The Solo Project: Mapping the Moments that Matter

solo living guy on couch 2000

Here in New York, the Arnold Bread Company is buying up premium subway ad space for their new “Simply Small” line of bread, a loaf with just ten slices. This is just one of the many ways businesses are responding to the current and projected rise of Solo Households – adult North Americans living alone. This demographic is now at nearly 35 million and climbing, especially in the under 35 and over 55 age brackets. 

In parts one and two of the Solo Householder series we asked what the rise of the Solo household meant for businesses across all industries, from financial services to consumer packaged goods to travel and hospitality. We noted ways in which the rise of Solos is transforming many key aspects of everyday business, from the way housing is designed to the way household staples, like bread, are packaged, marketed, and sold.

Still, even with the surge and stabilization of Solo households, business is only now beginning to respond in tiny tepid increments. Solo life is mainstreaming, but most of the business world still produces for and around the needs of the traditional nuclear family, even though multiple household structures – blended, multi-generational, extended, single-parent, dual-income/no children, and Solos – have emerged and become permanent enough for Census to create categories around them. The school calendar, a relic from the days when we needed children to help with the summer harvest (do you even know what I’m talking about?), still plays a dominant role in consumer patterns, from planning family vacations to back-to-school shopping.  Financial services for all but the most affluent Solos are woefully inadequate.

In this third and final installment of the Solo series, we want to discuss how the psychosocial needs of Solos present a vast plain of unexplored opportunities for businesses.

How do Solos Meet Their Lifestyle Needs?

Imagine (perhaps you don’t have to) you live alone. You come home at the end of a tough day, your boss was a jerk to you, and you need some comforting.  Or maybe you had a great day, you landed that amazing new deal, and feel like celebrating. 

What do you do?

How Solos meet their psychosocial needs is always predicated on the fact that they have to figure it out for themselves. Yes, they can call people, but no one can do that every single day. There won’t be children to distract them, nor a partner, nor roommate, nor parent, to sooth, cajole or fete them. In these moments, how do Solos make themselves feel good? How do they soothe? Celebrate? How do they feel as a result of, or about, living alone?

In the end, this is a social question, and one in which brands can play a key role in answering (because brands are an increasingly influential part of “social” questions). 

What Can Brands do to Reach Solos?

The main thing that brands can do is to help normalize Solo living, the same way key brands have come out over the last years to normalize same-sex parents, or transgender lifestyles, to enfranchise a broader swath of American life, to expand inclusion into the mainstream. This goes beyond using Solo-positive images in ads and commercials (no more well-groomed, wistful-looking blonde women with journals and poised pens sitting at tiny little café tables, please. Please.). 

The opportunities go beyond marketing and ads into incorporating Solo-focused products and services into a company’s innovation cycle, starting with design ideation into primary research, launching, and testing. 

A few ideas in testing phases: 

  • Solo subscriptions for bathroom tissue, paper towels, and other basic household supplies and/or grocery staples (i.e., not buying 12 rolls of anything at a time, thank you).
  • Reasonable adult portion sizes at commensurate pricing, somewhere between the demeaning children’s popcorn & soda and the mammoth straight-to-cardiac-care jumbo popcorn and soda? 
  • Hotel discounts for Solo traveler accommodations.

How do we use what we’ve already talked about in this space to cater to the Solo market? Here are just a few of the questions we’re asking:

  • What are the emotional points that matter to the solo householder?
  • How does that feed into the Solo product innovation cycle?
  • And how does that feed into comms and marketing inclusive of Solos?

What are some of the things you’ve seen catering to Solo life? Or what are the things that are missing? Let us know.

More Solo Project Insights

Exploring Business Trends: The Rise of the Solo Householder

The Solo Project: Financial Services for Independent Living

The Solo Project: Exploring Practical Life Trends for Solo Households