Reality Doesn’t Bite: Why Marketing to Moms Should be Realistic

October 21, 2014
October 21, 2014 Jen Maltby

I graduated from college in 1994 and was literally “coming of age” at the same time that the coming-of-age movie Reality Bites was blowing the minds of Gen Xers all over the country. Today, I am way past my “coming of age” days. I am a long-married, full-time-working, semi-experienced mother of two. Suffice it to say, I am deep, deep, deep in reality. And guess what? I like it.

But am I alone in my appreciation for reality as a mother? We did some primary and secondary research* with new moms across the globe to find out.

Let’s start at the beginning with the picture at the top. Baby #1. Day #1. (I don’t know why my husband looks more exhausted than me, but that’s a blog for another day.)

Here I am, like every new mom, certain of only one thing: I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING. A recent article from Nicholas Day on Slate.com captured this feeling perfectly: “New parenthood is a desperate search for certainty: When you start knowing nothing, you are desperate to know something.”

And, it turns out I wasn’t alone. When we commissioned a study of new and expecting moms and asked them what they thought about this idea of certainty, the vast majority felt the same as me, especially in the beginning.

“You’ll take advice from anyone and everyone as long as there is even a smidgen of a possibility that it might help. It’s terrifying not knowing what you’re doing.” ~ Mom from Australia

But, then something interesting happens. Call it instincts, intuition, or blind luck. Whatever it is, you start to feel like – “Ok, this is my life now, and I am going to just figure it out” and “I don’t need the world to tell me what to do, I am the mom of this baby!” There are a lot of friends and family members and articles and books and advice at the checkout line that usually go into getting to this place, but a point comes in your new baby’s life when this new reality hits. In a good way.

And therein lies the problem for marketers. Moms are multi-layered, complicated, ever-changing beings. Our moods, perspectives and feelings are as variable as the weather in New England. We want it all AND, at a certain point, we also want nothing at all from you.

“It’s an interesting mix of ‘Please someone just tell me what the f*ck I’m supposed to do’ and ‘stop pushing your ideas on me and let me make up my own mind.’”~ Mom from the U.S.

So what’s a modern day marketer to do when it comes to moms? Well, maybe it’s easier to start by telling you what NOT to do: Stop covering the world with shades of pink and baby blue and painting pictures of babies quietly snuggling in a mother’s arms. That isn’t reality.

“Everything seems too simple. Seeing an advertisement of a young mother with her baby, one perceives neither fatigue nor disorder in the house. The baby is not crying and falls asleep just lying in bed. It is not so simple for most moms!” ~ Mom from France

But also, don’t make everything seem so SCREAMINGLY BAD that I look like a lunatic, harried and stressed and drowning in laundry and dirty diapers. That’s not reality either.

“They seem to depict only the poles, the blissful magic time or the chaos. Most of my parenting experiences fall somewhere between those extremes.” ~ Mom from the U.S.

Let’s get back to reality. Reality for moms. That is what we are missing in today’s marketing world.

65% of moms around the world don’t think ads represent real life.

Moms across the globe think marketers are missing the one thing they want – that glorious middle ground between warm and fuzzy and crazy and harried: their reality. In fact, 84% of global moms say that it is important for a brand to talk to them realistically.

So after our research, here is what we know: 1) Moms are keeping it real, 2) Marketers aren’t. To bridge this divide I suggest something bold and different – talk to them. But first, make sure you know who they really are. Here’s the thing: I have talked to a lot of clients about moms, and usually I am sitting in a room full of men that describe people like me (a mom) as “aged 21-45 with a household income of $50k+ and 1-2 kids at home.” That’s not real. To get to real you need to figure out what type of mom is BEST suited to use your brand (is she an urban mom? a mom with multiple kids? a health-nut mom?). Next, find out what stage of motherhood she will be in when she is interacting with your brand (e.g. new to motherhood, expecting, experienced, etc.). Once you have identified the details that better define who she is, find those moms and talk to them.

What you will find is that their reality doesn’t bite. It’s the secret to building a meaningful connection with mom.

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