Markets Focus: Tapping into the Mother Lode
New mothers want the best for their babies - and themselves
The top piece of advice expectant parents get is, "Your life will change - forever!" So true. Having a baby is not only the biggest upheaval in lifestyle most people will experience, it's also the one that requires the most shopping. "These young women - whether pregnant, aspiring to be, or new moms already - are very mindful of all the stuff required to make a monumental life change," says Jessica Lilie, director of consumer insights for the Web site BabyCenter. "At no other time will they need to change everything, from financial decisions and where they live to what car they drive and the brands they use."
While this group is a highly addressable market segment, it's not one that's easy to quantify. It includes women from 17 to the mid-40s, first-timers and experienced mothers, as well as women who are having difficulty conceiving.
And make no mistake, you are talking to the expectant mom here - not the dad. While more dads opt to stay at home these days, the vast majority of visitors to pregnancy sites are women. "Dads just don't seem to want to get that nitty-gritty," says Mollee Olenick, founder of Pregnancy.org.
These women, no matter what their age or situation, are hungry for information of all kinds - not just about pregnancy and child rearing. A January 2007 BabyCenter survey found that a majority of women focus more on health, fitness and nutrition after they become mothers: 65 percent of women exercised more - or at least tried to - and 82 percent reported eating healthier food.
But they also tend to be skeptical, so marketers need to prove themselves by offering useful and authoritative information, and advertorials are a great way to do this, according to Olenick.
Playtex Baby worked with BabyCenter to develop an integrated campaign to generate awareness for a new suite of products. Playtex hoped to get mothers started at the newborn stage with the Diaper Genie disposal system, a breast pump and newly designed bottle nipples, and then keep her as her baby moved to the First Sipster sippy cup. "Solutions for Mom" became the theme of a cross-platform media campaign that included display ads on the BabyCenter site and in its print magazine, an e-mail campaign and a minisite emphasizing Playtex's innovation in products for pregnancy and infant care.
To address expectant moms' intense need for information, the campaign included a booklet insert in the print magazine and interactive ads with rollovers giving tips and solutions. Playtex jumped to the top five of BabyCenter minisites; interestingly, 85 percent of online traffic came from the print inserts.
The Woman Connection
"This is a high-touch part of your life," says Deb Fine, president of iVillage Properties. "No one wants to be pregnant alone." Message boards and forums are huge for this audience, and great places for sponsors to reach them. "Message boards are proof women really need each other, and this is the place for them to gather," Fine adds.
Advertisers on the 12-year-old site that aims to speak to women at all life stages include major brands - from Kimberly Clark and Johnson & Johnson to Yoplait and Stop&Shop. Says Fine, "When you talk to someone in this life stage and they become loyal, they will stay loyal for life. I fed my kids Cheerios in utero, and 12 years later, they're eating Honey Grahams."
That's why DentalPlans.com, an online provider of dental insurance, advertises on Pregnancy.org. "We want to impress upon expectant mothers that they need to think about dental health by the time the baby is born," says Evan Weber, vice president of business development. Besides, the parents already have teeth. "The baby might not need the plan right away, but the parents do."
But not all marketers seem to have gotten this message. Take automakers. They're among the top online spenders, yet they've overlooked this segment. How come? When you're pregnant, safety, stability and comfort suddenly seem really important - more important than style or even gas mileage. Expectant parents are definitely in the market for a new car that makes it easy to tote the kid, the car seat and the rest of the gear.
"Auto marketers are missing out," says Olenick. "The car-seat folks know this, and car manufacturers should get on the ball."
Who else is missing the ball? Clothing retailers and financial service companies. Baby needs a new pair of shoes - and Mom will, too, as well as new clothes that accommodate her changing shape. There's a thriving niche for maternity and nursing fashions, but she's looking forward to the time when she gets her figure back, and is open to doing some aspirational shopping now. This is also a time when parents realize the need for long-term financial planning for the future, like college. Life insurance takes on a new importance as well.
Moving Up and Out
One challenge for marketers is that this audience is a moving target, as women grow out of their pregnancy years and a new generation grows into them. Marketers need to be alert to generational changes in lifestyle and media usage. Says BabyCenter's Lilie: "There's a profound shift between Gen-X and millennial moms. This very young mom is a technology native, so she's engaged in social media in ways the Gen-X mom never has been."
Moreover, Lilie says, the millenial moms are reclaiming the right to have fun while being pregnant. That translates to maternity wear that flaunts the belly and luxurious spa treatments.
With some creative thinking, almost any marketer could get on board this train. Just take a look at the travel category. Travel marketers have invented the wildly successful "babymoon." This trip can be either one last fling before the baby is born, or a get-to-know-the-baby vacation. Hotels and resorts are catering to these very special travelers by offering not only the usual accoutrements like comfy beds, fluffy towels and Jacuzzis, but also prenatal massage, nonalcoholic champagne, cribs with hypoallergenic sheets and diaper service.
Now, BabyCenter is looking for a partner to develop "conception-moon" packages - romantic getaways for couples who are trying to conceive.
Another example of out-of-the-box thinking comes from Nintendo, maker of the Wii. Nintendo advertises on iVillage, figuring that many expectant moms have older kids in the house.
Says Fine, "Expectant moms are interested in everything - from the serious, to the sublime."
This range of interests makes these women an audience pregnant with possibilities for marketing messages.