What does the household of the future look like?

What does the household of the future look like?


OMD’s The Future of Britain project is trying to understand how the recession has impacted people’s lives – and the implications for brands in such a diverse, fragmented and chaotic society. In the first of our exclusive new series, OMD’s insights director Chris Worrell explains how the British household is changing – from old people that just won’t stop having fun, to children that just can’t quite fly the nest…

Traditionally it has been pretty easy to describe both household structures and life stages in the UK. The dominant household unit has always been the 2.4 children family and the life we lead has been relatively formulaic; education, fly the nest, join the property ladder, marriage and children, followed by a peaceful retirement.

However, this seems increasingly less relevant in modern Britain. The type of household we live in is changing rapidly. At one end of the scale we are seeing real growth in smaller households; single person households are forecast to increase by some 163,000 a year, taking them from 6.8 million in 2006 to 10.9 million in 2031.

At the other end of the scale, multi-generational households are at the highest level recorded since the 19th Century. Whilst still relatively small in volume, this is a trend that we predict will continue to grow, driven by an ageing population, the cost of care and delayed adulthood.

In fact, there is certainly evidence that this is a favoured household model; 42% of parents in our Future of Britain study said they were very open to the idea of their children moving back in with them. But only 17% were keen on their parents moving in with them!

Delayed adulthood is an interesting theme. We are having fewer children and having them later in life, getting married later, buying our first property later (if at all) and moving out of home later. Even when we do move out, a lot of us are moving back in – 7% of the respondents we spoke to during our Future of Britain research had moved back in with their parents and it is now estimated that some 3 million 20-34 year olds live at home with Mum and Dad.

At the older end of the scale, people are, well, getting younger! By 2022 an extra 2 million UK citizens will be aged over 65, but they are not retiring peacefully like their parents’ generations.

They are going on adventure holidays, staying in work (for the first time more than a million over 65s are in work) and even divorcing – the silver separation trend is bucking overall divorce trends – to recapture the single lifestyle. And in the middle, it’s all far more chaotic. Whilst the 2.4 kids model remains, there is enormous growth in ‘jigsaw’ families – cohabiting couples and lone parenting.

But what does this all mean for brands and advertising? We see some very clear implications. Brands must be aware of the new roles and decision makers that are emerging out of these new ways of living.

Our study revealed that 7% of grandparents have provided financial support for their grandchildren’s education, 56% provide care and babysitting time for their grandchildren whilst over a third (36%) of 16-24s have advised their parents on a major life decision.

When looking at boomerang households, interesting new patterns emerge; 14% of boomerangers don’t decide the brand of crisps they eat, whilst 12% of them decide the brand of soft drink for the household, but don’t actively purchase it.

Media consumption is affected too. Those living in single person households are the heaviest radio listeners, and childless people are 47% more likely to go to the cinema at least once a month. Those who have moved back in with their parents are 200% more likely to read a Sunday broadsheet than their peers.

Brands must ensure they are relevant to modern lifestyles; a one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t work in an increasingly diverse, fragmented and chaotic society.

We can already see brands adapting to this change. The likes of Arial and Dulux are actively targeting consumers away from their normal customer base. Wagamama has installed stools in their restaurants to make single diners less self-conscious, and Mamas and Papas’ advertising reflects a real spectrum of parenting lifestyles, from same-sex parents, to stay-at-home Dads.

One thing is certain; the Future of Britain will look very different. Brands that prosper will be those that anticipate and react to the change.

To find out more about the Future of Britain project, visit the website.

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