conference in Chicago, Carroll said marketers have misconceptions about this market of 51 million women over age 18. In short: marketing execs think single women are less educated, more adventuresome and richer than statistics indicate. They also are off the mark on the ethnicity of this market.
A Draft FCB survey of 500 advertising and marketing professionals in the U.S. found that:
While marketers believe 33.8% of single women are white, the reality is that more than twice that number (67.2%) are. And single women are also about a third (13.1%) as likely to be Asian/Hispanic/other as marketers think (38.8%).
Single women are slightly more educated than marketers believe. In reality, 33% of them are high school graduates, a number matched by what marketers believe; however while marketers estimate 48% of single women have attended college or grad school, in reality 53% have done so.
Marketers believe single women make more money than they actually do. For example, marketers believe more than 15% of single women earn more than $75,000 per year. In reality, fewer than 4% reach that level.
Marketers do come close to reality in their perceptions surrounding the age of single women, believing they are slightly younger than they actually are ... but not by much. Marketers think 31.9% of women fall in the 18-24 age group. In reality, 29.7% do. Similarly, marketers place 21.3% of single women in the 45-54 age group, where the reality is 22.9%.
Stereotyping single women as lonely spinsters is like comparing the internet to a card-catalog from the library. Carroll said that in 2000, 42% of all women in the U.S. over 18 were unmarried. In 2005, that number had escalated to upwards of 46%. Among the younger age groups, between 1950 and 2000, the share of women 15-24 who were married plummeted from 42% to 16%. Among 25-34 year olds it dropped from 82% to 58%. Nearly half of women aged 45 and up are unmarried.
Carroll said there are more similarities than differences between single and married women. While neither likes to be labeled, married women -- and mothers in particular -- appreciate advertising that speaks to them as women first.