Today, only 1/5 of all U.S. homes represent the traditional nuclear family as defined by the U.S. Census -- a married couple with a man and a woman, and children under the age of 18, where the mom stays at home and the father works. That might explain why the Dunphy's, Prichetts, and Tucker-Pritchetts of the hit TV series, "Modern Family" are some of the most beloved and relatable characters on all of television today. With "Modern Family," joining USA Network in cable syndication this September, NBCUniversal Integrated Media's research team took this as an opportunity to take a deeper look at today's 21st century family in a special edition of "The Curve Report."
Thirteen years into the millennium, the days of June Cleaver as the quintessential mom and homemaker are a distant memory, yet the one thing that remains unchanged are traditional family values. According to The Curve research, a surprising 62% of moms still describe themselves as "very traditional," and two-thirds say they would rather be a stay at home mom rather than a working mom.
Similarly, at its core, the show "Modern Family" is really about traditional family values injected into today's modern world. It represents a new generation of families, who are navigating the challenges of 21st century life differently, but not necessarily through a less traditional lens. Understanding the full picture of who exactly comprises the modern household is the key to effectively reaching these coveted consumers with marketing messages tailored specifically to them.
Below are 5 main trends, uncovered by "The Curve Report":
1. The "Second Lives Club"
As Exemplified by Jay Pritchett
In today's real life modern family someone may simultaneously be parent, grandparent, step-parent and new parent, and this expansive role is the key attribute of the group known as the "Second Lives Club." Take "Modern Family's" patriarch Jay Pritchett, for instance. He is divorced with two grown adult children, four grandchildren of varying ages, a tween stepson and a new baby.
Multigenerational siblings are becoming a new norm, as 50% of parents who have children from a previous marriage are now starting new families.
Implication: Marketers have a huge opportunity to reach these new four-in-one consumers, a category of parents that are taking care of, and purchasing for, their children of all ages.
2. "The Rookie Force"
As Exemplified by Phil Dunphy
"The Rookie Force" refers to the new group of Gen X and Y fathers who are the first to even come close to rivaling moms in their involvement with household chores and childcare - and they give themselves a lot of credit. When these dads were asked how the domestic workload is split between them and their spouse, a whopping 85% said it is either split 50/50, or that they do the majority. The wives, however, tell a different story, with only 28% of moms saying their spouse is either a contributor or does the majority of household chores and childcare. "Modern Family's" well-intentioned, yet sometimes hapless Phil Dunphy is a prime example of "The Rookie Force." He is a dedicated and active dad... even though his wife may not always see him as helpful.
Whether or not men are getting credit for their involvement at home, the fact remains they are rookies in this role. Just as women have had to carve out a balance between career and family, dads today are trying to find their own style in parenting and navigating their own new equilibrium between home and work.
Implication: Marketers have a chance to recognize dad's new role and elevate his rookie status by speaking to him as a competent stroller shopper, play date organizer, and Halloween costume maker. However, make sure to avoid "Mr. Mom" clichés and stereotypes - dads aren't trying to be mom, just trying to find their footing as modern dads.
3. "The Stay-at-Home-Dad"
As exemplified by Cam Tucker
In the 1970s, only one in every 100 stay-at-home-parents was a dad; today, it's one in every seven. While 57% of dads say they do not feel fulfilled unless they are working, a surprising 36% of dads admit they would choose to be stay-at-home-dads over working dads.
"Modern Family's" gregarious, one time professional clown Cam Tucker is the primary caregiver for daughter Lily. Whether by choice or by necessity, this trend towards "Stay-at-Home-Dads" shows no signs of slowing: 61% of Gen Y dads agree that in the next 20 years there will be as many stay-at-home-dads as there are stay-at-home-moms.
Implication: Marketers can reimagine traditionally mom-geared products, such as cleaning products, baby essentials, and food items. Dad-oriented or less gender specific versions of these items would resonate with modern family dads.
4. "Helicopter Peerent"
As exemplified by Claire Dunphy
"Helicopter Peerents" are those who act as peers and friends to their children rather than as parents, leading to a new form of codependency that has blurred the traditional definitions of when adulthood begins. 64% of moms and dads no longer believe reaching the age of 18 marks adulthood, and nearly half of people age 18 and over don't believe supporting oneself financially is a marker of becoming a grown up. Additionally, 46% of those over 18 don't believe having a steady job defines adulthood.
"Modern Family's" stay-at-home-mom Claire Dunphy personifies the mom who aspires to be seen by her kids as the cool friend, not the "stereotypical mom." With parents offering more emotional and financial support than ever, kids can "stall out."
Implication: Young adults living at home will, once again, influence their parents' purchasing decisions more directly, creating a new "nag factor" coming from older, adult aged children. Instead of being nagged for the newest stuffed animal, parents are now being nagged for the trendiest clothes to go clubbing.
5. "Life Stallers"
As exemplified by Haley Dunphy
An increasing number of young adults are opting to avoid independence or jump full force into the world - welcome to "Life Stalling!" As a result of factors such as tough economic conditions, unrealistic entry level job expectations, and parents who make it a little too comfortable at home, many twenty-somethings are delaying their entry into the "real world."
Much like "Modern Family's" Haley Dunphy, these "Life Stallers" are taking short term gigs or pursuing creative, but not lucrative, passions. A shocking one quarter of young adults who have lived on their own at some point have moved back in with their parents, and 57% of 18-24 year olds no longer view moving out of their parents' house as a milestone needed to be considered an adult.
Implication: There is an emerging market of educated, employed young adults who are living at home and likely to have more disposable income - but different needs - than previous generations of transitioning 20-somethings.
Very few times in a lifetime does a show like Modern Family capture the hearts and minds of its generation. The magic not only happens on the screen, it also happens at home when real people see themselves reflected in the stories and the characters that the show's creators have so perfectly, imperfectly crafted. For marketers, the opportunities to speak directly and truthfully with the legions of current and future Modern Family fans are limitless as long as they are rooted in a true understanding of who represents the Modern Family today and what motivates him or her. Modern traditionalism is alive and well. Family dinners are as important as ever... though dinner just might not happen right at 5pm, and dad is serving up the spaghetti. Understanding these new blended tenets is key to any marketers success.