6 July 2018
The modern mother is a far cry from the stereotypical kitchen-dwelling caricature seen in adverts of yesteryear.
She’s single, married and co-habiting. She’s often both mum and step-mum. She’s employed and self-employed. She works full-time, part-time, freelance or not at all. She rents, she co-owns and she owns. And her age varies by decades. Your average NCT class could well have two new mums from entirely different generations.
What does bind this disparate group together is their spending power. Mums still make 70% of all household purchasing decisions. And it’s not just the standard weekly shop. Mums over-index on everything from household to baby food to men’s clothing.
As the primary purchasers, mothers also pass down habits to their children. What a parent purchases influences what a child buys when they grow up. So not only does advertising to mothers reach frequent shoppers now, it can set up brand loyalty and purchasing habits of future consumers.
So how can brands reach and engage the modern mother?
Understand their behaviour (and influence on one another)
What also binds this group together are the infinite challenges of parenthood.
Historically, parenting advice would have come from family and community. Today, it’s Facebook and Mumsnet, where mums (70% of them in Australia) connect with each other to share everything from tips to frustrations to recommended products and brands.
Many say these sites and platforms are their most valuable resources for mum-to-mum interaction. But it’s important to remember why they’re there: to connect and seek advice. Brands should try to involve themselves by joining debates, answering questions and producing content that mums find genuinely useful. Rushing in and shouting about products will simply turn people off.
Take Fairy, for example. They sponsored the Mumsnet podcast, which means they positioned themselves as a trusted partner to real mums. But crucially, they also let them do the talking. When Fairy was mentioned, it felt relevant and appropriate.
The other source of inspiration for the modern mum is the blogosphere. From the cute and minimal blog of @mommy.diary to the fashion-forward styled posts of @courtneyadamo, the candidness and relatability of mum-fluencers resonate with audiences everywhere.
Meet them on their mobiles
With nearly 90% of UK adults now using smartphones, this is common sense almost to the point of patronisation. But modern mums are the most connected set of mums in history. Every new mum in the UK is overwhelmingly likely to be a heavy smartphone user.
Recent research from comScore is even more compelling. They found that mothers (women aged between 25 and 54 with kids in the household) spend considerably more time on smartphones than women of the equivalent age without children.
So what are they doing with these extra minutes? The same study found that social media is the dominant activity – quite overwhelmingly so.
No surprise here. In the US, 66% of mothers turn to social media for parenting advice. It’s also obvious to suggest that, as parenthood is pretty all-consuming no matter what age kids are, any snatched moments of downtime are likely to be spent with phone in hand. And what do we do when we’ve only got a few minutes? A quick check of Facebook or Instagram, of course.
Brands that recognise this, and tailor their content and targeting accordingly, stand a great chance of resonating with mums.
Entertain the idea of entertaining
Back to that comScore report again. The other major area that mums over-index versus non-mums is entertainment.
Mums surveyed in the study spent on average over two hours more per month accessing content on platforms such as Spotify and YouTube. Brands targeting this audience, take note.
In terms of Spotify, it’s fairly clear what type of content is being accessed. This is slightly trickier on YouTube, for obvious reasons. Channels like MadeForMums and Channel Mum are the glaring starting points. A US-based study by Google and Ipsos also found that mums turn to YouTube for product tutorials and how-to videos.
But there’s a surprising and highly overlooked place you’ll also find many mums, and that’s the world of gaming. The average age of a female gamer is 37, and women account for 30% of YouTube gaming video audiences.
A 2015 NPD Group study in the States found that a whopping 74% of mums play video games, with 38% reporting that they play every day.
Smartphones are the most popular device for this, which is no surprise given that in 2017, 35.5 billion mobile games were downloaded from Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store.
Mums may be a diverse and complex group, but we all love to be entertained – and they are no different.
So whether it’s video content, a Spotify playlist or a branded game, there are real opportunities to tap into this insight – especially on mobile platforms.
Add genuine value
Keeping children in nappies, school shoes and entertained in the school holidays doesn’t come cheap. So it’s no surprise that mums tend to be active hunters of deals and offers, and avid fans of online competitions.
Brands looking to engage this audience must recognise this and cater for it. There are a wide range of ways to promote deals, from featuring offer codes on portals like VoucherCodes to partnering with cashback sites such as Quidco.
If it’s a competition, engagement is likely to increase if a range of prizes are offered (rather than one grand prize only) and entrants are instantly notified whether they have won.
But value isn’t always monetary. Another effective tactic is to create content that helps mums address common challenges.
Dove do this extremely well with The Real Me, a series of articles and videos on how to encourage children to boost their confidence and self-esteem.
Avoid clichés and stereotypes
The majority of women are offended by lazy gender stereotyping in ads. This is especially true for mums who find themselves displayed performing household tasks such as cooking and cleaning. (Thankfully, the ASA are consulting on whether to ban ‘harmful stereotypes’ like these altogether.)
Mums are looking for real representation, and sadly are finding it lacking. So how can brands speak to them in their advertising and promotions, without lapsing into negative portrayals?
In many ways, I’ve answered this question as I’ve been writing this piece. Mums come in all shapes and sizes, but there are many things that bind them together. The challenges (and rewards) of parenthood. The desired to share experiences, and learn from other mums. The search for value. What do they all have in common? Support.
Brands often focus on aspirational situations when they cast and depict characters in their campaigns. For mums, this has historically meant a clean kitchen, or a happy child at dinner time (eating something cooked by mum, of course).
Modern mums aspire to countless things. To be fitter. To develop professionally. To eat better. To travel the world. To become better tennis players, rock climbers and gardeners. To complete Candy Crush Saga. To enjoy life.
So it’s time for brands to stop figuring out how they can help mums become some kind of one-size-fits-all notion of ‘a good mother’, and simply figure out how they can help mums. Full stop.