Saturday, January 03, 2009

What do we know about “Empty Nesters?”

MediaPost has an interesting article about households where the kids have left home - This Bird Has Flown. I suspect a lot of anxious parents are starting 2009 wondering if their child-free life might be coming to an end as cash-strapped and jobless children decide that their old bedroom with mum's cooking might be a good place to sit out the recession.

References in the article sent me down some interesting avenues of investigation.
A study, reported in the Journal Psychological Science with the daunting title (Contextualizing Change in Marital Satisfaction During Middle Age: An 18-Year Longitudinal Study) followed the same 123 women at ages 43, 52 and 61 through questionnaires and interviews.

The main finding was that marital woman’s satisfaction increased as they aged, although overall life satisfaction did not. Whether it was a first marriage or a re-marriage didn't matter. Secondly, once the kids leave home their level of marital satisfaction improved, not because of the quantity of time they were then able to spend with their partners but the “quality of time” (whatever that is).

Both interesting observations but I am not too sure I know what I can do with the information.

Another study of 6,000 people in their early 40s to late 60s, by ThirdAge found that 35% still had children living at home. Meanwhile, about 8% had never married, and 38% were now single. If my arithmetic is correct, then that means that 19% of their sample were Empty Nesters. Can’t be right?

I haven’t been to the ThirdAge web site since it was re-launched. I reckon they have done a good job. It is appealing and stuffed full of content.

The article referred to yet another Boomer site (Redwood Age). I am continually amazed that new boomer portals/social networking sites are still being launched. I think they are constantly improving but it is a mighty crowed market, all clamouring for a diminishing Boomer advertising budget.

There is reference to Chrysler's launch of the Dodge Journey (April 2008) when its marketers had a counterintuitive inspiration that empty nesters and young couples have a lot in common when selecting a car, even if they're coming from opposite ends of their lives. Empty nesters tend to be downsizing their homes and cars, while young couples are ready to move into a bigger vehicle. It's a pity that neither group bought enough of the product to stave off Chrysler's need for a $4 Billion handout.

Dodge marketers, not surprisingly, struggled with the messaging strategy. Should they deliver one or two messages, depending on the demographic? In the end the approach was to: “Take product messages, serve them against different audiences online, and optimize to see what was working." Sounds like a bit of fudge to me.

The article concludes by saying that the tactics to communicate with empty nesters is like that used to reach their children - build trust and provide information-based advertising, like sponsored content. Sound a bit like Age Neutral marketing to me. Dick Stroud

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