Household Patterns

The "traditional household" consists of a husband, wife, and children (and sometimes grandparents). Yet, in the United States today, one out of eight households are "diverse" or "nontraditional," and include single live-alones, adult live-togethers of one or both sexes, single-parent families, childless married couples, and empty nesters. More people are divorcing or separating, choosing not to marry, marrying later, or marrying without the intention to have children. Each group has a distinctive set of needs and buying habits. For example, people in the SSWD group (single, separated, widowed, divorced) need smaller apartments; inexpensive and smaller appliances, furniture, and furnishings; and food packaged in smaller sizes. Marketers must increasingly consider the special needs of nontraditional households, because they are now growing more rapidly than traditional households.

The gay market, in particular, is a lucrative one. A 1997 Simmons Market Research study of readers of the National Gay Newspaper Guild's 12 publications found that, compared to the average American, respondents are 11.7 times more likely to be in professional jobs, almost twice as likely to own a vacation home, eight times more likely to own a computer notebook, and twice as likely to own individual stocks.19 Insurance companies and financial services companies are now waking up to the needs and potential of not only the gay market but also the nontraditional household market as a whole:

■ A aE FaaA , I . Minneapolis-based American Express Financial Advisors, Inc., launched print ads that depict same-sex couples planning their financial futures. The ads ran in Out and The Advocate, the two highest-circulation national gay publications. The company's director of segment marketing, Margaret Vergeyle, said: "We're targeting gay audiences with targeted ads and promotions that are relevant to them and say that we understand their specific needs. Often, gay couples are very concerned about issues like Social Security benefits and estate planning, since same-sex marriages often are not recognized under the law."20

■ J Ha MaLI aC a The John Hancock Mutual Insurance Company has been focusing on single parents and working women with two series of ads on cable television channels. The company is focusing on a very specific segment of women whose financial needs happen to be even more critical because of their situation. The slogan for the ads: "Insurance for the unexpected. Investments for the opportunities."21

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