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7 Mistakes Brands Make When Marketing to Mothers

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7 Mistakes Brands Make When Marketing to Mothers

There are seven key mistakes that brands make when marketing to mothers.

In all sorts of research over many years, mothers have repeatedly made it very clear they are unhappy with the way brands are communicating with them. It’s been ten years since a report that 91% of women feel advertisers don’t understand them. And three years ago, our research at Marketing to Mums found that 63% of Australian mothers felt brands and advertisers don’t understand them. So, little has changed over the years – and there lies a huge opportunity for your brand right now.

If you can avoid the common mistakes that so many brands make when trying to reach mums, you’ll be able to separate yourself from your competitors and start to make inroads into this often misunderstood market. 

Despite being such a lucrative market, they remain unhappy with the way brands are communicating with them. So, what mistakes are brands making over and over again? I have identified seven key mistakes being made by companies trying to reach this highly profitable market: 

Mistake #1: They target too broadly when marketing to mothers. 

Perhaps the greatest mistake I see is brands targeting too broadly. They treat mothers as one homogenous group. In a 2019 Marketing to Mums study of 656 Australian mums, 55% of them felt that brands treat mums like they are all the same. Mothers are the chief shopper in most families. They have become far more sophisticated, and they expect more tailored offerings.

Different segments of the market require a different approach. They also have different communication preferences. Businesses that are prepared to micro-niche and introduce a greater level of segmentation are yielding superior results. They are gaining a competitive advantage. Why? Because they are laser-focused on who they are communicating with. They understand their ‘core mum’ at a much deeper level than their competitors. 

Mistake #2: They think they know the mum market – and they are wrong. 

There exists an attitude of ‘we know mums’ among many marketing teams and senior managements. In my work with different brands, I see this often. But these brands fail to acknowledge how quickly mums’ behaviours are changing. They don’t realise their thinking is outdated, and – without realising – they start relying on stereotyping.

In our recent Marketing to Mums research, Australian mothers identified that stereotyping about mums was the number one mistake brands make.

In many instances this is stereotyping is driven by senior management. They hold an unconscious bias about who mothers are, based on their own experiences with raising children 20 or 30 years ago. 

It’s essential that board members remain well informed about trends and key changes within the mum market, and hold their senior marketers accountable by bringing in a mum specialist who can share the latest research. Such specialists also bring with them the latest thinking and learnings about what’s working in other industries. Mums are changing rapidly. And brands must stay informed and connected to their customers. This helps them to stay relevant and to capitalise on this opportunity. 

Mistake #3: They don’t invest in mum research. 

In recent years I’ve noticed some resistance to undertaking regular market research by brands. They cite pressure on their budget and tight timeframes issued from senior management. They launch new products and services into the market based on assumptions and previous learnings, and to ‘just get on with things’.

This approach makes my head ache. It’s shortsighted and dangerous for the business. Staying relevant by staying connected with your core mum customer is one of the most important factors in a brand’s success in this market. Once relevance is lost, it’s unlikely to return as mothers have very long memories. Regular research, both formal and informal, is something which should be high on the list of priorities. 

I always recommend that even if you think you know your market, invest in a research project to identify the most profitable niche for your brand. It’s likely to provide a significant ROI as your marketing team will then be able to select more tailored and better suited channels, influencers and tactics. I strongly believe you need accurate, up-to-date data points to underpin and guide your mum marketing strategy. 

Mistake #4: They don’t seek out C-suite and board support. 

Successful brands are led by visionary brand leaders who are supported by a productive board. Where I see issues is when senior marketers haven’t built a strong enough case for their marketing strategy. They fail to effectively share their vision highlighting the opportunity within the mum market. As a result, they don’t get the budget support for the foundation work they wish to undertake to build a robust mum strategy to position the brand for long-term success. Instead, they engage in short-term sales strategies based on limited knowledge (as there’s no budget for research). Over time brand equity is eroded, loyalty diminishes and a significant financial opportunity is missed.

Progressive boards and C-suite executives recognise the value of the mum market. They understand its importance to the brand’s success. They keep themselves up to date with relevant market shifts by engaging with specialist advisors. Most importantly, they take a long-term view and ensure they have built strong brand foundations first. Increasingly, I’m asked to brief boards, senior management and marketing teams to ensure they are abreast of new trends and have awareness around behavioural changes. 

Mistake #5: They fail to stay connected with the customer. 

As people move up an organisation, without realising it they become stuck in their ivory tower. They enter an echo chamber where they rely only on their teams to deliver information. Details about consumer changes, marketing techniques and relevant strategies. In doing so, they lose touch with their customer: mums. And this will cause the brand to: 

  • quickly lose relevance 
  • diminish customer loyalty 
  • lose market share 
  • have trust issues with customers 
  • miss significant opportunities

Once relevance is lost, these brands experience a very long, slow climb back. Mums don’t forget quickly. 

Mistake #6: They rely too heavily on their advertising agency. 

According to a PwC study, the average profile of someone working in an advertising agency in Australia is a 27-year-old white male with no children. They will have trouble empathising with mothers. But these young, male agency executives are being relied on to come up with ideas and creative content to connect with mothers. It results in campaigns that really miss the point.  Marketing funds are wasted and brand credibility is put at great risk. 

It’s a similar story the world over; advertising agencies aren’t conducive to motherhood. With late hours often required they force many mothers to look for more family-friendly industries to work in. It’s having an impact on the quality of work being produced for the mum market. 

Independent research, ensuring you have mums on all your external teams, and keeping control of your strategy is critical to success. 

Mistake #7: They don’t involve mums in their new product development. 

Many brands have a core group of highly engaged customers who consistently advocate for their brand. This represents an opportunity to seek feedback and involve your target customers when creating new products. In our Marketing to Mums research, mums shared a strong voice. They want to be actively involved in product and service development for the brands they love. It makes them feel appreciated. They’ll get better products, and they can guide the brand to greater success. Everybody wins. 

Take action.

The first opportunity for your brand to boost profits is to ensure you’re avoiding these seven costly mistakes.

Improve your brand’s performance by undertaking an audit of your current marketing activities. Assess how many of these mistakes your business is making when marketing to mothers. And make a plan immediately for how you are going to address these problems. 

This is an extract from the author’s latest book, The Mother of All Opportunities.

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