The Marketing Genius of “Modern Family”

By Jenn Alessi


Since its debut in 2009, “Modern Family” has become one of the most popular shows, let alone sitcoms, on television. Its appeal spans generations and, of course, is linked to the very truth that the Rockwellian portraits of American family life are a thing of the past. Increasingly, our families have non-traditional compositions.

As a marketer, it made me think about what it represents for those in my line of work. Segmentation immediately leapt to mind. This practice is one I’m in touch with regularly, as my specific enclave of the marketing community—content—advocates for clearly-defined target audiences based on client data. If it doesn’t exist, then we backpedal and promote data capture so such audiences can be identified and pursued.

In a month, I’ll be traveling to Savannah to join my family of origin and, in some cases, their families for Thanksgiving. It’s been a longstanding tradition and a fun one. As much as we love each other, we’re different in our own ways (career, financial capacity, life stage, personal preferences, etc). Therefore, our time together isn’t entirely blissful—and it doesn’t require too much examination to figure out why. For the sake of maximizing this annual gathering, there are a number of standing commitments on the calendar. While the intent is noble, it also implies that “one size fits all.” Not so. We are each a target audience at the individual level.

Shifting back to “Modern Family,” which mine is not, there is even more nuance: Gloria is Latina while Jay is a boomer; Cameron and Mitchell are gay; Lily, who they adopted, is Asian; Claire and Phil are Gen Xers with two daughters and a son. That’s quite a mixture and, thus, a more pronounced example of how distinct we can be, even when part of something that dates back to the beginning of our lives. Yes, families can be marketed to in a generic way and perhaps to some effect. The reality, however, is that we’re more likely to fall into segments our family members don’t—segments comprising complete strangers with common data points.

If our uniqueness can be observed (and felt) in the most familiar of settings, marketers everywhere, especially those who speak to customers and prospects in a uniform voice, should be able to more easily understand how listless such outreach can strike those with whom they want to make a connection. If not, tune in Wednesday for Episode 5 of Season 7.