Friday, November 21, 2008

Moms on Drugs

Have you ever considered your "choice" ache and pain reliever? Are you an ibuprofen brand snob, finding yourself partial to Motrin, or Advil? Or perhaps even Walgreen's brand? Do you choose Tylenol instead? Does it all really matter?

Last week, a highly vocal and organized force appeared out of the Internet to say vehemently, "Yes! It does matter!" Oh. It does?

Let me get you up to speed if by chance you only read here for the Hawklet pictures, and you couldn't care less what happens in the world of marketing to moms.

Over the weekend, some moms who have a megaphone called a blog or a Twitter user name came across an online video advertisement for Motrin. Have you ever had a conversation with someone about Motrin? I'm guessing not. Because Motrin is just one of a host of options for general aches and pains. It's not something ground-breaking, sexy or controversial. Like Viagra. Right? So, for something like Motrin to spark a controversy is kind of a big deal. Well, that's exactly what it became thanks to said moms with digital megaphones.

These women were PUT OFF by the snarky sarcastic tone of this particular ad, which likened "baby wearing" (you know, wearing your baby on your body via a front pack or sling) to two negatives: 1) causing horrible back and shoulder pains and 2) serving as an accessory that allows access into a sacred club. "I am now officially a mom because I am wearing my baby." Whoops. Motrin apparently didn't consider the fact that babywearing moms are not in the mood for snark. Nor do they believe babywearing is the root of these evils. Rather, it's a wonderful bonding experience and convenient way to hold baby close while having your hands free to tackle other more meanacing issues, like dishes. (No snark intended! Dishes don't do themselves!)

Johnson & Johnson's McNeil Consumer Healthcare division markets Motrin, and its VP of Marketing made the decision to pull the ad - a month after it was first posted - because of the explosion of angry moms blogging and tweeting in outrage about this otherwise unknown online ad over the course of a couple days. In other words, using social media, passionate moms took on a healthcare giant, and won.

So while this has been a fascinating case study in the power of the momfluential, and specifically in the social networking space, what I don't get is why these moms aren't as passionate, as organized, and as vocal about things that I dare say matter more than the tone of an online ad. Why not get this organized about children without healthcare insurance? How about contaminated drinking water? There happens to be an economic crisis going on - how about organizing around that? Or, hey, even the fact that Baby Gap doesn't have a motorized door? Have you ever tried to hold a giant glass swinging door open with your foot while using all of your weight to maneuver and push a loaded double stroller through it? Hello, Baby Gap??

Now there's something to get tweeting mad about!

Friday, November 14, 2008

My Frito Pie Future?

Hubby Hawks was a wrestler. He is from a family of wrestlers -- five of the seven boys in his family wrestled in high school. And they were all good. And now two of them, Hubby included, are wrestling officials in their "spare" time between December and February. It's his opportunity to get back on the mat, be in the midst of weekend tourney excitement, the shouting, the old wood gym smell, the Frito pie lunches, the bleachers of middle aged parents weilding video cameras, the sweat, blood and sometimes tears.

Even though wrestling is apparently part of his DNA, he has always said that he does not care if his boys want to follow in his wrestling shoes. He wants them to find their own passions. In the meantime, I'm having a blast sampling the options with them. Sure, in our backyard you'll find the t-ball set and the basketball hoop and the baseballs and bikes, yadda yadda.

But what I find more exciting are the sports you can't buy at Target. Last year, we completed our first round of swimming lessons and discovered we have two water babies. Then last week, Graham took his first horseback riding lesson. My little two-year-old trotted around an arena on a full-sized stallion like a real equestrian. I shared the saddle with him, sitting behind him and beaming with pride that my little toddler was telling this massive animal to "go faster!"
In the meantime, attempting to not assign Reid a label already at just 18 months, he so far actually appears to be...wait for it...a wrestler. It's nearly shocking to see him actually almost doing it right, taking down Graham in the family room. As in, actual technique. (Yes, you may be surprised to know there is actual technique for barbaric acts. There is a "right" way to go about annihilating your opponent.) This 18-month-old may not need any of dad's covert coaxing into wrestling after all. Watching him take down his big brother, I found myself glimpsing the future, smelling the sweat and Frito pies...

But I was brought back to earth when I came across this article about what parents will pay on their kids' sports. "Your kid won't be as good if you don't pay for all the extras," one dad says within. Kids' sports is no longer about fun, exercise and character building; it's about transactions -- an industry with a new array of products. Parents apparently have no choice but to engage with it all if they are to give their kids a chance at making a school team. There are 40 times more kids participating in baseball traveling teams today than there were just 10 years ago. What will this industry look like 10 years from now? Are sports still about kids having fun, or is this a hotbed for sports marketers?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Could a down economy save parents from themselves?

I recently came across this review in the Brooklyn Rail about a book called Parenting, Inc.: How We Are Sold on $800 Strollers, Fetal Education, Baby Sign Language, Sleeping Coaches, Toddler Couture, and Diaper Wipe Warmers—and What It Means for Our Children. Hmm. It’s quite a title. A mouthful, really. And obviously meant for “those” parents who over-indulge their kids with excess that is so readily available in the baby products market. But, wait a minute…I have a diaper wipe warmer. Have I thrown my own wallet into the hyper-consumerism bonfire?

The book points out the ways in which marketers are essentially fear-mongers, snatching up parents-to-be and convincing them they need these (expensive) things to be a better parent. Because if you don’t use a sleep positioner with your infant who can’t even roll over yet, you are subjecting him to possible death. Huh? And you must purchase the motion detector to ensure constant breathing. What? Well, you do want your kid to be safe…DON’T YOU? What kind of parent are you?

This is of course also fueled by an alpha syndrome – the need to keep up with Mommy and Daddy Jones. A friend of mine recently announced that he and his wife decided to register for the Cadillac of strollers because “a $10 stroller is for a $10 baby.” I actually don’t know any babies that cost $10, but boy that would jibe so much more nicely with the current economic state. Actually, from what I’ve read, babies cost their parents about $20,000 in their first year of life. (How’s that for birth control?)

And why do babies cost so much? Exorbitant daycare costs aside, could we actually be doing this to ourselves? Am I a better mother if I spend $600 more on my stroller? Somebody is convincing us that, yes, the more money we spend, the better we parent, and the more likely our kids are to get into Harvard. Oh, so that’s how it happens!

The whole phenomenon is shocking and fascinating to me simultaneously as both a mom and a marketer. The marketer in me exclaims, “Genius!” The mom in me asks, “What kind of consumerism example am I setting for my kids? What kind of consumers will they be as parents one day?”

As our economy continues in a downward spiral, could our (albeit forced) shift towards conservative consumerism actually help us set better examples for our kids?

Perhaps I should buy the book and learn about the ways I’m doing it all wrong, buying too much, and … oh, right, I’ll buy something so that I’ll understand how to not buy things. Problem solved.