Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On Listening (I'm Looking at You, Marketers)

A colleague in the office next door to mine, who just returned from speaking at the PRSA Health Academy conference, mentioned that she heard several references to 2008's Motrin Moms debacle at the conference. I was surprised. And at the same time I wasn't. It's getting old, but it's not going away. This is further fuel to the fire. Moms rule.

And frankly, the paradigm power shift happening all around us as the marketing reigns are passed from brands to consumers and, especially, moms is exciting. This emerging “momocracy,” as we call it at FH Moms, is a result of the growing control consumers in general are exercising where and how they interact with brands, with moms increasingly holding the reins, steering brands this way and that and expecting immediate reactions. They’re getting reactions. And when ignored, they’re demanding reactions. Reactions that resonate with marketers for years, apparently.

Handing the control of your marketing reins to Mom may sound scary. But you don’t have a choice. It’s done, because she’s already taken them. The good news is dialoguing with moms is nothing to fear. They quickly activate, but they also quickly advocate when a brand gets it right. When she knows you are listening and drawing her into a dialogue, mom will share your her reins with you.

The truth is moms didn’t gain this control as a by-product of the rise of social media. Brand and product mentions, including recommendations for and against certain products or services have always permeated moms’ conversations. Remember when those conversations used to take place at PTA meetings and playgrounds? They still do. Moms’ reins of marketing power are not exclusive to social media, but social media gives us the opportunity to eavesdrop. Even better, it gives us the opportunity to spark and attempt to guide the conversation. It’s no nightmare. It’s a marketer’s dream.

Thanks to social media, marketing to moms is now evolving into marketing with spokesmoms, developing mom ambassadors, executing partnerships, reviews, sponsorships, giveaways, contests. How can you evolve with mom? Consider changing the word ‘marketing’ in the phrase to ‘listening’ or ‘engaging.’ Ask moms how they’d like to dialogue. Don’t be there just to be there. And for Pete’s sake, don’t e-blast a “Dear Mommy Blogger” pitch.

Forget about Motrin Moms, Maytag-gate or #NestleFamily for a minute. While loud, those case studies are not anomalies. There are all kinds of brand-centric conversations happening in what we sometimes refer to as the momosphere – that social media entity where mom blogs, mom tweets and mom social networks have become a place for content creation with brand and product mentions permeating the flow.

The mentions don’t happen because marketers took control of moms’ blog posts or status updates. Remember, mom was having brand-laden conversations and sharing her opinions with other moms before the momosphere. Mom bloggers have become our co-marketers because the mentions were there before we (the marketers, PR pros and advertisers) were. Behavioral research proves moms want to be the ones with the information; the ones with the persuasion abilities. They have gained huge readerships and hoards of followers because moms seek other moms’ opinions. They want the first looks, the behind-the-scenes, a sense of exclusivity. Social media enables moms to get what they want more easily. Remember, this is a momocracy.

How do we know moms want to be in-the-know consumers, persuading their mom peers to pay attention to the latest brand/product/service they are in to? In partnership with The Harrison Group, Fleishman-Hillard surveyed 3,000 North American women between 21 and 70, 71% of whom were moms. We uncovered some insightful emerging behaviors and attitudes – particularly in the current economy – that shed light on new intricacies in marketing to moms.

Our research goes way beyond the staid statistic that moms make 85% of household purchase decisions. Who doesn’t know that moms buy household supplies? What we uncovered was a nearly universal sense of success, with 90 percent defining themselves as “successful” and fully 60 percent defining themselves as “very successful,” even in a recession. They see themselves as the purchasing authority but also the relationship authority, the quality of life authority, the ones with the information and the persuasion abilities. In fact, 82% said they are the women whom their peers seek out for information, telling their peers what brands to pay attention to. It happens because they each want to be the ones with the information – the ones in the know.

These new leaders in the momocracy, who are setting the household agenda, aren’t particularly responsive to the voice of authority. They told us they believe they are the authority. And, to catch the attention of these pro multi-taskers we have to take an integrated approach, balanced differently than before. She is more digital than women without children, but she multi-tasks her media consumption, and can’t be marketed to in a social media vacuum. Our study showed moms spend 43 hours per week consuming media. Of these hours, 17 are spent online, followed by TV (14 hours), radio (8 hours), newspaper (3 hours), and magazines (2 hours).

Recognizing this, and finding ways to recognize them, is key to unlocking their potential as consumers, and potentially brand advocates. They consider themselves the source of information for their peer groups – what information are they sharing about your brand? What are you letting them in on? What relationships are you forging with them?

Are you even listening?


Adventures In Babywearing said...

We're all ears. We're in the know. I think you're on to something. :)

Emily Foshee said...


Great blog post! As a copywriter that specializes in writing copy targeted towards moms (and as a mom) I totally agree with you re/ moms wanting to be in the know...wanting the 1st look at something, or a behind the scenes peek.

The reason we like being the "one in the know" is for a few reasons, in my opinion. First, our nurturing needs are met because we're helping our fellow moms. Second, having info no one else has and being sought after for our advice makes us feel appreciated. Brands would do well to listen to what moms have to say about what they want from a product or service. At the end of the day, we're all looking for the same thing: ways to make our lives easier, less stressful, yet more productive.

Marketers, it's a new world out there!

Emily Foshee