Commentary

Parents: It's a Whole New Playground

Recent statistics show that Gen Y has already given birth to more than 13 million babies. With the generation being nearly 80 million strong, they will produce more children than baby boomers. What does this mean for marketers? Strap yourself in for a few decades of a wild ride! This generation is big and spans many years. It is also unruly, fickle, elusive and smart.

Gen Y women are re-casting the mold for what "mom" looks like. They don't sit in one place for long and don't define themselves by their "mommyhood." They are confident, know nothing but multi-tasking and believe their balance is found within their personal interests and global responsibility -- more than just work and family, as previous generations may have.

So, who are these millennial moms and how do marketers reach them?

It's important to understand that just because they have had children doesn't mean they have changed their outlook, activities, or personal beliefs -- they have just added "baby" to the mix. Being a parent is only one part of who they are and it co-exists with everything else they embody. There is less separation between "mommy time," "work time" and "me time," but rather a more infused state where all of their passions and interests come together.

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Because multi-tasking is fully ingrained in this generation, moms' online time toggles between updating their Facebook pages, building their personal blogs and following, jumping in and out of multiple conversations within various communities, all while celebrity-watching and seeking out the latest fashion and beauty trends.

Consequently, don't limit your advertising to traditional parenting magazines and mommy sites. Yes, moms will pop into parenting sites to chat with friends about specific child-related topics but this is not where they are spending the bulk of their time nor is parenting their primary interest online. Research shows that moms' fourth task online behind email, banking and search is shopping.

This is a group that cares about how they look, the fashions they are wearing and the image they project. Some brands understand this and have already evolved their product and messaging appropriately. The Detroit automotive industry, for instance, has come out of the economic downturn, replacing the caravan with the crossover. Sleek designs coupled with safety, is what makes vehicles such as the Ford Edge or the GMC Acadia attractive to this new generation of parents.

Lastly, let's not forget -- daddies matter, too. With nearly 20% of fathers serving as the primary caregiver, it's not just about moms. This generation has a deep respect for each other and parenting carries equal responsibility. Moms are still the influencers but they are not the sole decision makers.

Brands need to think about a family approach to their messaging, not just mom-targeted communications. This doesn't mean stroller ads should appear on ESPN, but thoughtful family- oriented creative on your female-targeted sites will resonate much better than addressing moms only.

Gen Y moms are well-rounded women. Think about their various passion points and bring that into the discussions. We all know this generation likes to be communicated with, not to, so make sure the dialogue you are creating involves more than just "kiddie talk." They will have more interest in your brand and be more apt to stick around for conversations if you can connect with them personally and understand the many dynamics that make up their lives.

6 comments about "Parents: It's a Whole New Playground ".
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  1. Joseph Coughlin from MIT AgeLab, May 28, 2010 at 11:32 a.m.

    Great piece, recommended reading to all in the marketing strategy world - however, one caveat...don't bet that Gen Y will have as many children as the boomers - the desire to have children is and has been declining. As education and income increases fertility decreases....just ask what the post WWII moms who had 3.8 kids per female vs. their boomer daughters who had ~2.2 kids per female - Will Gen Y have more kids -- we will see. Joe Coughlin

  2. Israel Serna, May 28, 2010 at 11:44 a.m.

    Fascinating piece! Wow!

  3. Elizabeth Elfenbein from FastTwitch Group, May 28, 2010 at 11:49 a.m.

    This is dead on. It get's the MOM of today. The question I have is it self-imposed or societially imposed?

  4. Kristine Shine from Sugar, Inc., May 28, 2010 at 3:07 p.m.

    Thanks all for the comments - Joseph, really good point on the number of children. this will be interesting to watch!

  5. Anne Peterson from Idaho Public Televsion, June 4, 2010 at 12:08 p.m.

    Some of us were there a long time ago. I always believed that motherhood did not define me but was only a part of the whole that was already there that would continue to expand. As for multitasking, have mothers ever known anything else?

  6. Byron Wolt from Speak to Students, June 6, 2010 at 1:07 p.m.

    Great article! It is TRULY important for companies who want to continue to be successful (or to become successful) that there is this HUGE group of people who are having more little people.

    While I agree that there are generational characteristics that marketers need to understand, to me, more than the generational characteristics of Gen X vs. Gen Y vs. the next generation, successful companies need to understand that ALL of these kids will go through school. By partnering with schools, companies can help students, teachers and build a positive community presence all the while helping their company reach their current and future customers!

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