Several recent articles* about marketing have noted the growth of the “Single Independent Female” category and the importance of this market.
Katherine Bindley’s April 2013 article in The Huffington Post, “Single Women Targeted By CitiBank and Honda Ads” suggested that marketers are actively appealing to the 31 million single females living in America – a market that spends $22 billion a year on entertainment, buys one-fifth of all houses (they are the fastest growing group of home buyers), and $20 billion on cars (2011 U.S. census study).
The Huffpo article correctly concludes that the Single Female segment is a huge slice of the economic pie, which marketers should really target. The examples cited do feature single women, but these campaigns weren’t really about marketing to Single Indies. These authors generalized just a few instances of ads featuring single women into a broader marketing trend.
For example, the Citibank “Thank you Points” ad (promoting the rewards program for its credit card users) in question featured a female rock climber – who decides against using her points to buy a diamond in favour of flying her boyfriend and herself “to the rock I really had in mind”., but as Tom Drymalski, Publicis’ executive creative director for the campaign, put it, “What is a sport or a hobby or an interest that people get involved with that really requires buying lots of different pieces?” So, in the end, the Citibank campaign was more about showcasing expensive hobbies than about celebrating the single woman….and, of course, marital status still loomed large in the background….
The Honda ad featured a young woman delaying her marriage until she checked off more items on her “leap list”, but clearly, marriage remains a central theme in the campaign as well – which is out-of-step with current trends – and simply feels old-fashioned. Other ads in the campaign featured the usual diversity of race and gender, and clearly target millennials rather than Single Indies.
However, there is one campaign these articles mentioned – the exception that proves the trend in this case – that does truly target the Single Indie: DeBeers’ “Raise Your Right Hand” campaign. Run only as national print ads from 2003-2005, the program featured strong independent women indulging themselves in diamond rings to be worn on their right hands. The campaign targeted evolved, affluent, fashion savvy women aged 35-64.
Was this campaign successful? Reports indicated that the campaign raised non-bridal sales by 15%. This is impressive for a global company. However, what that statistic doesn’t say is that single women historically accounted for 12-13% of DeBeers’ non-bridal sales (see De Beer’s 2014 Insight Report). So an additional 15% represents a DOUBLING of sales in this category. The RYRH campaign was actually a roaring success!
Why stop such a successful campaign? There is plenty of vague speculation about this, but we think that they stopped the campaign because it confused their main bridal market. DeBeers has spent decades defining themselves as THE brand associated with love and marriage. However successful RYRH might have been, if it did anything to confuse DeBeers’ multi-billion dollar main market, it had to go.
So, fast-forward ten years. Social Media is now the perfect way for companies like DeBeers to execute this sort of line extension to the very lucrative Single Indie market – without confusing their main market (brides, soccer moms, millennials — regardless of gender). This line extension strategy could be used by any business that sells to the traditional marriage and family markets (big box stores like Walmart & Canadian Tire, bridal & parenting magazines, travel companies, real estate brokerages). It’s time for marketers to experience an “Ah ha” moment (Oprah, get it?) and target this very powerful segment of women – who simply have no intention of getting married – ever.
Women buy diamond rings to celebrate their successes and milestones — completing the Ironman, launching a successful business, surviving cancer – but most of all to celebrate their growing independence, affluence and influence.
* The Huffington Post article builds on several earlier articles pointing to the rise of the Single Female/Indie market, including Hanna Rosen’s 2010 Atlantic Monthly cover story, “The End of Men”, where she pointed out that young single women are more reproductively and financially independent than ever before – and the follow-up November 2011 Atlantic Monthly cover article “All the Single Ladies,” about women choosing to delay marriage and the stigma against single women fading – which, in turn, was followed by Janelle Nanos’ January 2012 Boston Magazine cover story, “Single by Choice”– which covered the rise of lifelong singlehood in both men and women.