The real "modern family"

Clearly with our insatiable appetite to keep an eye on cultural shifts and the impact these have on the consumer context, we were excited to discover this fascinating article by Jordan Weissmann at Slate, exploring what the emerging face of the “modern family” in America actually looks like.

Almost two-thirds of American women had at least one child out of wedlock, a growing trend and not caused simply by absentee fathers. Many fathers are very present.

The interesting trend is the rejection of the institution of marriage, rejection of the romanticised notion of happy-ever-after and the acceptance of the practical decision not to spend hard earned (and difficult to come by recessionary money) on big celebrations. Less is more.

Women (and their partners) are redefining the social norms about what kinds of environment children should be raised in. This trend is also being played out in Australia with approximately 30% of Australian children being born outside of marriage - trending upwards.

It is clearly time to bury the notion of a predictable life trajectory, time to debunk the notion of ‘traditional’ families, stop trying to reduce the number of ‘single mothers’ and consider what this means for advertisers, marketers and employers.

CES 2012 - a quick and dirty review

Every year geeks, tech gurus and captains of gadgetery from around the world converge to attend the annual Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, where manufacturers show-off their latest products and services in an attempt to set the standards and create buzz for the coming year.

It's always good to have a look at what made noise at the show to get a little insight into what's coming this year.

I'm a researcher not a tech expert, so if you want a detailed run down of show please visit or - however if you are happy with a quick and dirty review, please read on.

  • Smart TV's look like they will soon become the norm: are much like smart phones are today, smart TV's can connect to the net and do pretty much everything in a TV centric way, e.g. download Apps. Google TV is getting some traction, but manufacturers are still yet to find a common platform. Watch out for an Apple Smart TV announcement later in the year. 
  • Implication: Once Smart TV's become mainstream, it's either going to get easier or harder to reach your target audience depending on your current digital marketing capabilities 

  • Tablets are getting really really cheap: it won't be uncommon to be able to pick up a quality tablet for less than $300 in 2012
  • Implication: Once tablets get really cheap, there are going to be millions of these devices sitting on coffee tables, kitchens and probably bathrooms meaning customer facing content (e.g. apps, websites, multi-media, email etc) will need to be tablet, smartphone and PC friendly

  • Ultrabooks to become the standard (and cheaper): these new generation laptops are essentially thinner, lighter, bigger and more powerful than the average laptop, i.e. similar size and weight of a tablet with the power of a PC
  • Implication: Cheaper quality tools for the new mobile generation workforce (and less shoulder strain)
  • Mobile payments to boom: Paypal recorded 4 billion dollars worth of mobile payments in 2011, compare that to only 750 million in 2010 
  • Implication: With more and more consumers willing to make paymetns on their mobile, expect more mobile marketing and sales initiatives (i.e. apps) being developed by either new startups or retailers themselves

Everything the same, but nicer

According to Bain, one of the big 'Trillion Dollar Growth Trends to 2020' is 'Everything the same, but nicer'

The 2009 model Porsche 911

The 'new' 2011 model Porsche 911

They predict a lot of GDP growth in advanced economies "will come from a broad range of incremental improvements to existing offerings" - which they coin as 'Soft Innovations'

Characteristics of 'Soft Innovations' are:
  • Usually generated from market or consumer insight
  • Increase consumption of nonphysical (intangible) value 
  • Create incremental value rather than steal market share from competitors
  • Entice customers to trade up
  • Bundle rising quality with rising prices (i.e. implicitly forcing consumption of quality)
  • Meets niche and unmet needs
They use coffee as example of how a 'low-tech' product can be improved (i.e. made nicer) to create more economic value.

It's an interesting trend - suggesting that companies might be better off looking for small incremental improvements through market / customer research, rather than trying to find the next big thing through research and development.


Retailers are ditching itsy bitsy paper receipts in favour of email receipts.

Recent reports out of the US identified several major retailers, including Gap and Nordstrom began offering electronic receipts in the earlier part of 2011, following Apple, Anthropologie, and Urban Outfitters, which already offer the paperless proof-of-purchase, receipt alternative. The trend, according to some, signals the beginning of the end for the paper-receipt model. Thank goodness!

“In five years, up to 60% of retailers will go paperless” Colin Johnson, of Nordstrom predicted.

We at Stancombe predict it may be sooner as retailers such as Target (USA), Best Buy (USA), and Whole Foods (USA) launched trial programs in the past year with more retailers to follow. And, as the penetration of smartphones in Australia is so high (50%+ and climbing), it makes sense that Australian retailers jump on the new technology as well. Qantas is on-board with it. Apple are using it and the cinemas are in the process of making paper tickets obsolete.

The benefits to retailers are numerous: quicker checkout lines (no need to print the receipt at POS), easier receipt management (stored electronically which will be easier for all), and less impact on the environment (always a good thing!), reduced costs (once set up costs are amortised, it will be less expensive than till receipts). Importantly, the e-receipts will allow retailers to collect the email addresses of shoppers. Huge benefits will follow from email collection in the form of retailers being able to offer personalised sales incentives, up-selling opportunities, cross-selling opportunities and retention and reward programs.

So, the shopper cuts down on junk in the wallet but may find it replaced with a crammed in-box. C'est la vie.

Read more here