How To Get Your Brand On Mom's Sh*t List

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, July 30, 2014

The voice of Mom is powerful. It’s something that brands are desperate to attract and at the same time, it’s one thing that brands fear the most. The motivated voice of one mom can mobilize a movement against a brand, having real impact right where it hurts – online and at the shelf. 

We all remember what happened to Pampers Dry Max diapers. A mom loyal to Pampers Cruisers was taken by surprise when she discovered structural changes to the diapers. Well, her baby developed diaper rash. She called Procter & Gamble out on it and received an inadequate response. So she rallied other moms and amassed an 11,000-strong Facebook group: Pampers bring back the OLD CRUISERS/SWADDLERS. 

The overwhelming number of complaints drove the Consumer Product Safety Commission to review the claims, and though they found no link between the Dry Max diapers and the diaper rash, P&G had to settle a lawsuit and is still dealing with the mama drama on its website, using paid search ads to steer the conversation.



P&G is a global, multi-billion dollar company and all it took was one jilted mom with a Facebook account to get their attention.

These stories aside (you can read a ton of them in Paul Gillin’s Attack of the Customers: Why Critics Assault Brands Online and How To Avoid Becoming a Victim), when it comes to brand affinity, the voice of the mom consumer shows love with silence and dollars, and dislike with the volume turned up to 11.

A Social Media Explorer study tracked and ranked the top 50 brands by social media mentions associated with love and hate. Interestingly, brands overall had seven times more hate mentions than love mentions. So, since it’s more likely that hate is fueling moms’ contributions to social media, marketers need to steer clear of behaviors that land them swiftly and squarely on moms’ sh*t lists. Here are just a few things to avoid:

1. Change Without Notice – As we saw with Pampers, when a product changes its form, size, or contents, even subtly, moms’ eyebrows raise. Moms are a sophisticated audience, and they know brands make changes to keep costs down. The damage comes when they feel the brand attempted to sneak a change by them unnoticed. A transparent, proactive approach is always best when introducing any changes to a brand.

2. Pestering Promotions – Moms are often deluged with requests to help their kids collect ’em all, like that complete set of licensed figurines from the latest superhero movie franchise, or those trading cards from that weird cartoon. Free with purchase. But it means buying kids’ meals or cereal boxes for six straight weeks. Moms are quick to see these schemes as doomed from the start, and the brands behind them become something to avoid altogether.

3. Manipulation – It’s a challenge for brands to avoid being seen as manipulative because consumers are keenly aware of the fact that marketers’ goal is to entice them to buy more stuff. A brand built on altruism can be especially susceptible. Take Dove. The Real Beauty concept has skillfully earned moms’ love with emotive videos and feel-good messaging. But while the most recent iteration featuring placebo beauty patches is on message, it serves as a strong reminder that Dove is really, really good at duping you.

4. Pinkification – It’s great to market a product that is uniquely made for women. But it really has to be made for women. As in, a man would not get the same quality experience when using the product. When a tool set, beer, or pen is splashed in pink, turning it into the “For Her” version, it’s just shallow, off-putting, and insulting to women’s intelligence. (I’m looking at you, Bic.) Just don’t do it. 

5. Ignoring the Basics – It’s common to see a great marketing effort succeed in getting moms’ family-sized wallets in the door, only to be waylaid by missing some of her basic expectations. We’ve all seen those kids’ clothing stores that are merchandised so tightly they’re impossible to navigate with a stroller, the restaurants with great kids’ deals and too few high chairs, and the happy “family-friendly” airlines with no family pre-boarding. Make the brand story match the brand experience and you’ll have smooth sailing.

These tips are common sense, but I find that they all fall under one of moms’ trusty parenting adages: treat others the way you would like to be treated. It’s that simple. If you consistently shape your brand’s actions through this lens, you’ll be fine.

And yet, many brands have a hard time staying off mom’s sh*t list.

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