Millennial parents march to their own tune

Millennial parents march to their own tune

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Jan. 25 - As they have in so many other parts of their lives, Millennials are rewriting the rules about marriage.  When it comes to choosing marriage as a way of life, today’s 18- to 34-year-olds-especially women-differ markedly from their predecessors.  Millennial women are marrying later than ever before-or not at all.  Yet, the decline in the institution of marriage as a marker of what constitutes a family does not mean that Millennial women are foregoing having children.  What is different for Millennial women today compared to their predecessors in previous generations is that more than 40% of Millennial women giving birth are unmarried.  In 2014 nearly half of 25- to 29-year-old moms either had no spouse or partner or were cohabiting with a partner rather than living with a spouse.  This cultural shift has profoundly changed the environment for marketers of toys, baby foods and other packaged foods, household products, children’s clothing and the vast array of other products specifically required to raise children and generally maintain a family.

The non-traditional structure of Millennial families presents something of a minefield for marketers targeting today’s young parents.  As noted by an analyst with marketing consultant Frank N. Magid Associates, “There’s just no definition of a family anymore.  We’ve moved so far from your June Cleaver-the two kids and the wife and the husband and the white picket fence and dog” (, May 14, 2015).  This means that traditional images of a nuclear family in advertising campaigns may not resonate among Millennial moms because so many of them are raising their children on their own.  It also may seem to argue in favor of relatively conventional marketing approaches focusing on the clout wielded by moms in making purchases for their families.

Yet, the vast majority of Millennial parents are raising children in a two-parent family structure.  Three in four 30- to 34-year-old moms and 95% of all Millennial dads are raising children as part of a couple, whether married or not.  In order to reach out successfully to this consumer segment marketers also need to recognize that many Millennial parents are intent on living out egalitarian views about the roles of moms and dads within a family.

This generational characteristic may lead marketers down a strategic path that rejects the notion of mom as the sole decider and includes dads in marketing appeals.  According to survey data cited by a November 2015 Packaged Facts report entitled Millennial Parents in the U.S, Millennial dads feel slighted by ads that treat them as an inferior parent while Millennial moms resent ads based on the unspoken premise that men belong at work and women belong at home.

Marketers targeting two-parent Millennial families with children-whether the parents are married or not-may also find that they increasingly need to adopt strategies geared not only towards both parents but also towards kids old enough to be part of family purchasing decisions.  According to research published by Forbes (September 9, 2015), 76% of Millennial parents support the “family meeting” decision-making style.  This means that both large and small issues-including both major and minor purchasing decisions-may involve inputs from both parents as well as children old enough to participate.

Simmons National Consumer Study data cited in Packaged Facts Millennial Parents in the confirm this hypothesis.  The purchase of clothing is the only major product category where Millennial moms tend to be the sole decider.  When determining what to buy in the categories of automobiles, financial services, food products, home electronics, household furnishings and sporting goods, Millennial moms are less likely to proceed on their own.  They are more likely than their 35- to 49-year-old counterparts in Generation X to have the participation of either their spouse or partner or children.