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Bubbles May Burst, but Multigenerational Homes Won’t: Greeting the Changing Face of the American Family

It may have taken far longer than anyone imagined, but the Tampa Bay Lightning and (Los Angeles Lakers/Miami Heat) are the champions of the bubble. 

By resuming their seasons in protective “bubbles” in Orlando, Toronto and Edmonton, the NBA and NHL were able to complete their 2019–20 seasons, providing welcome entertainment for fans around the world and marketing opportunities for their brand partners. But of course, elite professional athletes have hardly been the only ones living in bubbles lately.

As individuals and families have come to grips with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their professional and personal lives, more and more of them have embraced the trend of the social bubble, also known as the “pandemic pod” or “quaranteam.” These groupings—typically consisting of up to 12 people living across three or fewer homes—offer the opportunity to enjoy some social interaction while avoiding the infection risks posed by completely disregarding social distancing guidelines. 

Of course, while the circumstances that spurred this development will eventually change, there’s another trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic that won’t go away anytime soon: The growth of the multifamily home.

Mama, I’m coming home.

A Pew Research Center study released in July found that more than 20 percent of adults in the US either moved as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic or know someone who did. In more than 65 percent of the households that have added new members, the new arrival was either an adult child (and/or the spouse of an adult child) or a parent or in-law. And, while the pandemic certainly provided new reasons for multiple generations to come together under one roof, the trend has been going on much longer. 

A 2014 Pew study found that 57 million Americans—nearly one-fifth of the US population—were already living in multigenerational households by 2012, double the number of people who had such living arrangements in 1980. And, while the phrase “new normal” has become an anathema in many quarters as 2020 has wreaked havoc on so many lives, there’s little doubt that this cultural trend truly is the new normal for the families embracing it, and brands would be well served to account for this trend when planning their product and service offerings, as well as their marketing.

Something for everyone.

Strategies for marketing to pandemic pods and multigenerational households will, naturally, take a variety of forms, depending on the industry. Brands may need to account for serving more people with a single product, or possibly for adult children having more direct influence over their parents’ decision-making behavior, particularly in sectors—such as healthcare and financial services—where digital connections replaced face-to-face interactions during the pandemic. Still, in many cases, marketing to the multigenerational household means little more than continuing—and possibly amplifying or renewing the promotion of—long-standing industry practices. 

Credit unions and community banks, for example, are already well-equipped to serve multiple generations under one roof, having done so for years by actively marketing to (and providing above-market rates on) deposit accounts targeting youths, in the hope of attracting both younger members/customers—and strengthening relationships with the parents who are often initially funding the accounts. In this case, working with a multigenerational family may mean building on relationships at the other end of the age spectrum, using them as a platform to market services geared more toward older consumers, including free checking for seniors, interest-bearing checking accounts to stretch fixed incomes and cash reserves, or a free early withdrawal from a CD to pay for a medical emergency.  

In medicine, meanwhile, the growth of the multigenerational home (or at least the multigenerational decision maker) could reward service providers that are already equipped to serve multiple generations. AW client Stony Brook Medicine, for example, houses a wide range of specialties under one roof at its Advanced Specialty Care facility in Commack, NY, including pediatrics, primary care, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics, ophthalmology, and cardiology. The convenience of such an arrangement is becoming an increasingly important selling point as more and more members of the so-called sandwich generation find themselves arranging medical care for both their children and their parents, not to mention themselves.

Marketing for the real “new normal.”

While the pandemic pod or social bubble may be the result of the so-called “new normal,” the multigenerational household is a trend that existed before COVID-19 and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. By responding to the advent of the quaranteam with product offerings and marketing strategies that apply to multigenerational households, brands can set themselves up for success that will likely last long after the bubbles burst. 

For specific strategies on how your brand can leverage the growing multigeneration household segment, contact us.

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