By Natasha Delliston, Head of Insight, Joshua G2
Shopper data shows us that modern day mums clearly represent an increasingly influential demographic across a broad range of consumer categories, meaning true and focused engagement with this audience is critical for a brand’s success…
Yet latest industry research reveals that many brands are simply not getting it right, with 64% of UK mums claiming they are not satisfied with the way brands communicate with them.
The research goes on to point out that 31% of dissatisfied mums say brands are patronising and often perpetuate the unachievable ‘Supermummy’ myth; 21% believe brands are too pushy and over-commercialised; 13% consider brands to be unclear or deliberately misleading about nutrition and health and 8% are disappointed by their perceived overt and covert marketing to children.
So where are brands going wrong? And more importantly, how can they get it right?
Keep it Real
Mums are quick to blame brands that create unrealistic cultural expectations they cannot live up to, and many resent the ‘Have It All Mum’ stereotype typified by celebrity media. Working mums, older mums and mums from higher socio-economic classes are particularly sensitive to the lack of both respect and reality in most communication targeted at them – being patronised by brands who fail to understand the modern day pressures or challenges of motherhood is simply not tolerated.
This, however, does not mean that mums wish to have reality, warts and all, played back to them: these kind of failings can only be admitted in private and it is not considered a brand’s role to expose them. Instead, communications that resolve this tension between aspiration and reality are the ones that recognise the daily frustrations of motherhood with gentle humour and wit.
Tell the Truth
Currently, mums are unhappy with level of time/effort they spend interrogating a brand’s “true” nutritional value. “Honesty”, “authenticity” and “simplicity” are therefore often cited as key drivers of brand appeal.
Brands that allow mums to exercise their common sense and instinct, rather than confuse them with overly detailed information and abstract science, are well received. In this sense, brands would be better off admitting their status as, say, an occasional and permissible treat, rather than attempting to pass themselves as something more healthy than they actually are.
Segment, Segment, Segment
Demographics point to the fact that UK mums are a hugely eclectic bunch with a wide range of parenting styles to match. What’s more, psychological research proves that mums are largely looking for a ‘fit’ with their own techniques when they seek advice on how to best look after their kids: any information which does not correspond to their existing approach can and often is taken as criticism and consequently rejected.
From a marketing point of view, this suggests that mums need to see a closer match between their values, beliefs and motherhood styles in order to find communication and advice appropriate to them, and consequently that a carefully segmented approach to this audience is vital.
Make it Easy
Time-starved and information overloaded: mums are notoriously intolerant. They make instant and complex judgments on brand communication in that it will either a) make their life easier b) add to their workload.
They want information simply, quickly and directly – rarely reading long copy and increasingly navigating by visual symbolism.
Packaging plays a huge role in their decision-making (it has been cited as their second preferred information source when it comes to brands, with ‘friends and other mums’ being the first)*, whilst promotions and discounts must offer either instant or high rewards for mums to sacrifice either time or effort in redeeming them.
Be of Help
Mums are at the sharp end of the credit crunch, and highly adept at sorting ‘valuable’ from non-valuable messaging. Valuable messaging here means delivering something beyond a marketing message: clever brands will be the ones that think of their marketing budgets as service budgets and are always looking for ways to make mums’ life easier – this could be anything from helping to create quality family time to providing ‘tools’ to smooth over the predictable ‘power struggles’ of the day, such as mealtimes/teeth-brushing.
WOM is now generally recognised as one of if not THE most powerful medium in the world of marketing to mothers. As trust in authority declines and is transferred to peer communities, we’re seeing mums lead the way in terms of online communication and social networking in this country**. In other words, mums are talking. A lot. And their voices are powerful.
Smart brands will capture and action what they say (positive or negative). Listening more will not only will give brand-owners invaluable insight into how mums think about their brands, but, simply by listening and responding to mums, brands are sending out a powerful message of mutual respect.
Leverage Trusted Entities
Trust is the holy grail in building a relationship with Mum. It can’t be bought and it isn’t created overnight. Increasingly, trust comes less as a result of what a brand says, but from what other say about a brand – hence the vital importance of peer recommendation.
The rules of mum-to-mum communication are different from the more formal, public sphere of advertising, and brands have to respect those differences and play to them.
Differentiated marketing messages for ATL and WOM media will be vital, as will the ability to identify and influence the true trusted entities for your particular segment of mums. Experience suggests these entities are increasingly less likely to be celebrities and increasingly more likely to be those with hands on parenting skills in their own right!
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