Markets Focus: Dealing with the DINK

MarketsFocus-Dealing with the DINK DistrictDual incomes and no kids adds up to plenty of discretionary income

They meet for cocktails and tapas after work, buy all the best electronics and take long snowboarding weekends. Two can live more than twice as lavishly as one when they share the same downtown starter condo. That's why luxury marketers glom on to couples with dual incomes and no kids, also known as DINKs.

Actually, this state of wedded, progeny-less bliss is not so odd. According to the Census Bureau's latest stats, 55 percent of married couples have no children under 18 - although this includes empty nesters. It also encompasses couples who are new to the workforce, and may still be underemployed, possibly paying off college debts. And many DINKs are probably saving their money for the time when they'll turn into DEWKs - dually employed with kids. But many of these duos are just as we envision them: young, unencumbered and free to spend on the good life. Let's party!

The Right Address

You may be young and loaded, but being fabulous doesn't come easy to everyone. That's why marketers of high-end condos don't sell the architecture - they sell the lifestyle with glamorous photography and model units that give a voyeuristic peek into a life more exciting than yours. To reach younger buyers hoping to become DINCs (double income, new condo) the pitch takes that voyeuristic trip onto the Internet.

The Web site for New York's District condos includes a Flash movie that hints at the transformative power of the right address. It opens with a nice-enough looking couple walking the street, side by side but not touching. As the movie progresses through shots of them inside the condo and out on the town, they get more risqué; even her breasts seem bigger. By the end, their relationship is hot, hot, hot, and she pulls him into a doorway for a sizzling kiss.

For the Rob Clark condominium project in Los Angeles, the Athena Group created an eponymous, fictional character, building a life for him online as well as IRL. The fictional Clark is something of a playboy, and every morning the model apartment is strewn with clothes that seem to have been thrown off in an evening's abandon. Clark even threw an Oscars party for actor Forest Whitaker - but left early, so everyone missed him.

"People aspire to become him and part of his life," says Harry Durbin, Athena Group's marketing director. "With this aspirational model comes young people - and they know how to use the Internet better than anybody."

Online, Durbin produced a model apartment with clickable features, as well as a virtual walkthrough. Rob has a MySpace page, and there's a Flash movie promoting the project on YouTube. The result, boasts Durbin, is that the Rob Clark is "the most successful condo project in LA - and probably the only one that's been selling."

MF-Dealing with the DINK ZinioBoarding Pass

We'd expect these paired-up but not settled-down folks to be frequent flyers. That's why SNOW magazine looked to Zinio's digital distribution service to find readers from Rome to Riyadh. The controlled-circ Bonnier title, tagline "Life, lifts, luxury," is distributed at fancy resorts and special events and mailed to 12,500 people who help spend more than $2.3 billion on ski equipment and apparel, and an additional $6 billion on related travel and accommodations each year. But catching up to peripatetic subscribers can be tough.

"Our readers are jetting back and forth, and a lot are second-home owners," says publisher Barbara Sanders. "They're jetting to Aspen or hopping on a plane to Europe, especially in the ski season."

Zinio publishes exact digital copies of magazines that are available only to subscribers. Sanders says her readers appreciate being able to read the pub on the plane via their laptops instead of lugging the print version. Many of them also like saving a tree or two by eschewing print altogether.

The magic for advertisers is the way a print ad becomes interactive. "It looks exactly like it would on a newsstand. You can click on it, and it creates an interactive experience," Sanders says. Video and audio are available even offline; when the reader is online, links can lead to more content, a microsite or the advertiser's Web site. Magazine publishers can sell or offer as an added value the ability to do some targeting - for example, by showing a male subscriber shoes for him, while a female sees shoes for her.

Digital also means expanding inventory. Publishers can't just add more pages, but they can do things like place a bellyband on the digital cover. They can even create extra issues at a fraction of the cost of print, with as many ads as they want. Yoga Journal produced a green issue sponsored by Aveda, with a full roster of advertisers including Subaru.

Doggy Style

There are the fliers, and there are the walkers, specifically, DINKs-with-a-dog, or DINKWADS. They spend lavishly on their pets. After all, boarding your canine in the country for a week is a lot cheaper than preschool for a kid. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association says U.S. consumers will spend a total of $43.4 billion in 2008 on pet products, and that 44.8 million U.S. households include a dog.

Social networking for dogs was inevitable. Urban dog fanciers hang out on Dogster. Registered users tend to be affluent; about a third qualify as DINKWADS, with the other two-thirds equally split between singles and families with children.

The site launched in 2004 as a Friendster-like place for dog owners to post photos and create profiles of their "fur-babies." It's since added forums, classifieds, diaries, private messaging, photo tagging, a pet-personality matrix and paid premium subscriptions. Content includes a full-blown manual for dog owners, listings for pet-friendly local businesses and travel destinations, information on different breeds, and pet personals - that is, profiles of adoptable dogs.

People post videos of their fluffy ones doing the most adorable things - or the most ridiculous. In the forums, they debate the merits of chew toys and detail the reasons they like dogs better than kids: You can leave them home alone without getting arrested, you can neuter them to prevent accidental pregnancy, and they never ask you for money.

While advertising on the site began with the usual pet-supply suspects, the mix has broadened to include products with a "pet influence," says Steven Reading, chief business officer.

Disney bought a home-page takeover for 101 Dalmatians, while automakers advertise because a Pet Age survey found that 60 percent of dog owners take their pet into consideration when shopping for a car. "You can connect dog ownership back to almost everything you do in your life," Reading says.

Proctor & Gamble advertises Febreze, its fabric freshener and odor remover, on Dogster, but the messaging doesn't focus on smelly dogs. Instead, it launched an integrated advertising campaign that included content, contests, banner ads and a Dogster group that attracted 20,000 members by offering a free trial of the product.

According to Reading, the Febreze article in the Dogster newsletter had a 17 percent click-through rate, the home-page feature garnered a 7 percent CTR, and even the banners drew 10 times more clicks than normal. The key to a response like this, he says, is partnering with brands that do have relevance to the pet category, but also a much broader appeal.

For marketers who can hit these couples' sweet spots, it can mean CASH: connected and spending heavily.

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