Why the modern family needs a makeover

Helen Rose introduces new research that seeks to look beyond the stereotypical view of the family.

There are, let’s face it, many over-used clichés in the marketing lexicon. But I believe none is more prevalent and outdated than the concept of the target audience of families.

It’s a group that is hugely significant to marketers and yet the way that we perceive it is far too simplistic and generalised, given the vast differences in how family groups think, live and consume.

New research, called Modern Families Uncovered from the7Stars, aims to show British families in all their complexities, and particularly with regard to how they perceive brands, and consume media.

The UK’s 9.3m households are distilled into eight family types with panel data analysed by Kantar analysed to identify unique groups based not on their demographics or life-stage, rather focusing solely on the importance of attitudes and behaviours. Three groups that provided some of the study’s most interesting insights are Free Range, Heir BnB and #MyFamily.

Free Range

Free Range are families that love customised experiences. They embrace new opportunities with and without the family and are making up their own new family rules.  They may look like ‘conventional’ families on the surface but they have very distinct attitudes.

Active and adventurous, Free Range families tend not to follow the traditional family path. 70% said they like to make spontaneous decisions for their family, and their quest for a lifestyle less ordinary and safe is reflected in their behaviours.

They are instinctive shoppers but are not brand loyal with 70% saying even though they have a favourite brand, if another is on special offer, they will buy that instead.

The group’s attitude to advertising may prove a challenge to marketers. More than half of Free Range families feel bombarded by advertising, with 48% saying they think muc h TV advertising is "devious". Strong-willed Free Rangers require careful targeting. Appealing to the experiential and spontaneous nature of these families to help support their independent life choices will be more important than traditional family engagement strategies.

Heir BnB

These families are more traditional in their attitudes, but combine this outlook with modern media repertoires. Evolving from ‘boomerang families’, Heir BnBs are effectively running a family hotel, being down-aged by their kids and loving the new dynamic in the household.

They place most emphasis on the family, with 88% saying they enjoy spending time together, and are less interested in technology and novelty than their more experimental counterparts. However, a challenge with these families lies in engaging across multiple generations in the home. As such, planners should target this group with campaigns that bring the family together. The constantly evolving nature of these families makes them unique, and they are one of the most influenced family groups, presenting brands with new opportunities.


#MyFamily is a group with a high proportion of Millennial parents. Materialistic and aspirational, they place a lot of emphasis on their image. Over half agree money is the best measure of success, and they are the most likely of all the groups to play out much of their lives on social media.

They are all about having fun and being seen, combining their Millennial spirit with parenthood. However, there is a downside. They are twice as likely as other families to say they feel pressured to only talk about happy family occasions on social platforms, and that they personally turn to social media to escape the chores of daily family life.

Marketers looking to reach #MyFamily should be conscious of brand value, as purchase decisions are heavily weighted on image and quality. These families have a very high value in terms of social advocacy, are leading the way in digital shopping behaviours and are highly susceptible to brand influence, with 70% admitting to buying new products they’ve recently seen advertised.

A key takeout from the study is the challenge modern family life presents to all families.  Brands need to empathise with the daily struggles as well as the bigger, joyful occasions

There is an opportunity for brands to facilitate bringing families together based on their distinct needs – but marketers need to continue thinking outside of the 2.4 stereotype.

Helen Rose is head of insight at independent media agency the7stars. To read more on the research from 7Stars' Lightbox insight division and The Marketing Store, visit: http://the7stars.co.uk/modern-families/