50 Shades of Motherhood: Or the Less Sexy Title, What I Learned at #MUMSTOCK

Learnings from the Mumstock Conference on Marketing to Mums

This week I spent a day at Mumstock, an all-day conference dedicated to marketing to mums.  The day began looking at what marketers are doing wrong – typically presenting motherhood as a ‘job’ or a series of endless chores – from cleaning to cooking and from bathing to bedtime.  This was defined as ‘caring’ behaviour, and I would call it the hygiene factor of motherhood – the things that if you don’t do social services will come (so I’ve heard…).  Brands have a tendency to go into autopilot and single-mindedly identify mothers as carers – but this is a black and white approach and actually motherhood exists in shades in grey, with roles and priorities flexing and fluctuating – typically multiple times within the course of a single day.  Reinforcing the ‘grey’ nature of motherhood, the research uncovered eight roles that mothers want to play in the lives of their children, many of which overlap:

  • Carer: The functional part of parenting, making such your children are fed, clean and generally well-cared for
  • Friend: Possibly more relevant as children age, but my daughter says I’m her best friend and I secretly hope that never changes
  • Hero  or Role Model: This is about being the person you want your child to be inspired by.  We need to remember that children model our behaviour even when we don’t intend for them to.  Case in point https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pqknd1ohhT4  and of course our client Always with #likeagirl  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs
  • Coach: Guiding and supporting, giving children the skills they need to succeed in life
  • Safe House: Knowing you are the one they can go to when something is wrong
  • Fan: I think we forget about this one, but part of the joy of parenting isn’t always doing, watching your children and the mark they make on the world can be as fulfilling
  • Partner in crime: Getting down and dirty, actually participating in the play.  Here’s Legos take on it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwQqkX3qZak  
  • Rule Breaker: This is like making breakfast for dinner or letting your kids stay up super late on Saturday night – always having to say no can be tedious, and who doesn’t occasionally want to be thought of as the ‘fun mum’?

These eight roles underpinned the day and created a context to explore how brands can evolve their conversations with mothers.  There is a clear opportunity to look beyond the role of carer and engage with a mother in her other roles – forget white space, brands need to learn to play in the grey. 

But beyond the research, there was more to take out of the day, following are some things to consider when building campaigns targeting mothers. 

  1. EMBRACE THE GREY: A core focus of the day (and a focus of most marketing conferences) was about knowing your audience – listening, learning and respecting the insights.  Don’t make sweeping assumptions that you know ‘mums’ – take the time to consider the context and to explore which role/s you want to speak to her in   
  2. YOU DON’T HAVE TO HOLD A MIRROR TO MUM TO MARKET TO HER: This was actually an a-ha moment for me.  Cadbury’s shared their Egg n’ Spoon ad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gn-X9m5ihTM , which centers on the ritual between daughter and dad… the take away here wasn’t that mom wants to be left out of the fun, but that mums can find watching the relationship between child and dad rewarding as well.  OK, I can relate to this, but bt-dubs Husband, I don’t want to be stuck unpacking groceries like the mother in the ad, as you and our daughter eat chocolate #nothappening
  3. ACTS NOT ADS PLEASE: Matt Atkinson from Tesco said this, and I like it – it reminds me of one of my favourite mantras, ‘Proof not Promises’.  The idea here is about being a brand that acts in the service of consumers.  It’s no secret that mothers are busy, so be a brand that makes their lives easier.  For example, Flora offers helpful rainy day content for mums, which includes (but is not limited to) baking --- good for the brand, good for mum
  4. MUMS BUY INTO & BUY BRANDS THAT DO GOOD: Hardly unique to mummy marketing but important none-the-less.  We heard from Paul Lindley, founder of Ella’s Kitchen, who was easily the most inspiring speaker of the day.  He shared the content outlining his new brand Paddy’s Bathroom’s mission  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gbom-TnaMNA – I’m ready to buy these products now, regardless of price.  Of course, working on Pampers, this shouldn’t be news.  The UNICEF partnership, which has run for nine years and counting, makes it easy for mums to do good by donating 1 vaccine to protect against Maternal New Born Tetanus with each pack of Pampers bought – watch this if you are curious what we have been up to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpUs67WaPXw
  5. The most radical change that I am going to attempt to make is to STOP USING THE TERM MUM.  It’s a catch all, and if we are designing campaigns for anyone who fits that description, we’re going to end up creating for the lowest common denominator– which is probably why so much communications focus on the carer role.  Instead, I will take my own advice and acknowledge the grey – so I will consider what ages and stages her children are in, what motivates her in different situations and in what role/s does she want to engage with the brand I am representing...

So despite the title, this post was more about (brand) bonding than bondage, but overall it was an interesting day at #MUMSTOCK and a great opportunity to explore and challenge how brands engage with mothers.


Avra Lorrimer

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search