Active, young, upper middle-class suburban couples and families living upwardly-mobile lifestyles
Fast Track Couples consist of young couples and families already on the road to upward mobility. Although 90 percent are under the age of 35, most are married, work at good jobs and own their homes. One-third has kids. Nearly all have at least some college education, which has helped them obtain decent-paying jobs in sales, white-collar professions and technology. With most households paying off mortgages on their first homes, it’s common for both partners to work. That’s typical in the new subdivisions where many live. In the fast-growing sprawl of mid- sized cities in the West and South, these young couples live comfortably in homes valued close to the national average, though they have yet to sink deep roots: most have lived at the same address for fewer than three years.
In many ways, Fast Track Couples lead mobile lifestyles. They enjoy athletic activities, and it’s hard to find a sport - basketball, soccer, hockey, football - that they don’t play. They also keep fit at local gyms by jogging, biking and doing aerobics. They tend to be night owls who enjoy many night life activities, including going to bars, comedy clubs and rock concerts. On weekends, the childless couples may go to a college or pro sports event after a tailgate party; the young families head for zoos and aquariums. Everyone seems to meet afterwards for a meal at a casual restaurant like the Olive Garden, TGI Friday's, P.F. Chang’s, The Cheesecake Factory and Chili's.
As shoppers, Fast Track Couples like whatever’s new and hot. Status-conscious consumers, they love electronics and fill their living rooms with the latest equipment, like gaming systems and large-screen TVs. In their driveways are expensive cars, including premium SUVs, CUVs and sports cars. They describe their taste in clothes as conservative, though they like to get the latest designer fashions. However, they like to think they’re smart with their money; they shop sales, clip coupons and wait for an item to go on sale before making a purchase.
Fast Track Couples don’t have much time for traditional media. They don’t subscribe to daily newspapers and they rarely listen to the radio unless they’re commuting to work. Their taste in TV is a bit eclectic, reflecting the preferences of young couples (MTV, VH1 and Spike) versus new families (Disney, Nick at Nite and Cartoon Network). They’re also a tough sell to advertisers, trying to ignore TV commercials while occasionally registering billboards and ads in movie theater lobbies.
The best channel to reach Fast Track Couples is the Internet: they’re receptive to online advertising through web search and sponsored links and few segments spend more time in cyberspace. For many, the Internet is the first place they go for information, shopping and, increasingly, entertainment. They like to download music, watch TV, book airline tickets and hunt for new jobs and cars. They visit most of the popular mainstream and social networking sites.
Despite their youth, Fast Track Couples aren’t known for their tolerant open-mindedness. They have little interest in recycling, protecting the environment and supporting equal rights. They vote Republican at the ballot box and describe themselves as right-of-center politically. Most are not particularly involved in their new communities, and few volunteer for groups other than the PTA or their church organization. Many are simply too busy with work and early childrearing to care.
Fast Track Couples are flourishing. Nine out of ten households are under 35 years old, and the vast majority are married and own their homes. About a third have already started families and others might look to start one soon. Nearly all are white and have been to college, with about half holding bachelor’s degrees. Most have managed to land well-paying jobs in sales, services and white-collar and technical professions. More than half of these households have dual workers in the labor force.
Fast Track Couples are concentrated in the fast-growing, metro fringe communities of the West and South. Many are first-time homebuyers who have settled in new residential developments filled with affordable homes; their values are right at the national average. Nearly all the segment members are homeowners who are either considering having children or already have pre- school kids at home. These households are used to seeing moving trucks on the block: nearly two-thirds have lived at the same residence for under three years.
Fast Track Couples have socially active lifestyles. They enjoy going to bars, movies, comedy clubs and rock concerts. The young families within this segment also spend their weekends taking their children to zoos and aquariums. These upscale households are sports fans who like to attend pro and college games, join fantasy sports leagues and participate in tailgate parties. When they want to go out for dinner, they often head to casual chains like Olive Garden, P.F. Chang's, The Cheesecake Factory and Chili's.
In Fast Track Couples, leisure activities involve a lot of exercise, whether it's going to the gym or playing weekend pickup games of basketball, football and soccer. They also prefer their vacations to be filled with heart-pounding sports, including skiing, scuba diving, water skiing and backpacking. Even those couples who have yet to start a family enjoy the thrill rides at theme parks like Universal Studios and Disney World. When they travel, which they do to both domestic and foreign destinations, they like staying at all-inclusive resorts and mid- to up-market hotels.
Fast Track Couples are informed consumers, not impulse shoppers. They’re acutely aware of demands on their budgets, and they want to make sure they get good value for any purchase. They’ll wait to take advantage of a sale before they prowl the aisles at stores like Old Navy, Victoria’s Secret, Ross Dress for Less and Express. Self-described early adopters, they like filling their homes with the latest consumer electronics such as camcorders, DVD players, DVRs, gaming consoles, MP3 players and large-screen TVs. Their one large-ticket splurge seems to be cars, especially premium SUVs, mid-range CUVs and luxury sports cars. Among these consumers, foreign models like Land Rover, Mini and Acura always trump those made in America.
Fast Track Couples make a mixed audience for most media and advertising. They’re not regular newspaper and magazine readers, and they often change the channel when a TV commercial comes on. However, they like family-focused cable channels like Disney, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. On their commutes to work, they will listen to radio stations that play modern rock, adult contemporary and hip hop music. They’re more likely to respond to ads outside their homes than inside them, such as billboards and placards in movie theaters. When they’re online, advertising suddenly becomes more interesting and they’ll click on sponsored sites and ads.
Caught up in their careers and their young children, Fast Track Couples are concerned about issues only as far as their front door. They like their life and want to provide for their children, but they’re not particularly progressive on many issues affecting society. They don’t see the need to stay well-informed, and they don’t express strong passions about equal rights, recycling or pollution. Having lived only a short time in their communities, they feel little commitment to their neighbors. Other than being active in their local PTA or church, they rarely volunteer for other community groups.
Members of this segment know how they’d like to live, but too often they settle for what’s convenient. They like having friends over but they’re not much interested in housekeeping or interior decorating. They like trying new foods and drinks but they admit that fast food fits their busy lifestyles. They don't have enough time to try to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, and they frequently self-medicate with over-the-counter drugs when they get sick, typically dragging themselves to work out of a sense of responsibility.
At this stage in their lives, Fast Track Couples are focused on their careers. A significant number are entrepreneurial and dream of setting up their own business. They're also not very active politically: they have only average rates for being registered. Most segment members are right- of-center, with Republicans outnumbering Democrats 2 to 1.
Fast Track Couples are upwardly mobile. Despite their young age, many earn more than $85,000 a year, which supports their upper middle-class lifestyles. However, they’re mostly novices when it comes to financial investments. They have not saved a lot of money nor invested in many stocks, mutual funds or bonds. A high percentage do have 401(k) accounts and those with young children have started 529 College Savings Plans. Their balances, however, are still relatively modest.
In these young households, many members are comfortable with debt. They’re still paying off student loans and have added auto loans and first mortgages to their liabilities. They’re active users of debit and credit cards, but many try to pay off their balances each month. This is only an average audience for most health and life insurance products, though those who do have life insurance tend to buy high-balance policies. At their youthful ages, many still feel invincible.
Fast Track Couples are big Internet users, going online to simplify their lives. They use the Internet to manage their financial affairs, make travel arrangements and check out new job, car and home listings. They use the Internet as their chief form of entertainment, downloading music files, listening to Internet-only radio stations, watching videos and sharing digital photographs. In addition, they’re comfortable telecommuting and shopping online.
Having grown up with communication on demand, they don’t care how they get their Internet access. They bounce seamlessly between cell phone, laptop, wireless connection or cable. Although they dislike email ads, they do respond to sponsored Websites and links - especially when doing product comparisons. They like shopping for games and software to improve their online experience. In a list of popular Websites, it’s difficult to find any that they don’t visit, including Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, BestBuy and eBay.