We all have them – parents, that is – and some of us are a parent, too. In this respect, everyone has some understanding of the trials and tribulations involved in parenting; so why do marketers often find it so hard to market to this demographic, specifically to mothers?
A recent article on Marketing Magazine opens with the statement that marketing to mothers is broken. Many brands think it acceptable to merge all mothers into a single one-dimensional category, failing to take into account individual mothering styles, personalities and experiences. In fact, statistics from Your Baby Club (an online UK mother and baby community) found that of the 5,000 mothers questioned, 46% find targeted ‘mum’ marketing to present unrealistic ideals of the title, and 28% find it sexist.
Whilst undermining the father’s role in buying decisions should be frowned upon, research from BabyCentre has found that 80% of family shopping decisions are made by the mother – so it makes sense that there is more mother-focused marketing out there than father-focused marketing. But, despite this well-established fact that mothers are the “gatekeeper” that can grant brands entry into the household, marketers are still getting it disastrously wrong.
The main issue that marketers can’t get over, it seems, is that they find it impossible to differentiate between motherhood as an idyllic experience, or one simply seen as a never-ending merry-go-round of mundane chores – and marking motherhood out as an all-consuming role that comes before everything else. What brands need to be careful of is “trespassing on the name that children give their mothers”, Richard Huntington – of Saatchi & Saatchi – notes; brands’ marketing efforts need to draw on what being a mum means, without twisting its meaning.
Here are the top mistakes marketers can make in this respect:
1. Not appreciating that whilst motherhood is life changing, it is not life defining.
This is the biggest mistake – not appreciating that mothers are their own person and were an individual before they brought a new person into the world. As Mumsnet chief executive Justine Roberts states: “Being a mother is fundamental but it isn’t the defining thing about you.”
Marketers therefore need to be able to recognise this and not impose a blanket definition of “mother” to every female parent. They need to understand that being a mother is undeniably very important and is a life-long title, but that mothers have other traits and roles, too.
2. Associating motherhood with being a prude who has nothing but chores to do.
Linking to the above point about mothers being individuals still, some marketers make the mistake of suddenly believing that becoming a mum makes women ‘mumsy’ or more reserved. Thinking that mothers have no sense of humour – or a tame sense of humour, to be more precise – and believing that certain topics are out-of-bounds when mothers are the target audience is absurd.
Similarly, making the assumption that along with being prudish mothers have nothing going on in their lives apart from endless chores is again ridiculous. Whilst having children does of course result in more chores than probably needed doing pre-parenthood, most mothers claim the most fun they have is with their children – so associating being a parent with nothing but drudgery is another thing to avoid when looking to attract this demographic.
3. Placing too much pressure on mothers, and ignoring fathers.
Finally, too many brands place impossible standards on mothers. Presenting motherhood as a permanently idyllic occupation will make women feel bad if it’s something they’re not experiencing. No one is perfect, and 75% of mothers don’t think a perfect mum even exists. For this reason, brands should stop trying to enforce a perfect lifestyle on mothers and simply appeal to them as they are – human beings trying their hardest.
But along with trying not to alienate mothers goes not alienating fathers, too. Whilst – as stated previously – mothers are statistically the better bet in terms of which parent to target when trying to acquire new customers, with parenting roles becoming more and more equal in today’s society it makes no sense to ignore 50% of the parenting team.
It seems that marketers need to try and create a sense of authenticity when it comes to campaigns aimed at parents. Appreciating that both men and women have a number of different roles is key to pinning them down: whether that’s mother, father, partner, single parent, working parent or anything else in between – appeal to their humanity, above all.