Millennials are slow to wed. What it means for marketers.

Lori Bahnmueller 06/10/16 - 8:04 pm

Millennials aren’t in any rush to put a ring on it.

Compared to older generations, Millennials are slow to wed. A recent Gallup poll found 64 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds today are single and not living with a partner, up from 52 percent in 2004.

They’re delaying marriage and trying cohabitation on for size. Some are employing a different kind of relationship contract, so-called “starter marriages” that can be renegotiated like a mortgage. There’s even a “no-nup,” a legally binding agreement between couples that spells out who gets the espresso machine in the event of a breakup.

Nearly half (43 percent) of Millennials support a “trial marriage” that could be formalized or dissolved after two years, sans attorneys and paperwork, according to a 2014 USA Network survey. And 33 percent favor a real estate model of marriage similar to a mortgage.

Whether motivated by fear or frugality, passion or pragmatism, Millennial courtship rituals are prompting brands to reconsider their approach to connecting with this audience. It’s less about life stage marketing—i.e. we see couple buying first home, having a baby, picking a family car—and more about aspirational marketing.  Millennials put authenticity, honesty, enjoyment and passion before sexuality, according to CEB Iconoculture research. What does that look like for brands?

Nissan’s Altima spot, “Born to Be” does a nice job leading with Millennial values. The commercial emphasizes originality, independence and unabashed joy before romance. We fall in love with the characters before they meet. It’s less about sexuality and more about individuality. 

Airbnb talks to Millennial differentiating values of discovery and learning with “Don’t go there, live there.” The minute long commercial features a range of Millennial relationships—singles, families, couples, friends—without feeling contrived. It finds common ground with the target audience by appealing to their sense of adventure, with or without a +1.

Just because Millennials aren’t rushing the aisle, it doesn’t mean they’re not looking for love. Unilever/Knorr blended spontaneity, empathy and whimsy to create a recipe for modern romance. They paired strangers based on food and flavor preferences and invited them to feast on their favorites together. The only rule was that they had to feed each other. Called “Love at first taste,” the experiment proved a welcome twist to the standard meet cute.

Millennials are rewriting the marketing play book. Learn more by downloading our free guide, 8 Rules of Marketing to Millennials.


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