There's a lot of UK market research telling us how tech time can destroy family life... We take a fresh look into how it's strengthening the family.
The digital revolution is redefining family structures and behaviours, creating new opportunities for marketers and brand owners and more importantly the highlighting the need for new thinking around family life.
For example, take a snapshot of the "average family". Perhaps 100 years ago the stereotypical view is of the family sitting around the piano having a sing-song. Half a century later, that same family was just beginning to sit around their new TV watching Coronation Street. But what of today? Wherever they are sitting, the chances are it is not in the same room and even if they are, the chances are that they are each involved in some separate form digital activity.
Today the family sing-song is now a Spotify playlist. Corrie.. now on catch-up. And while mum and dad are catching up with emails, Grandma is popping in via Skype or FaceTime. Then the rest of the family are getting hairstyling advice on YouTube, broadcasting their lives on Snapchat and Instagram or getting text advice from mum on how to avoid food poisoning from reheating pasta.
However, it is still fair to say the typical advertising family remains a largely nuclear family with share activities. For example, they still go shopping as a group in physical stores, viewing, interacting, living and partying like it was 1999. We believe that a digital life is not a bad thing and that there are in deed many benefits of the new digital world in which we live. We often hear about the negative effects: suppressing kids’ ability to converse, damaging sleep patterns, creating online gambling addictions, preventing us from achieving a healthy work-life balance, fuelling a culture of cyber-bullying, and so much more. All of those things are real, but research also shows that, overall, digital actually equals happiness for many of us.
In recent market research study, 67% of parents around the globe agreed that they learned how to use new technology so that they can communicate better with their family and stay connected to each other. Mums today are less likely to have large, extended families living nearby and more likely to be working (at least part-time), so digital is key - especially the smartphone.
Digital does so much for most for families today and in particular keeping far-flung families in touch. It educates. It entertains. It can change behaviour, forge new bonds and even create families. Couples now are as likely to meet online as anywhere else, with friend-and-family networks available to singles today revolutionising relationship-building. The biggest hook-up opportunity is undeniably via dating sites and apps; Match.com, one of the biggest names in this space, says it has been responsible for over 686,159 relationships and 228,719 marriages in the UK alone.
Jeremy Corenbloom, marketing director at Match.com, says: "Online dating isn’t just ‘acceptable’, it’s a social phenomenon that’s gone from niche to normal [and] is the third-most common way for people to meet a partner in the UK. One in four relationships in the UK starts online."
Grandparents are playing a greater role in raising their grandchildren nowadays as more mother’s work outside the home and the number of single-parent families rises. Grandparents are increasingly using digital technology to keep an eye on their families.
Figures from another market research study shows that people over the age of 60 are signing up for Facebook faster than any other age group.
Tech can be used to offer even more practical help to the elderly within families. Samsung’s Backup memory app helps early-stage Alzheimer’s sufferers remember their families. It uses Bluetooth to detect when friends and family with the app are nearby and will identify the person and show photos and videos that recall past events.
And For Marketing
The constant turnover of new digital products and services onto the market means there’s always something to get excited about and master together. This is a key part of parenting; now online, and, increasingly, physical tools and platforms within the home, become a space for exploration, growth and development.
The message, then, is clear:
Family life today is digital life.
Brands must make sure that they are on board with that.