Divorce Marketing: Are advertisers ignoring the "divorce niche" due to fear of divorce stigma?

Divorce News & information for divorce lawyers, professionals and advertisers
The stigma of divorce can cost companies money. Back in the Spring of 2008, a few months before Divorce Saloon was launched as an “international” portal (we’ve been around since 2006 but as a local divorce portal in New York), Adweek ran an article written by this guy named Andrew Adam Newman Can a Web site focused on divorce convince marketers to advertise in Splitsville?  There seems to be a question mark as to whether or not advertisers can make money selling ads to people who are getting divorced, admittedly a very targeted and growing niche.
The question I have, two years hence, is, can advertisers, including but not limited to divorce lawyers, make money pitching products directly to divorcing people whether on divorce blogs, websites, TV or other applications? Or is divorce still so much of a “stigma” that advertisers are still approaching it from a ten foot pole distance?
Newman, in his article, makes a lot of great points as to why advertisers (including divorce lawyers, who admittedly are the only ones really invested in advertising their services to this niche at this time) should be exploring and exploiting the divorce niche more and doing more targeted advertising, especially web-based ones. Neman shares a lot of insights; for one thing, he claims there’s a trend towards a more relaxed attitude towards divorce. Unlike back in the 1950’s, a person is no longer a social pariah just because he or she may have a couple of divorces under their belts. That may actually be kinda cool!
One obvious point the author makes is that of the sheer numbers of potential customers who are going untapped; this can translate into huge profits if advertisers are savvy and brave enough to jump in. He says “divorce isn’t pretty, but it’s big business, as about half of all marriages in the U.S. break up. Yet despite the $72 million spent in the U.S. this year on getting hitched [Chelsea Clinton is probably responsible for a huge chunk of the 2010 numbers] …hardly anyone besides family lawyers advertising on the web and in the Yellow Pages have targeted the divorced.”
He also cites the trend towards “social networking” (aka Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr, et al) and in the subtext, I think I hear him saying that this trend will lend well to advertisers’ bottom lines because of the “micro communities” that abound, and the “nichefication of social media.” In other words, socialmedia makes reaching a specific target market such as the divorcing/divorced easier for advertisers because they pretty much have a captive audience, as folks tend to cluster in micro communities and those going through divorce, for instance, will gravitate towards others in social media who have something to say and share that is relevant to that subject. And so getting the customer in his her her own habitat is not only easier, but is potential a lot more lucrative – but minus the stigma that used to be attached. A lot of divorce lawyers already get it and thousands are on Twitter. But their tweets may not always be “targeted” in the way it ought to be. Most lawyers are not really tweeting with a purpose, in my opinion, and they really need to.
Another plus for advertisers is the new move towards “life event marketing,” according to Newman. He interviewed the former COO of Bankrate, Cutter Cunningham, who shared an insightful quote “in general, most of the positive life events had been pretty much done. We started looking at less positive life events, like a death, in the family, illness and divorce. And those were pretty open, frankly.” Mr. Cunningham went on to explain why he pumped $1.5 million into a divorce-centric website, divorce360, as he felt that the site’s focus on the “life event” of divorce would make it a good investment for him and his company.
Mr. Newman is almost prescient in pointing out that

Per divorce360’s promotional materials, divorce ‘is a significant driver of new purchases –from financial needs such as credit reports, credit cards and mortgages, to personal improvement opportunities like diet and fitness programs. [It’s also when] new brand preferences and loyalties will be established.’ After all, it may have been decades since a newly separated husband decided what brand of cornflakes or toothpaste to by, or a just-divorced wife managed a stock portfolio. (Or vice versa.)

It is not just divorce professionals who can target the “divorce niche” and who should pitch their products and services to divorced people.  Companies such as Ikea, JetBlue, Target, Macys, Toyota and Fidelity Insurance and Century 21 can, and should, also tap this market as the author pointed out, because of the “life events” that creates a need for these products with a growing segment of the population — the divorced and starting over set. Companies like ABC, Oxygen and MTV should be pitching shows about divorce to audiences too. There are some. But maybe there could be even more. How about a talk show like the View about divorce and divorce issues? I’ve been pitching that idea forever but folks are not seeing the opportunities for success with a vehicle like this.
And this list of companies is not exhaustive. It’s like divorce is the interstate highway of advertising opportunity that nobody knows about. They are all still taking the back roads because it’s more scenic. Or they perceive it as safer. Advertisers, as of now, seem oblivious by and large to this potential for revenue creation with this group. Or maybe they are just waiting for somebody else to do it first. Again, Newman:

The millennial generation and Gen Xers are ‘products of divorced household’ are helping to change attitudes as well. But while less stigmatized than in earlier eras, divorce has barely surfaced in campaigns. Even the financial and real estate sectors, whose services are sought almost as much as lawyers’ when marriages fail, traditionally have been circumspect about pitching to the divorced directly. And when it is broached, it’s usually obliquely. Rarely is a spot explicit about whether, say, a single parent is indeed divorced and not widowed, or someone who has adopted a child alone. In the early 1990s, after the divorce rate had peaked and was trending slightly downward, companies including Home Deport, Ikea, Volvo, Ford, and John Hancock Financial Services began addressing the divorced in their ads. The ads were often one-offs rather than broader marketing efforts, eschewing humor for more poignant messages…

It’s a great piece by Newman and I recommend that marketers, advertisers and divorce entrepreneurs check it out. As one interviewee said in the piece “divorce is clearly rampant and is in many ways the great, unspoken target out there. It’s not shameful; it’s a very large market.”
Another interviewee says “the divorce theme has a ‘halo effect’ by resonating with the newly unwed.”
The drawback for marketers, of course, is walking the fine line between resonance and insensitivity. Divorce sucks and we at Divorce Saloon have said so repeatedly. Most people are not amused and would ill-appreciate a Hallmark Card saying something “cheeky” about the implosion of our families. Nor are they apt to “throw divorce parties” or go off to “Hedonistic resorts in the Caribbean” to celebrate that fact that their marriages have imploded.
But more and more people are shedding that stigma and shame and are embracing their new freedom. That is why there is even such a thing as a divorce party to begin with. That is why that hedonism resort in Jamaica does exists. That is why so many online divorce stores are poppling up all over the globe. Because the fact of the matter is, this is not the 1950s. We are a long way from that, baby. And while divorce will never be as cute as, say, the birth of a baby, it is more than ever becoming a second chance at life and happiness for a lot of folks. Advertisers ought to exploit this, and sell this new definition of what it means to be a divorcing/divorced person to the new generation of divorcés and divorcées.
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Original version published August 3 2010