How To Market To The Modern Mom
01.08.09, 5:00 PM ET
U.S. moms control the purse strings at home--to the tune of $2.1 trillion per year, roughly equivalent to the gross domestic product of Italy, the seventh largest economy in the world.
But for all their efforts, marketers could do a better job reaching this audience. According to a recent survey of 3,500 American moms by BSM Media, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,-based marketing firm that targets the mother demographic, 65% feel that they are "underserved" by advertisers--either because the mom-focused ads don't resonate or because the ads aren't aimed at moms at all.
Strike the right nerve, though, and there's a pile of money to be made, even in a rough economy.
Successfully targeting the mom segment means communicating with them in their lingo, according to Nancy Lowman LaBadie, an executive vice president at Marina Maher Communications, a public relations agency that has handled many of Procter & Gamble's female-focused products, like Secret deodorant, Dawn dish soap and Clairol hair color. "I think companies who learn [that language], understand it and connect with it will reap the rewards," she says.
How to connect? Start by knowing where moms mingle--and, increasingly, that means online. According to the recent BSM Media survey, 71% of moms use the Internet to get product information.
By contrast, only about 20% of mothers comb newspaper ads. The action happens at social networks like Maya's Mom and Café Mom and at blogging sites like BlogHer.
Hint: Don't just rely on banner ads; moms want to engage in a conversation. Better to blog--and do it with a sense of purpose. "Don't just blast as many bloggers as you can find with press releases," says Maria Bailey, founder of BSM Media. "Moms are all about relationships, so if you want to approach them, make sure to start with a personal note."
Video blogs, like newbaby.com, let you upload videos featuring mothers using your product free of charge, similar to YouTube; the site boasts 500,000 views per month and 10 to 15 videos watched per visit, according to Bailey's research.
While they've taken awhile to gain traction, podcasts have become an increasingly effective way to push products to more moms.
According to BSM Media, 85% of American moms now have mp3 players. And moms ride in their cars (a convenient place for listening to podcasts) far more than any other demographic.
The key to making hay with moms in any marketing medium, especially when it comes to high-tech items like cameras and computers, is clearly communicating the benefit of the device. "Making that technology understandable and approachable is beneficial to the consumer," says Karen Cage, a spokeswoman for Hewlett-Packard.
To boost sales, the company recently launched 10 videos on how to take digital pictures of, say, darting children. Another reason you want hammer home your product's value proposition: Two out of three moms plan to eliminate purchases that are not absolutely necessary in 2009, according to a recent study by Allen & Gerritsen, a Watertown, Mass.-based advertising agency.
But then, product specs will only get you so far with moms. What they really want is an experience. "In order to convince the modern mom to try a new product or service, marketers need to work with them, not just throw ads at them," says Bailey.
Example: Rather than inundate moms with horsepower figures, last year
"We recognize that we don't always do a really good job via advertising or providing a comfortable dealer experience [to women and moms]," says Christopher Barger, director of global communications technology for General Motors. "We have been looking at how we can use [online] social media to improve our efforts there."
If you're lucky enough to have a few extra marketing bucks lying around, work the celebrity mom angle. Finding a familiar face to pitch your product is an expensive but effective strategy.
Last year, talk show host Kelly Ripa, a mother of three, became the face of Electrolux kitchen appliances by demonstrating how fast-heating ovens and microwaves help modern moms stay on top of their family, work and social lives. Desperate Housewife Marcia Cross, mother of twin daughters, is slated to become the new face of Mott's apple sauce in March.
Finally, recognize that moms engage in a lot of groupthink--about everything from dining and relationships to finance and careers. About 55% of those surveyed by BSM Media said they relied on recommendations from friends and family when making purchases for the home; 64% do it when they buy things for the children.
Your best bet: Identify the key influencers in the community (through the PTA, social networks and blogs) and get them to host a party to promote your product. Videogame maker Nintendo recently did just this when it selected eight "ambassador moms" to hold parties promoting its Wii gaming system.
Just because a market is massive doesn't mean you don't need a smart approach to attack it.