This entry was originally posted on 1/4/2014 on http://www.ulliappelbaum.com
The evolution of the internet has given moms the tools (blogs, micro-blogs, fan pages and social media in general, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.) to express their individual and collective voices and to find, bond and connect with like-minded moms. In the process, they have created their own massive sub-culture expressed by the stories and experiences they share, the values around motherhood they communicate and their behaviors.
This sub-culture is not that new though to be honest (at least not in internet years). But this culture still remains largely untapped by marketers. It often seems as if brands mainly look at this cultural eco-system as a media or distribution channel rather than a source of learning and insights on how to engage and communicate with moms. It is therefore not surprising that, according to M2Mom.com (LINK), 73% of moms feel that advertisers don’t really understand what it’s like to be a mom and that 80% of moms feel that brands are doing a poor job at connecting with them.
So what are some of the elements that define this (mommy) culture and how can brands leverage those insights to better connect with and engage moms?
1. Don’t be so serious, Laugh with them (not at them).
“I shall maintain a sense of humor about all things motherhood, for without it, I recognize that I may end up institutionalized. Or, at the very least, completely miserable”. It is no coincidence that the need for humor is the first point captured in the popular “Mommy Manifesto” written by Jill Smoker, the mom behind the very successful “Scary Mommy” franchise. In fact, humor is a great “mechanism” most moms use to gain some distance from their everyday reality, bond and connect with others moms or just maintain their sanity. Insightful humor is also one of the most powerful ways to create engagement on a social media platform like Facebook. And yet most marketers seem to insist on portraying the serious, caring, multi-tasking aspect of motherhood.
2. Take a stand, represent a point of view, but avoid being patronizing:
Marketers know how important it is for their brands to have a clear point of view. That’s even more important for brands targeting moms. In fact, new moms have so many, often confusing, decisions and choices to make about everything that they will naturally gravitate towards brands that embrace a clear and relevant point of view and purpose and thus provide a welcomed short cut in this decision making process. The danger however, like with any point of view, is for the brand to unintentionally come across as patronizing. Polarizing is good. Patronizing is not. The line between the two is extremely thin, especially with moms. That’s the difference between Toys R Us (toys are more exciting than a field trip), a company you’d expect to know moms, and Goldieblox (empowering girls to become engineers).
3. Emphasize “personal stories and experiences”:
Ask the editors of the HuffingtonPost or simply look at what type of stories resonate most in the HuffPost Parenting section and you’ll learn that personal stories resulting from personal experiences are the new social currency. Personal stories and shared experiences are also the primary form of content on most mommy blogs. They are the means moms use to share, express themselves and bond with others without being patronizing or judgmental. They provide the content other moms can identify with (or not) and help create a sense of community most moms crave.
4. Celebrate the anti-hero and stop using idealized stereo-types:
Every mom will tell you that parenting is really hard and far removed from the ideal vision she had before getting pregnant. But most moms will also take a certain pride in the daily struggles of motherhood. A simple look at the stories moms share online makes this obvious. They celebrate the imperfections, struggles, embarrassments and mistakes they experience daily and find comfort in knowing that the others moms struggle too. The new ad from Coke Green from Argentina demonstrates this point brilliantly.
In that context, continuing to use idealized stereotypes of the perfect mom is the best way for a brand to distance itself from the reality of motherhood, act tone-deaf and fall in that category of brands “that don’t understand moms”.
5. Focus on the woman, not the mom.
Have you ever wondered why there are so many moms who blog out there? I believe the short answer is that after focusing for 6 months of 24/7 feeding and changing diapers moms crave a creative outlet for personal self-expression. That’s also why so many mommy bloggers actually dislike the term mommy-bloggers (and prefer “bloggers”). Subtle but significant difference. Moms are one of the most targeted audiences and brands are willing to pay serious premiums for a share of their attention. Yet some of the strongest, and unfulfilled, need states a mom has are personal and relate to her as an individual, not in the context of her role as a mom: the needs for “me-time”, for escapism, for validation and comfort and for self-expression to name only a few. “Moms Who Need Wine”, a wine distributor built a very successful business around this simple understanding. So instead of trying to communicate your brand as a means to perfect motherhood, it might be worth trying to establish it as the solution to an individual need most moms have (while still helping her fulfills her role as a mother). So instead of looking at a meal your kids will love as the expression of good motherhood, look at it as a way for a mom to get a 15 minute break and me-time (which she will if the kids eat and love what they eat). She’ll reward you for this understanding with her business.