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.

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