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Italian singles: almost a third (32%) feel misunderstood and misrepresented by brands and mass media

Hotwire Global

Singles represent an ever-growing segment of the population both worldwide and in Italy, as confirmed by the data of the second Annual Report 2022 on households by Istat, according to which in the Bel Paese in the last 12 months they have now reached 8.5 million. As San Faustino approaches, we conducted research across the boot to understand if brands and mass media manage to represent singles authentically and to help marketers connect with this growing segment of consumers, who are often misunderstood.  

The main findings 

The survey reveals a real difficulty for brands to approach this audience and communicate effectively More than 2 out of 3 Italian singles find it hard to see positive representation of single people in the media and only 19% are able to name brands that show they really understand them. This happens because the lifestyles of singles are frequently portrayed through traditional and stereotyped narratives, usually referable to two macro-philosophies: glamorous people with an agenda full of social appointments or lonely and unhappy. The result is that almost a third of Italian singles (32%) do not recognize themselves in either ‘model’ and would prefer a more realistic third way. 

But which brands actually manage to speak to Italian singles and represent them authentically? It is not surprising that, given their intrinsic core business, that dating apps (29%) lead this special ranking, followed by clothing and accessories brands (15%) and the food & beverage world (13%), which takes the podium ahead of the big tech companies (12%). Travel brands (7%), automotive brands (4.5%), delivery apps (4.5%) and supermarket brands (3.5%) are far from double digit. 

Independent and secure, Italian singles have their priorities clear 

According to the results of our report, singles in the Bel Paese seem to have very clear ideas and a shared approach when it comes to life priorities: preserving health (78%), keeping fit and active (62%) and achieving financial stability (58%). Conversely, marriage slips to the botto8.o67;m of the list of priorities, with only 6% considering it an important goal at this time in their lives, along with becoming parents (12%).     

It seems to be mainly women without a partner who prioritize the consolidation of their professional career at this stage (28% as against 17% of men), as well as of a solid relational and friendship network characterized by deep relationships (43% as against 38% of men). 

Singles and shopping: no regrets in ‘gratifying’ themselves 

The data shows that singles are not anxious about their finances on a daily basis (82%). On the contrary, they seem relaxed when it comes to managing their money to buy what they value most, and do not feel compelled to justify themselves if they go on frequent and even substantial shopping sprees.  

In particular, more than three quarters of them (78%) like to treat themselves to a ‘gift’ – more or less frequently – spending mainly on travel and experiences (68%), eating out (68%) and wellness activities (66%). Moreover, for almost half of them it is not necessary to have a special occasion to spend (47%) or, otherwise, for 1 in 3 singles shopping for oneself is an antidote when feeling blue (33%). 

What does this mean for brands? 

In light of this evidence, it is clear that to remain competitive, brands need to understand how to effectively speak to Italian singles. Indeed, for a more solid grasp of their needs and budgets, singles are emerging as an important shopping target in multiple categories, from travel to food & beverage and wellness, and much more. 

So, how can brands and mass media approach the singles market effectively? Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, some useful guidelines can be outlined. Of these, we have identified the following: 

1. Diversify storytelling: singles are not a single demographic group, but a large, diverse and growing target audience. Brands and media should set aside pre-coded rules and try to understand the attitudes, life priorities, behaviors and needs of singles. 

2. Show empathy: it is necessary to recognize the challenges, concerns and needs of singles and avoid considering their lifestyle as part of the problem. Instead, it would be more effective to make it part of the solution and show what a particular brand can do to improve their lives.  

3. Evaluate the language: carefully calibrating the wording becomes crucial. Indeed, it will be useful to suspend judgement and ensure that the vocabulary is respectful, inclusive and free of labels.  

4. Celebrate lifestyle: with the lack of positive stories about the everyday life of singles, it may be successful to help reduce stigma and free this audience from having to justify their choices. It will be strategic to respect their positions, support their independence, feed their appetite for learning, experiences and self-care. 

5. Unpacking the label: recognizing that single consumers are not necessarily grouped into fixed categories, for example, young and carefree or lonely and incomplete. The idea is to portray their everyday life at different stages of life, each of which is characterized by specific aspirations, priorities and concerns. It is important to present social situations and environments where lonely activities are increasingly frequent and common, to ‘normalize’, reflecting the realities of contemporary lifestyles. 

6. Embracing technology: consider the development of products and services with which to support the activities of singles in order to simplify their daily lives. From small errands to large life projects, the aspects of convenience and comfort are dear to this target group and therefore good drivers for brands and media to reach this growing segment of consumers. 

Methodological note: the research was conducted by Toluna on behalf of Hotwire in June 2022 on a sample of more than 500 single people in Italy.