Why Do Marketers Still Fear Marketing To Moms?

I have a favorite saying and one that stirs my business philosophy as much as my personal actions. It's attributed to the bright man or woman referred to as Anonymous and goes like this: "If you always do what you've always done, then you'll always get what you've always gotten." I would give Anonymous the gold medal of marketing intelligence.

One would think that, after all the thousands of articles written on the buying power of moms, we would be well beyond companies "exploring" whether they should speak to mothers. Unfortunately, we aren't. Even with the $2.1 trillion spending power attributed to moms, brands are still hesitant to turn the conversation from child to gatekeeper.

So why write about fear and marketing to moms now? Having just returned from Toy Fair in New York, I have been pondering the question most frequently asked of me, "If we market to the moms, will we become uncool to the child?" It's a question asked out of fear. The fear of talking to the financial gatekeeper -- Mom. It's a fair question. But I wonder if this same fearful marketer has asked, "Who is paying for our product at the cash register?"

My guess it's not the tween, teen or toddler in the house. It's the mother. So if your sales are flat or falling and you are debating whether it's time to turn your marketing focus to the mother, let me assure you, it's time to change the plan to include the Household CFO also known as mom.

Imagine what could happen to your sales if you purposefully set out to establish a relevant and valuable dialogue with moms about your product? Certainly you aren't going to approach it the same way as you would her teenager or tween but can you imagine if she knew you recognized her as your customer?

There are excellent examples of companies who successfully speak to moms and remain hip to the child. Nintendo Wii comes to mind. It has done a wonderful job in teaching moms to play Wii while marketing to their entertainment-centric children. Build a Bear Workshop creates a fun experience for the child while speaking to the mom about values and philanthropy via social media. And of course, Zhu Zhu Pets engaged moms in hosting MommyParties while running commercials on Nick and Disney Channel.

Did any of these brands chase away their core target audience -- the child? Not at all. In fact, I would argue that the engagement of Nintendo with moms made it a whole lot easier for Junior to convince his mom to fork over $300 for a Wii. I also bet that the kids who got the first Zhu Zhu Pets because their moms had access to the product before anyone else thought their blogging mom was super cool!

Fortunately for marketers, gone are the days when one commercial had to fit the entire family. There's a style, strategy and tactic for every segment of consumer, a conversation that a brand can have to multiple people with multiple interests via multiple platforms all at once. That's the magic of social media and consumer generated content.

With the magic of online marketing, social media and consumer-generated content, marketers have the opportunity to get over their fears of marketing to moms and do something they've never done before in order to get the results they've never gotten before.

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6 comments about "Why Do Marketers Still Fear Marketing To Moms? ".
  1. Mike Anderson from CSS , March 3, 2010 at 1:56 p.m.

    I would take your segmentation comments (paragraph 8) one step further. As a consumer group, the term "Moms" is a bit ambiguous, don't you think? The needs and priorities are quite different for the mother of a newborn than for the mother of a teen or tween. Different for a working mom than a stay-at-home mom. Different for the mother of one than for a mom in a multiple child household. Different for a single mom than for married. Younger moms different than middle-aged moms.
    One reason people might not target "Moms" more often is that the term is more of a vague reference than a precise target.

  2. Martin Calle from Calle & Company , March 3, 2010 at 5:10 p.m.

    Hi Maria! And I for one will take all the moms and advice you want to provide toward my goal of raising awareness for my OraQuel Children's Heart Smart Oral Care products. Maybe we can do a MomTV spot? Yes? Anyway, let's not forget I used to be one of those marketers who target moms at Kraft Foods; also P&G, Johnson & Johnson, etc. etc. And in my career enabled those companies to launch the ten most successful new products ever in the consumer packaged goods industry. In fact, my least successful new product in the $2.6 trillion US consumer product's industry is Baked Lays Potato Chips which sold $319 million in the first 10 months dwarfing 2009's most successful new product conceived and launched some other way, Gatorade's G2 at only $159 million. So why don't these companies target moms. Well they do. They just find it easier to do so with traditional media. It's measurable. When they generate impressions they generate GRP's (gross ratings points) and they spend to the level of GRPs they want to achieve. Now, when I first launched OraQuel in 1998 I too went the traditional route only to fall flat on my face because I didn't have a $70 million budget to throw national chain grocery store promotions, to pay store slotting fees, to advertise the product traditionally and otherwise "help the store buyer" (the person in store management who buys your product to put it on the shelf so consumers can buy it) sell it. Consequently, I was the last sample ever to pop out of the bags of the reps of my national broker network. I had no budget so their commission was nil so I got no love. Since then I've relaunched OraQuel and am doing so exclusively to moms via moms networks and blogs. It's tough because there are so many! Versus traditional media mom groups and social networks are influential yes, but like a needle in a haystack when compared to the world described above. They don't have the time to build relationships with all these moms on the one-on-one required basis! Heck, when I ran a good chunk of Leo Burnett Advertising in Chicago (the world's 3rd largest ad agency) I can't even remember a time when client Kellogg actually sent a brand manager to a focus group. They always went to the more exciting shoots and sent associate and assistant brand, ad and marketing managers to the focus group. What kind of way to connect with an audience is that. Anyway, thanks for following me as @BeOraQuelSmart on Twitter. My website again is www.OraQuel.com and if you'd like to do a MomTV thing about how we generate sincere influence with the large marketers I'd be happy to participate. Just tell me or DM where and when! Thanks so much! Martin

  3. Stephanie Piche from Key Practices, Inc. , March 3, 2010 at 11:02 p.m.

    Hmm, interesting how you have posted up examples of your clients - and of course, they would be stellar examples of who follow your spin on "marketing to moms" but if anyone reading will note, you are the consummate marketer, who posts up self promoting material. Perhaps you could step out of that mode and actually talk about areas where there can be improvement?

    As for a comment on WHO influences mom and how they spend... it IS their tween, teen and husband, they do get a say or as most moms will tell you they do tell their moms what they want. We, as moms do control 80% the $4.1 trillion dollars in household spend (your # is wrong above) and we are the ones who have been ignored in the marketing message - but it's not because of FEAR - it is because we have been anonymous - we have not been out there waving a flag saying "hey, what about us" but we are doing that now, we do have a say and guess what, smart companies who have figured out that we need to be marketed TO - are changing how they reach us. They are not dumbing down their marketing message -- yes, I do buy household products to keep my home clean and smelling fresh! - but I also buy cars and that IS one of the industries that fails to treat women with respect and market to us.

    Let's think outside of the box and go beyond the usual suspects on getting a marketing program together that speaks TO US - not AT US... Brands should FEAR not reaching us!

  4. Jessica Gottlieb from www.JessicaGottlieb.com , March 4, 2010 at 12:18 a.m.

    Mike, as a mom who is pitched relentlessly (and sometimes poorly) I can tell you that marketing to moms isn't a term that should exist. Marketing to new moms, Marketing to elementary moms, marketing to tween moms, and marketing to teen moms are completely different.

    I'm on some sort of list where I'm pitched baby toys and nursery items. My "baby" is 8 the big one is 11, I don't CARE what sort of stroller you're selling. I don't want your sing along songs, I want to know what day my daughter will be downloading the next Twilight movie onto her itouch... because I'll need to keep an eye on her that day.

    Marketers are nuts if they think that we choose for our kids past the age of about 7, we guide, but we don't dictate, their friends do.

    Right now I've got two cars to buy, a couple of vacations to plan and a newly sagging bed. I'm not worried about a toy show, my kids have allowance for that.

    I guarantee you a mommy party isn't going to sell me anything that matters.

  5. Ronald Stack from Zavee LLC , March 4, 2010 at 9:33 a.m.

    @Mike: I agree that "Moms" is really a superset for several different segments. Nevertheless, they have three important things in common: (1) they have a major say (if not operational control) over the household budget - and exercise that control; (2) they tend to be open to new products, channels and ideas, probably with some variation by segment; and (3) they avidly communicate, and not just with other moms. In addition to making them interesting people to know, these traits make moms close to ideal consumers.

    @Maria: I think your animating quote would better serve you and all marketers if it were modified slightly: ""If you always do what you've always done, then *the best you can hope for is* to get what you've always gotten." In fact, in a rapidly changing environment, failing to change is a prescription for failure.

  6. Anthony Pfeifffer from The Learning Compass,LLC , March 4, 2010 at 10:24 a.m.

    I enjoyed these portions:
    Imagine what could happen to your sales if you purposefully set out to establish a relevant and valuable dialogue with moms about your product? Certainly you aren't going to approach it the same way as you would her teenager or tween but can you imagine if she knew you recognized her as your customer?

    Fortunately for marketers, gone are the days when one commercial had to fit the entire family. There's a style, strategy and tactic for every segment of consumer, a conversation that a brand can have to multiple people with multiple interests via multiple platforms all at once. That's the magic of social media and consumer generated content.

    Now, to reach the dads through the moms.