MARKETING TO MUMS: THE RULES HAVE CHANGED
It’s safe to say Kate Middleton wasn’t greeted by a smiling Bounty lady minutes after giving birth to the heir to the throne, but most mums do not have this privilege. This article first appeared in Marketing magazine.
Mothers remain the Holy Grail for many brands, but as Bounty is finding out, marketers now have to proceed with extreme caution when wooing this vocal, mobilised and deeply brand-savvy audience.
Once upon a time brands had new mothers all sewn up. This audience, so vital for so many FMCG products and services, controlled day-to-day purchasing decisions in the household. And best of all from the perspective of marketers, if there was one word synonymous with new mums, it was ‘confused’. Numerous marketing campaigns have kicked off with the assertions such as ‘Mum is confused about what to give her kids for breakfast’ and ‘Mum wants help to make the best choice for her family’.
But mums seem to have fought their way through the fog and started talking back. Bounty, which has enjoyed a cosy presence in many an NHS maternity ward for years on end, is currently feeling the wrath of a highly mobilised and vocal audience. The backlash, fuelled by parenting website Mumsnet and The Telegraph, has seen at least two hospital trusts cancel their lucrative contracts with Bounty to date.
The first issue is that Bounty, which collects incredibly detailed information about expectant mothers when they register at their first midwife appointment, may have become a little careless about who it has sold these details to. New mums didn’t seem to mind being pestered by companies making nappies, bottles and other baby-related paraphernalia, but in recent months complaints have surfaced of incessant bombardment by PPI claimback companies and other non-parenting-related marketing.
The second issue is one of transparency. Mothers have argued that, in the often overwhelming hours post-birth when they are greeted by one NHS worker after another checking up on them and their new baby, a white-clad Bounty photographer can be easily mistaken for a member of clinical staff. The ethics of targeting mothers literally within hours of childbirth have also been questioned.
The first lesson for brands from the uproar around Bounty is to stick to the core principle of marketing to mothers – authenticity. Bounty has historically been a good ‘fit’ with mothers, offering information and advice around pregnancy and information from brands that may be useful to new mothers. But in pushing the boundaries, the brand looks to have gone too far.
And the second lesson for brands is to stop talking about ‘poor, confused Mum’ and start listening a bit more. Mothers talk – a lot. They’re talking through their blogs, they’re talking on Twitter, they’re talking on Facebook, they’re talking on Google+, and they’re talking on parenting sites.
The fact is, through these incessant and ongoing conversations, Mum isn’t half as confused as she used to be. Her questions can now be answered by her peers – who she inherently trusts more than brands. And if she can mobilise an entire campaign against as long-standing and cosy an arrangement as the presence of Bounty in maternity wards, she can’t be that puzzled over which breakfast cereal to choose for her child.
Assuming it’s even Mum choosing what’s for breakfast. In a modern world brands need to be looking at both parents when it comes to targeting the family audience, not just mothers. Advertising campaigns portraying Dad as feckless, disorganised and taking more of ‘another child’ rather than co-parenting role have largely failed to strike a chord.
The ongoing situation with Bounty should act as a wake-up call to brands looking to target mothers, or rather, families. There is still a place for brands within the parenting community. Many parents actively welcome the presence of brands, but marketers need to know their limits and understand that the audience they are targeting is far from ‘confused’.