Keeping mum

As major influencers over which household brands are purchased, mums are a vital target consumer group for marketers. However, they are more likely to listen to their peers than marketing campaigns

It is widely understood that winning mums over is crucial to brand success considering their prominent role in the household decision making process. Despite this, research conducted by integrated marketing agency Joshua G2 reveals that 64% of mums are not satisfied with the way brands communicate with them. The findings come following a survey of 1,000 UK mums, as well as qualitative research based on focus groups, in-depth interviews, online discussion threads and media analysis.

As to why mums are not satisfied with brand communication: 31% claim brands appear patronising and often perpetuate the “super mummy” myth; 21% believe brands are too pushy and over-commercialised; 13% consider brands to be unclear or deliberately misleading about nutrition and health; and 8% are disappointed by their perceived overt and covert marketing to children.

The research reveals the least satisfied group to be middle-income mums, who feel most manipulated by brand communication to children.

Mums’ dissatisfaction also increases with the number of children they have: 61% of mums with one child aren’t satisfied versus 71% of mums with four or more children. Overall, mums are so disillusioned that 73% claim they increasingly rely on peers for brand advice and recommendation, with many using online communities to share information.

In order to understand how best to engage mums in discussions online, there must first be an understanding of how mums use the web. According to data analysis by market research company Forrester, the internet plays a key role in mums’ lives, with a staggering 84% using the internet, an 11% increase on the overall population. Mums are certainly ahead when it comes to bargain hunting and shopping via the net, with 22% having researched groceries online in past three months (compared with 16% of the total population), 20% using price comparison sites on a regular basis and 23% of mums downloading free samples (compared with 16% of the general population).

Further statistics demonstrate word-of-web (WOW) is alive and strong among this demographic, with 84% of mums using the internet to share information on events and going out (11% higher than average), 59% of mums using the web to share travel tips and 27% of them regularly visiting social networking websites (still 2% higher than the total population). Strong uplifts can be seen in the areas of fashion and beauty: 50% of mums use the web to share fashion tips (20% higher than average) and 40% to discuss beauty tips (24% higher than the general population).

These are significant figures, and they require some explaining. Justine Roberts, co-founder of social networking website Mumsnet and one of the experts interviewed for the study says “efficiency” is one of the key reasons the internet has such a powerful pull for mums. “It has replaced that missing community that women need. It’s an incredibly efficient way of finding friendship and networking, and in that sense it fills a massive cultural gap for mums.”

The research shows that when mums do engage with brands, they are clear on what they want – less “soft advice” and more hard information. Child nutrition was deemed by far the most important subject to receive information about from brands, reflecting mums’ growing unease in this area – 59% revealed what they most value is quick, simple and cheap recipe ideas from trusted brands.

The food focus continued when mums were asked what brands they thought contributed most to family life: Heinz was voted the most popular, closely followed by Tesco and Kellogg. Qualitative interrogation revealed these brands to have best captured the “holy trinity” of health, convenience and value. In general, the fast food and snack categories were seen as having the most detrimental effects on family life.

Pragmatism prevailed when mums were asked what type of promotions they prefer. 57% were interested in vouchers, preferring dis-counts for high-ticket items like family days out over standard money-off product coupons, whereas 40% were keen to hear about local activities and things to do with their children.

The unsurprising results seem to reflect the era of extreme and intensive parenting we live in, with mums bombarded on a daily basis with conflicting information and advice on how to rear their children. The figures show a significant prop-ortion of mums professing indifference towards mainstream “con-ventional” media and turning inwards to a “safe circle” of peer-to-peer advisers.

The challenge for brands is to earn entry to this safe circle and to look for ways to conduct conversations with mums more “privately”. The research seems to demonstrate that brands need to be giving serious strategic consideration to things such as word-of-mouth, word-of-web, CRM and cause-related marketing if they want to get cut-through with mums in the future.

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