Marketing to the modern family
Marketing to the modern family
12 SEPTEMBER 2012 6:33 AM

The American family is changing, and marketers need to be aware of the evolving household makeup if they want to leverage this lucrative—albeit nontraditional—segment.

The stereotypical image of the American family continues to experience dramatic change.

Reference the hit ABC comedy series “Modern Family,” which was originally conceived by show creators Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan while sharing stories of their own "modern families."


John Fareed

If you’re not familiar with the show, it is about three families who are interrelated through a family patriarch and his two children. He is married to a much younger woman who is raising a son from a previous relationship. His daughter is a married homemaker with three children, and his son is one half of a gay couple who adopted a Vietnamese baby. As one would expect, recurring characters include grandparents, an ex-wife and a number of flamboyant friends.


It’s a sitcom more and more Americans are clearly relating too in a very real way.

A new study by Time  and Mindshare titled “Connecting with Today's Families” states mixed-race families, single parent, same-sex parents and other nontraditional households are among the fastest growing family segments. But despite their growth and financial clout, many of these newer types of families feel ignored and discriminated against by the marketing messages they encounter.

The study goes on to say marketers have a better chance of reaching these consumers by understanding and leveraging certain shared values, such as the importance of kids, sensitivity about society's growing diversity and social causes.

As a marketing consultant, I feel fortunate to have worked with some of the finest hotels and resorts in the world, and most of them are focused on families.

Lately however, I’ve begun questioning whether hoteliers are aware of the dramatic shifts occurring in the family segment, as they market to families and relate to household makeup, values and attitudes.

Why? Because most are still using traditional family imagery and copy in their brochures, advertisements, websites and social-media channels. They depict a family as an attractive father, mother and two kids (typically one boy and one girl)—and I’m embarrassed to say, with minimal diversity.

In reality, however, this does not portray the look of the majority of American families today. In 2010, approximately 20% of households in the United States were “traditional” married-family households.

While we still need to speak to the traditional family, we also need to be very cognizant through our imagery, copy and packaging of the needs, wants and desires of single parents, mixed-race families, blended families, same-sex parents and multigenerational families.

Single parent households, for example, whether never married, divorced or widowed, make up nearly 29% of the family segment. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 1.7 million single father households, 31% of whom have never been married.

Of all marriages in the U.S. today, 14% are mixed-race, and 16% of households are multigenerational, or have three or more generations living in the same household. And nearly half a million children in the U.S. live in households headed by same-sex couples (although this number varies from study to study).

Even when discussing the traditional family, we must be aware of shifts in “traditional roles.” According to a recent study by Edelman, more than one-third of fathers feel they are acting in the role of a traditional “mom,” and U.S. Census Bureau statistics state nearly 200,000 of these are “stay-at-home dads.”

As hotel and resort marketers, we must look at everything, from imagery to language and packaging, to ensure we are communicating effectively to all of today’s families. I encourage you to take some time to carefully review your websites, collateral, advertisements and other marketing tools, and ask yourself if you’re honestly speaking to all of your family audiences.

John Fareed, principal of John Fareed Hospitality Consulting LLC, is an internationally recognized authority in the field of hospitality marketing. He holds a Master of Science degree in Hospitality Management from the Dublin Institute of Technology's School of Hospitality Management and Tourism in Dublin, Ireland, as well as professional designations from the prestigious International Society of Hospitality Consultants and the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. Fareed’s consulting clients include Fortune 500 companies, brands, lenders, developers, REIT’s, management companies, investors, owners, attorneys, and insurers. To learn more visit or contact Fareed directly at

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its parent company, Smith Travel Research and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

1 Comment

  • HhotelConsult September 26, 2012 8:55 AM

    the obvious conclusion is that technology will resolve some of these issues.... we're still a few years out, but I imagine dynamic websites that can actively crawl user information of the demographic viewing your site, then actively tailor imagery to be immediately inserted to encourage a feeling of connection. You are never going to please everyone with these dinosaur static-billboard funnel to the booking engine type of website. We need to move past HTML5, even, into a powerfully dynamic semantic web that is smart. Of course, I'm just a hotel guy, so you guys reading this get on it.

Comments that include blatant advertisements or links to products or company websites will be removed to avoid instances of spam. Also, comments that include profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, solicitations or advertising, or other similarly inappropriate or offensive comments or material will be removed from the site. You are fully responsible for the content you post. The opinions expressed in comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Please report any violations to our editorial staff.