Marketing to mums - there's more to it than you think

How do mothers see themselves? And what can advertisers learn from the broad and diverse identities that make up this mass market?

Ahead of Mumstock 2016 (Mumsnet's annual conference on marketing to mums) we teamed up with Saatchi & Saatchi to find out more about how mothers identify themselves. The study found at least 66 distinct categories that mums use to define themselves, of which most relate to around six at a time - far more than the half a dozen 'types' most marketers use to try and understand this mass audience. 

Missing the mark

Given these findings, it's no surprise that much marketing fails to connect with mothers in a meaningful way. Only 19% of British mothers say they have seen advertising that depicted them in a way they could relate to.

The categories mothers describe themselves relating to are broad and diverse, and they heavily influence their experience of motherhood, the decisions they make and the relationships they have with brands. They can also be seen distinctly in the conversations had on online parenting forums, such as Mumsnet.

The groups

The top ten identities selected by the most mothers were groupings that most marketers will be familiar with; for example, the age of their children or the mother's employment status.

But we also asked mothers which five identities resonated most strongly with them and which was their most defining identity. It is this measure of intensity that gives us a real sense of the issues that mums most care about - issues that they claim are routinely ignored in marketing and advertising.

Stop Faking It - what the research showed

"A lot of ads look like they've been made by people who don't have a clue what it's like to be me. There must be, they can't have an entire [advertising] industry without having mums involved, but it doesn't show. I think that it's wrong to expect every family to fit into a particular box."

1. One-child families are forced to waste money

Brands often design products, services and promotions for "2.4" families, like 2+2 family offers, multipacks and volume discounts. So 2.5 million one-child families are being punished for not fitting the norm by having to waste money and food. Brands need to rethink packaging, promotions and communications if they want to connect better with this overlooked and underserved group.

2. Families of children with special needs rely on package holidays

Because of their reliability and predictability, package holidays mean the world to mums of 
children with special needs. These 1.4 million British women and their families depend so much on this kind of travel, practically and emotionally. Ignoring them and not serving their individual needs represents a huge loss for both sides.

3. Brand experiences can alienate instead of attract audiences

The increasing emphasis on 'immersive' retail experiences has translated into chaotic and noisy stores where some shoppers feel harassed, especially those with special needs. In these instances, stores are repelling mothers and their children.

4. For rural mums, errands are excursions

Still at least 2.2 million British mums look forward to turning the weekly shopping into a family day out because their rural lives mean shopping is not an everyday occurrence.

5. Lone parents are more motivated employees

Being the sole provider pushes lone parents to succeed in their work because failure is not an 
option. Society regularly portrays lone parents as women to be pitied. In reality, they are often empowered, committed, independent women who deserve our admiration and support.

6. Teens require mums to try out new things

5.58 million mums are massively influenced by their teens when it comes to fashion, 
entertainment and lifestyle. Marketers have decades of experience in leveraging children's 
pestering power but very few tap into the subtle influence young adults have on their parents, 
and the reversal of roles as positive influencers, and the extra revenue this can mean to brands

7. Lone parents rely much more on the wisdom of the crowds

2.3 million lone mums are without partners to share decision making with. They often rely on multiple readily available information sources, with a heavy emphasis on online reviews for the support they need to make purchase decisions or when looking for recommendations.

Recommendations for marketers

  • Change the way you research
Use the 66 identities to work out the groups that your customers identify with the most.
  • Start a revolution in empathy
Take the identities that are most important to your customers and develop innovative approaches to see the world through their eyes.
  • Open up your brand and business
Invite the customers you’re trying to reach to help you design products, frame propositions, create promotions and chart the future of your brand.
  • Remember that today's niche is tomorrow's mainstream
There’s a considerable advantage to recognising and serving groups that your competitors overlook or can’t be bothered to address; niches have a habit of becoming mainstream very quickly.
  • Getting it is contagious
Serve one group of mums well and you won’t just earn the attention and business of that group alone; others will rally in appreciation of what you’ve done for others.
  • You're a mum, act like it
The research shows that the contribution of women with children working in the marketing departments and ad agencies just isn’t visible.  It’s time for mums to bring their experiences of having children to work, and change British marketing from the inside.

"All marketers crave better and more meaningful connections with their audiences and especially mums. This new approach provides just that, by focusing on the issues that mums care about most, and not those of sole concern to brands and businesses." - Richard Huntington, Chief Strategy Officer at Saatchi & Saatchi

See the full results of this research

Quantitative research was conducted with Ipsos Connect between 21 December 2015 and 4 January 2016 amongst 1,977 mums aged 16-60 with children aged between 0-18 years old; qualitative research into six of the audience groups, and a further survey with Mumsnet of 814 respondents. The sample was nationally representative of Great Britain for age, regional diversity and socio-economic status. There were also respondents who had children of all ages between 0-18 and different numbers of children.

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Last updated: almost 5 years ago