Advertising To Moms: The Average, The Good and The Great (Or Is Cultural Relevance Sufficient To Turn Around A Declining Business Nowadays?)

I recently came across three different advertising campaigns targeting moms that allow for a nice comparison between what I believe is average, good and great advertising to moms.

The framework I use to evaluate the ads is simple yet timeless. It considers two core dimensions to determine the appeal and effectiveness of an ad:

  1. The “what” is said or the strategic relevance of the ad. Is the message meaningful, does it reframe the brand and help consumers think differently about the brand, does it address a relevant need state or benefit? And is it well branded, i.e. recognizable as being specific to the advertised brand?
  2. The “how” it is said, which focuses more on the execution, on how the brand is brought to life in its execution. Is it engaging? Is it insightful and relatable? Is it catching the viewers’ attention and interest and is it worth sharing and or talking about?

The assumption obviously being that great advertising need to be both strategically relevant and engaging, i.e. fall into the top right quadrant. Or as advertising icon Dave Trott puts it -and I paraphrase- to make a great tasting salad you need fairly plain and boring ingredients such as lettuce, tomato and cucumber (the “what”) and mayo to add taste, flavor and excitement (the “how”).

Now let’s look at the three campaigns:

  1.       Target
  2.       Yoplait
  3.       Red Baron


Target’s ad “SUMMER RUN” (which has been removed ince) feels the most traditional in its content and its format. It’s all about the branding and the actual products offered, with very little insights to promote engagingness, memorability and cultural relevance. It’s not an ad worth writing home or talking about really. In a sense, it just reminds the viewers that all their summer needs can be satisfied at Target. Duh! Because of this, this ad would fall in the lower right quadrant, i.e. strategically sound (I’ll assume that Target knows that the viewers would be interested in these products), well branded but not really capturing the viewers’ attention.   


Yoplait’s ad is interesting and almost the opposite of the Target ad. I would argue that it is culturally extremely relevant, tapping into a lot of relevant mommy insights and issues. In the process, Yoplait demonstrates that it understands what it is like to be a mom and in many ways validates the way many moms feel. So executionally the ad is fantastic and is probably going to get moms to notice and talk about it –for a brief moment- especially with all the social media activities planned around the TV spot.

The challenge however is that strategically it doesn’t do much in my opinion. After viewing the ad I am still not quite sure what needstate Yoplait would satisfy or what differentiating benefit it would offer in the highly competitive yogurt category. Further, it doesn’t really make me think differently about the brand or the category. Last but not least, the integration of insights and the brand’s promise is not very strong. The ad could work for a lot of brands targeting moms. I suspect moms will love and talk about the ad but not remember which brand it actually is for. Or worse, attribute the ad to market leader Chobani. In any case, I doubt that “cultural relevance” without “strategic relevance” will help Yoplait turn around its declining business. As a result, I’d put the ad in the upper left quadrant of the model. High engagingness and cultural relevance, little strategic relevance.

Red Baron

The third ad is for Red Baron frozen pizza. Now, I might be a bit biased here as I’ve been closely involved in the development of this campaign created by Minneapolis based agency space150 for Schwan’s. The ad is highly engaging as, just like the Yoplait ad, it taps into relevant mommy insights and truisms. Moms can relate to the ad and can identify with it, the brand clearly demonstrated that it understands moms. It is culturally relevant. But the ad is also very relevant strategically in that it addresses a clear need state and promises a clear benefit to moms, recognizing that “carving out a few minutes in the day to have a second of ‘me’ time (something every mom craves) is something that pizza really can help provide.” Lastly the ad is unmistakably branded making a mis-attribution very unlikely. As such, I’d put the ad in the top right quadrant: strategically relevant and culturally relevant.

A few years back, and according to a survey, 80% of moms thought that advertisers were doing a poor job at connecting with them. That’s 4 in 5 moms. I’d like to believe that things have evolved since then and it is interesting to notice an evolution from a more stereotypical type of advertising to a more engaging and culturally relevant form of advertising that is more reflective of today’s moms’ realities.

The question the Yoplait ad raises, however, is whether cultural relevance is sufficient in today’s attention economy to turn around a business or has the bar of effective communication been raised even further, requiring both strategic relevance and cultural engagingness?

I’d be curious to hear what you, the readers, think.  

To better understand how to communicate with moms, click here.

I’ve become passionate about how brands connect with moms ever since my twins were born. Since then, I have launched a start-up enabling moms to connect with other moms, advised another start-up in the field, built a social community of over 10,000 moms on a shoe-string budget, written extensively for the HuffPost on the subject (one entry going viral globally by reaching over 5 million moms in 72 hours) and helped brands re-position themselves and grow by better connecting with moms. Feel free to contact me here to explore if and how I could help you better connect with moms and grow your business.

First The Trousers Then The Shoes Inc. (First The Trousers or FTT for short) is a brand strategy and innovation boutique dedicated to helping brands compete and grow in today’s always evolving attention economy. We help uncover fresh and actionable insights that trigger action, identify innovative ideas to stimulate brand growth and inspire fresh perspectives on businesses and categories. The words our clients use to describe us include: experienced, passionate, terrific, insightful, elevating the thinking, helping us to think differently, highly collaborative, responsive and very recommendable.  Wonder if we can help you solve your business problem, help you facilitate strategy workshops, help train your teams and if might be the right fit and partner for you? Contact us to find out.


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