Marketing to the modern family.

The stereotypical image of the American family continues to experience dramatic change. Reference the hit comedy series Modern Family, which begins its fourth season this fall on ABC, and was originally conceived, by Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan while sharing stories of their own “modern families.”

If you’re not familiar with the show, it is about three families who are interrelated through a family patriarch and his two children. He is married to a much younger woman who is raising a son from a previous relationship, while his daughter is a married homemaker with three children, and his son is one half of a gay couple who have adopted a Vietnamese baby through a surrogate. As one would expect, recurring characters include grandparents, an ex-wife, a “biological” mother, and a number of flamboyant friends.

It’s a sit-com that more and more Americans are clearly relating too in a very real way. This is probably why similar shows are on the way this fall from competing networks including NBC’s The New Normal about “two gay dads and a baby momma” according to the producers, or CBS’ Partners, from the creators of Will & Grace.

A new study by Time Inc. and Mindshare, “Connecting with Today’s Families,” states that mixed-race families, single parent, same-sex parents and other nontraditional households are among the fastest-growing family segments, but despite their growth and financial clout, many of these newer types of families feel ignored and discriminated against by the marketing messages they encounter.

The study goes on to say that marketers have a better chance of reaching these consumers by understanding and leveraging certain shared values like the importance of kids, sensitivity about society’s growing diversity and social causes.

As a marketing consultant, I feel fortunate to have worked with some of the finest hotels and resorts in the world, most of who are focused on families.

Lately however, I’ve begun questioning whether or not hoteliers are aware of the dramatic shifts occurring in the family segment, as they relate to household makeup, values and attitudes.

Why? Because most are still using traditional family imagery and copy in their brochures, advertisements, websites, and social media channels. They depict a family as an attractive father, mother and two kids (typically one boy and one girl)—and I’m embarrassed to say, with minimal diversity.

In reality however, this does not portray the look and makeup of the majority of American families today. Consider that in 2010, only about 20% of households in the U.S. were “traditional” married-family households.

While we still need to speak to the traditional family, we also need to be very cognizant through our imagery, copy and packaging of the needs, wants and desires of single parents, mixed-race families, blended families, same-sex parents and multi-generational families.

Single parent households for example, whether never married, divorced or widowed, make up nearly 29% of the family segment. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 1.7 million single “father” households, 31% of whom have never been married.

14% of all marriages in the U.S. today are mixed-race. 16% of households are multi-generational, or three or more generations living in the same households. And nearly half a million children in the U.S. live in households headed by same-sex couples—although this number varies from study to study.

Even when discussing the traditional family, we must be aware of shifts in “traditional roles.” According to a recent study by Edelman, more than a third of dads feel that they are now acting in the role of a traditional “mom,” and U.S. Census Bureau statistics state that nearly 200,000 of these are “stay at home dads.”

As hotel and resort marketers we must look at everything, from imagery to language and packaging, to ensure that we are communicating effectively to all of today’s families. I encourage you to take some time to carefully review your websites, collateral, advertisements and other marketing tools, and ask yourself if you’re honestly speaking to all of your family audiences.

This entry was originally published by on September 12th, 2012. Click here to view the original post.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 12th, 2012 at 12:52 pm and is filed under Advice, Opinions . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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