Multigenerational households throw marketers a curve

About Bill Schneider

Bill Schneider, Senior Director of Solutions Support at Experian Marketing Services, shares new insights on what multigenerational families look like and what marketers need to know about how they live. Schneider has more than 25 years of experience in the database and direct-marketing industries. He has worked with clients from various industries including retail, financial services, sports and recreation, telecommunications, hospitality and nonprofit organizations.

Multigenerational households throw marketers a curve

Americans are again embracing the concept of multigenerational family living. Whether it’s the outcome of a failing economy or other economic and sociological factors, households that contain adults and children from multiple generations are a mega-trend.

The demographic developments are undeniable. An expanding elderly population has begun moving in with their adult children with greater frequency. At the same time, these adult children could be parents of young adults themselves who, for a variety of reasons, have decided to move back home. In both cases, younger children under age 18 might also be present in the home.

One example of this marketplace trend is the emergence of the Mosaic segment called Sports Utility Families. These are predominately upscale, middle-aged couples with school-aged children living in outer-lying suburbs. But there’s a twist to what initially might be described as the prototypical all-American family. These households have a greater likelihood to include an aging senior or a young adult as part of the family mix. Other defining characteristics of Sports Utility Families include the following:

  • About 59% of Sports Utility Families have four or more persons living in the household.
  • They are extremely family-centered. Eighty percent of Sports Utility Families have children under age 18. They have a high incidence of children across all age ranges and are 4.1  times more likely than U.S. householders overall to be caring for teenage children.
  • They are financially stable, likely to contain two income earners and have an average household income close to $105,000.
  • Although they earn upscale incomes, they do not feel financially secure; they worry about the future and wish money was less important in their lives.
  • About 52% have lived in their homes between 8 to 19 years.
  • With their suburban communities located not too far from parks, these families are more likely to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, hunting, fishing and camping.
  • They make a high percentage of online and catalog purchases in outdoor, home office, pets, toys, travel and home décor categories.
  • Politically, they're conservative, and much more likely than the general population to support conservative social causes.
  • They have a high incidence of Full Sized Pickup, Minivan, or Sports Utility Vehicle ownership.

Marketing to Sports Utility Families and other types of multigenerational households can be complicated. In many cases, there is no single primary decision maker in the home. Purchase decisions are likely to be shared and influenced by multiple family members. Marketers need to carefully craft their communications when an elderly parent and a young adult or other minors are all sharing the same living space. For example, a household that might initially look like a traditional family with preschool children can easily be overlooked when targeting seniors with a healthcare-related offer. Knowing that this “traditional family” also contains an aged parent dramatically changes the picture.

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