Monday, January 26, 2009

Conversations With a Two-Year-Old, vol. 3

Me: “Did you make anything at school today?”

Him: “Friends. Lots of friends.”

Him (at 4:00 a.m., sitting straight up on his pillow, wailing): “There are crocodiles in my bed!”

Me (pulling back the covers): “Hmmm…I don’t see any crocodiles. It’s safe!”

Him: “Noooo! There’s one right there! See it? It’s going to eat me!”

Him: “Mommy, remember when I was in your tummy and then I was born and I was baby Jesus?”

(Uh oh ... someone's confused!)

Hubby: “What do you want for your birthday?”


(I feel the same way some days!)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Marketing to the Novice Mom (and that means you, too)

A close friend of mine is expecting her second child and we are quite excited to welcome her to the club of multiples – the club to which you have to demonstrate a man-on-man defensive strategy in order to make the team. The club of twice the exhaustion, twice the discipline, twice the worry, and twice the amount of unconditional love, kisses and giggles. Aaaww.

Marketing to the second-time mom is considered a great untapped opportunity because marketers are so focused on the first-time mom. The first-timer is registering for products she’s never used before. She is asking for product recommendations from friends, colleagues, and stranger moms on the street who appear to be enjoying their particular brand of stroller. She is reading the books and magazines and vowing to get it right, and not just inside the lucrative baby products industry. She is considering whether she needs new digital equipment to capture every moment, whether she needs a car or home upgrade to accommodate a new family member, whether she has enough life insurance, the right financial planner, and on and on.

But the soon-to-be second-time mom is both an expert and a novice. She’s done this before, this motherhood thing. She knows what to expect her body to go through; she doesn’t need the books or classes, or nearly as much advice. But she has also never mothered two at once and she’s suddenly doubly responsible, bearing double the weight of the world on her shoulders. She needs more of all those products she belabored for the first child. She is considering which decisions she made previously that weren’t so great – and she is upgrading to better options. She is figuring out how to do it better. And at the least, she is looking for those things that can make it a little easier to get through each day with twice as many children.

Yes, she is new at this, but so is the third-time mom, and the fourth-time mom, and on and on. In fact, every one of us as moms, no matter if we are expecting our second or seventh child, is both an expert and a novice. I don’t know what it’s like yet to walk my babies into the first day of kindergarten, to try to ease my child’s broken heart, or to survive driver’s license day (and each driving day thereafter).

Being a novice at every single stage of motherhood is one reason we are constantly in this evolutionary mode, and the reason we are part of such a powerful market, challenging marketers to keep up. The emotional factors that inevitably drive our purchase decisions are changing as quickly as our children are changing. The brand messages that meant nothing to me last week may be critical to me this week. If I got a Pull-Ups coupon in the mail last week, when my Hawklet couldn’t care less about the potty and was perfectly content to hang out with poop in his pants, I probably tossed it (right after changing a diaper, of course). But next week when we have an epiphany at our house and (wishful thinking!) start to get that potty thing down, where are those Pull-Ups marketing messages going to be?

It is also the reason that as marketers, we can’t market to moms generationally. A Gen-Xer mom and a millennial mom who are at the same momhood stage of novice and expert are keyed into the same prompts, no matter their demographic differences. A 40-year old mother of one toddler offers marketers the same opportunities as does a 20-something mother of one toddler.

Our kids – and their constant stages – teach us how to mother, guide our purchase decisions, and determine when we’ve advanced from novice to expert. And with each kiss and hug, they show us that we are all graduating with honors.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Why Did I Buy That?

I am not one to have a lot of buyer’s remorse. As a woman who literally rushes home from shopping trips to show Hubby Hawks how much I saved versus full price, (yes I have an affinity for Tuesday Morning and TJ Maxx), how could I possibly have buyer’s remorse? I am Mrs. Bargain Hunter, and if I regret a purchase, who cares? It was 80% off after all! I am actually saving money when I’m spending money! (Hubby is rolling his eyes at this moment.)

But in looking through pictures of the Hawklets recently, and at the toys, clothing, and surroundings of stuff in the photos, I started to ponder what drove me to purchase some of the more obscure items we own, and particularly those I select for the babes – you know, the things that you don’t research, compare, discuss, and belabor, like a refrigerator or a new car. The stuff you give a half-glance and throw in a cart while trying to keep two little boys from running off to another aisle or toppling over the side of the cart onto their heads.

Why did I choose those footed pajamas? Why those sippy cups? How did we end up with that particular toy car? Why are we so loyal to Tide?

It’s not that I have a problem with any of these things. I just wonder how they won me over -- how they beat out the other options to make it into my cart and eventually into my household, into our routine. How they wooed my psyche.

What drives my purchase decisions? I spend my professional days researching and strategizing around how moms decide to buy certain brands at certain stores at certain prices – the why, when, where, and how of it all. What moves me? And particularly, when I’m not paying attention?

Research shows word of mom is critical in this equation. But thanks to both anecdotal and academic data, I know it’s just that – an equation. One piece of the pie just isn’t going to satisfy me. I am no robot mom under the control of another mom, emulating everything she does or says.

But yet I am still under some amount of control by the especially savvy marketers who know that as a mom, I am more likely to pick up the thing that makes me feel like I am making the right decision for my child, the right decision for our budget, that is the right color and has intriguing merchandising, that I’ve seen other moms in my circle using or talking about, that is reinforced by some level of advertising, that has claims I can believe in thanks to appropriate PR (and give or take other various factors depending on the brand or product).

The things all around us in the Hawks household have somehow gotten it right – that mom equation. They won out over alternative options. They attracted my mommy hand, plucking them off the shelf, tossing them into our cart, bringing them into our home, into our routine.

And maybe – hopefully – they even gave me a new opportunity to show Hubby how much money I saved by buying them!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another First Checked Off the the ER

I am a mom of boys. As the sweet, precious young child I was, I didn’t step foot in a hospital ER until I was 18 and my shin met the jagged edge of a glass shelf in the sweet, precious gift shop where I worked in high school. I was a good girl who played with dolls and castles and didn’t cause trouble.

But now I have two boys. They like to jump off couches, slide down stairs, tackle each other (and inanimate objects) and generally test the limits of their teeny bodies. Already.

And now the older Hawklet has moved on to testing the limits of his internal organs. One day he’ll learn that ethical scientists don’t experiment on themselves.

Last night as Hubby and I were finishing dinner, my Hawklet, who had lost interest in food quickly into the meal, walked back into the kitchen from the toy room chewing on…something.

Problem: we don’t know what that something was. Was it plastic? Was it a button? Was it sharp? Was it a toy? Was it a battery? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. That’s all the response we got. This was all right after we had begged him to spit it out and he gulped and announced what later made the nurses and doctors chuckle:

“Now it’s in my belly!”

Oh dear. And while I might have assumed that it was likely something small and likely plastic and likely on its way to my little boy’s little bowels, soon to meet his diaper, the nagging thought of an article I read eons ago about a little boy dying after swallowing a tiny piece of plastic that had previously affixed a price tag to a piece of clothing overran my thoughts. The even-keeled professional on the other end of the NurseLine agreed.

“Since we don’t know what it was, I have to err on the safe side and say you should go to an ER and have him scanned. If it was something sharp it could tear ulcers in his stomach, and if it was a little battery, it will need to be extracted.”

Sweet. A few hours and several SpongeBob stickers later, we crossed “X-ray” off his list of firsts. Been there, done that. The diagnosis? We are good, erring-on-the-safe-side parents, and he is a curious little guy who probably swallowed a tiny piece of plastic that will make its appearance very soon.

This morning he tried to confess:

“Remember yesterday when I ate Reid’s car?”

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Today the talk at the office is all about Twilight, the series my 14-year old sister-in-law is also currently raving about. It’s apparently one of those admissions you make among friends and wait for someone to return the favor: “You read it? I do too!!” And vampire-love-story chatter ensues. Surprisingly, I don’t work with a bunch of tweens and teens so apparently there is something to be said for Twilight. My best friend, a mom of three herself, admitted her Twilight obsession to me a month ago and I could hear the disappointment in her voice when she realized I don’t have the same Edward crush so we couldn’t discuss. Because I don’t even know who Edward is, except for the large poster of his face now plastered on my sister-in-law's bedroom wall.

One day when I’m no longer in graduate school on the *side* of everything else, I look forward to reading books that weren’t required of me by someone else. Not sure that Twilight will make it on to my list, but I like the idea of being free to read a tween love story if I so choose, like the millions of Twilight-loving moms out there. Especially being a mom of boys. I probably don’t have a lot of Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley Twins in my future as a mom of boys. Probably not even Judy Blume. Although my baby hawklet certainly does love playing with my old dolls, patting their backs and putting them in the old baby bed. Mom hasn’t gotten out the old My Little Ponies yet. (Hubby Hawks is making a note right now to find said Little Ponies and destroy them…)

I came across a couple old journals of mine as I was cleaning things out over the weekend - my attempt to do all the to-dos I’d been putting off before going back to work on Monday. Time stopped as I became enthralled with my old accounts of life in that searching stage between college and a “real” career. I’d forgotten that I really hated that time of life, when so much was out of my control. (“Shocking,” I can hear my mom groaning now, facetiously.) I was job hunting and diamond hunting at the same time. I wanted to marry Hubby Hawks so badly! And I couldn’t stand that the “when” was completely in his court.

I also wasn’t particularly eloquent in that stage. I read the journal thinking, “no one would read this if it was a blog.” Hopefully if you are a reader here, you’re not asking yourself why and wondering if there is something better on TV or if your yard needs to be mowed. I certainly don’t want to evoke yawns. Geez, this paragraph might have just done that.

Maybe I should start blogging about a vampire named Edward who falls in love with a human. Wait, that’s taken…how about a werewolf named Harry Potter who falls in love with a…