The Choices She Makes

One of the paradoxes of motherhood is that moms have no choice but to constantly choose – and baby names are only the beginning. We just released the results of our annual Baby Names Survey and the Top 100 Baby Names of the year. It's such a fun program, and consistently our most popular story. The data is based on the names of 450,000 babies born in 2012 (the most popular names were Sophia and Aiden) and a survey of 5,000 moms. As we've seen before, the influence of pop culture (the 50 Shades book series) and celebrity (the boy band One Direction – my tween daughter wasn't surprised a bit!) definitely weaves its way into moms' choices.

These results remind us that moms take the choices they face – even the fun ones – very seriously. Consider these stats: 61% of moms believe that their child's name directly contributes to success later in life; moms believe people are judged by their names, and that their names are a true reflection of who they really are; moms consider how others will spell or pronounce a child's potential name. They even go as far as thinking about whether or not their child will be able to find a store-bought trinket with his or her name on it. And the name itself is big news – within minutes after birth, two in five moms share their baby's name through a social network.

With a baby born every seven seconds, that's a lot of choice and this got us thinking … in what other ways is Mom making choices (and sharing them) with such enthusiasm?

Thinking Differently About All She Buys

From the moment a child is born, Mom shops differently (7 in 10 women change their purchasing criteria when becoming a mom), and these changes continue to evolve to accommodate her growing child's (and family's) needs. She's making the decisions on big-ticket items and choosing products and services she never thought she'd need. For example, one of every two moms tells us that having baby or adding a second child meant she was shopping for a new car. Forty-four percent researched new financial products like college savings accounts, credit products, and life insurance.

Moms consistently tell us they never expected to face these sorts of choices, and that making them brings anxiety as well as feelings of empowerment. Just think about all a mom is faced with as she grows her family – it's absolutely not just cribs and bottles. Even before the baby comes, soon-to-be moms tackle home improvement projects (64% convert a room in the home to a nursery). Moms are also, to be clear, not just thinking about the baby and the house – they're buying for themselves in new ways, too (40% lean toward organic or natural personal care products after becoming a mom). 

We've discussed before how the proliferation of media platforms and services gives moms new and nearly unlimited access to the information they need to manage their lives. The continuous change in all aspects of a woman's life triggered by motherhood, together with always-on access to information and services, means that she's going to be making new choices in new ways. The solutions she finds likely won't be yesterday's choices. It's the single greatest opportunity in the life of any consumer segment for a marketer to start a relationship that lasts.

The Marketer's Choice? Not much if you want to win her. You must be dedicated to understanding the breadth of changes – and choices – today's mom faces to know how, when, and where to engage her.

Letting Her Network Know

So yes, moms make new choices constantly, and they also give voice to many of them. It's the passing along of the wisdom of moms, an I've-been-there-and-I'm-going-to-help-you mindset that's universal in this life stage. With all the decisions to be made – from what do I need to where do I get the best deal – motherhood is the biggest catalyst for women to engage in social media. Seeking information or advice on everything from potential baby names to sleep strategies and best bottles, a whopping 94% of women say pregnancy and motherhood drove them to parenting social networks.  And 73% of new moms tap into the wisdom of their peers when deciding what to buy and try.

Yes, like everyone else, moms are posting to Facebook or living out loud in 140 characters. Social media carries her voice and she has new things to say, a new life worth sharing. But moms also share very different sorts of information with the new network they're building. Sure, it's pictures and videos of milestones and celebrations, but it's also parenting advice, tips on products, and, always, deals – all this content is a kind of currency for moms to share. Thirty-six percent, in fact, share daily deals with their friends via social networks.

The Marketer's Choice? Give moms something to talk about. They're already sharing recommendations on products and services ­– they'll recommend yours if you give them a good reason.

We get that Mom is faced with new needs, less time, more choice – and she has no choice but to find the solutions that work for her new life. The products, services, and brands she chooses are the result of her research and the voices in her social circle. Tomorrow she'll be a source of trusted advice for other moms facing the same choices. Marketers who invest in deeply understanding her new needs and use that knowledge to reach her where and when it's most helpful will definitely influence her choices. But it's probably smart to stay away from the baby names – she seems to have that choice covered all by herself.

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