November 29, 2023
Single and thriving: Life lessons from the solo economy

Singlehood gets a bad rep. In pop culture, it’s typically framed as a reluctant layover, a waiting room till the next romance comes along. But with 2.1 billion singles worldwide and growing, being single is becoming a mainstream lifestyle. For many, it's not a temporary phase but an intentional choice, proving that fulfillment doesn’t require a partner. 

As the number of singles rises, their preferences drive new trends, influencing everything from solo travel experiences to single-serving portions. The surge in solo-friendly events and fitness classes also signals a shift towards enjoying one’s own company. Singles are not just exploring the world independently, they’re ready to spend on themselves

A testament to the economic impact of singlehood is Singles Day in China. It falls on November 11 or 11/11 each year, symbolizing four singles standing together. Originally conceived by single college students in 1993 as a cynical response to couple-centric celebrations (here’s looking at you, Valentine’s Day), Singles Day has evolved into a major online shopping extravaganza.

It started when Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba started offering massive discounts for 24 hours on 11 November in 2009 because, any excuse for a sale right? ​​Since then, Singles' Day has become synonymous with spending, comparable to Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S. In 2020, Alibaba reported a staggering 540.3 billion yuan (US$76.1 billion) in sales from Singles Day, far surpassing the US$22.1 billion generated on American e-commerce platforms from all Thanksgiving sales.

The sheer scale of Singles Day underscores the potential of recognizing this growing demographic. Beyond shopping sprees, marketing to singles unlocks a significant consumer base that wields spending power but remains underrepresented. By celebrating the single life and catering to single needs, brands not only tap into a lucrative market but also contribute to a broader social conversation championing diversity and independence.

To learn from the best, we look at brilliant advertisements from recent years that skillfully explore the single life with creativity and heart. We applied Sphere’s Ad Benchmarking app for a frame by frame analysis against various industry benchmarks, and got insights into the strengths that set them apart.

Pantene: A lesson on not settling for less

This cinematic piece is set in the Breakup Salon, where the recently single go to get makeovers and life advice from a sagely stylist. There’s refreshing diversity in their breakup stories; from navigating a controlling partner to overcoming the challenges of a long-distance relationship or facing parental pressures. Each character leaves empowered in their own way, by a blend of wise words and great hair transformations.

Brand archetypes

In line with its high reliability, this ad signals Everyperson the most. The down-to-earth characters with their familiar life experiences add an intimate touch and make for accessible viewing.

Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.

Jetstar: A lesson on celebrating me time

This clever ad starts out playing up the romance of travel, with characters who appear to be on adventures with their partners. But here’s the twist - as the camera pans, an outstretched hand is revealed to be holding a selfie stick instead of a significant other, and a cafe date turns out to be an indulgent solo brunch. The ad’s playful celebration of singlehood injects some fun into an industry associated with a formal, polished image.

Brand archetypes

This ad embodies the Explorer the most, not only through its travel scenes but also with its open-minded ethos of finding fulfillment in solitude. The characters fearlessly enjoy the world on their own, making every experience count.

Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.

Jollibee: A lesson on appreciating the here and now

This feel-good family ad follows the journey of Kat, who is unlucky in love. She suffers commitment phobes, two-timers, ghosters and painful breakups. She’s exhausted from looking for love in all the wrong places and comes to an epiphany that the only support system she needs is her family, who have been there for her all along.

Brand archetypes

This ad signals the Lover archetype by emphasizing the love and support within familial relationships, diverging from the typical Hero archetype often signaled in the Food and Beverage industry. Instead of drumming up heroic qualities like innovation or exceptional product features, this ad takes a softer approach by focusing on emotional connections.

How brands can celebrate the single life

With inclusive representation:

Craft marketing that accurately reflects the diversity of the single experience. Gain insights on this by speaking with real-life consumers from a wide range of ages, ethnicities, genders, and lifestyles, regarding their diverse needs and nuanced experiences.

With authentic storytelling:

Share authentic stories and experiences of singles in marketing campaigns. Feature real-life individuals and their diverse journeys, respect their individual choices, and avoid stigmatizing narratives.

By emphasizing self-care and well-being:

Adopt an informed approach that prioritizes self-care and mental well-being. Show how your products or services can contribute to enhancing the individual happiness and personal growth of singles.

Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.
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