Making your messages strike home

Although mums spend less time with media than the average consumer, the array of sources they rely on to aid purchasing decisions make this group an inaccessible but valuable target for marketers.

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As influential household decision-makers, UK mums have always been desirable targets for many advertisers. However, a new study from Forrester Research reveals that because this group have such busy lifestyles, they spend less time with media than the average British consumer and therefore require more integrated and consistent tactics to engage them.

Although mums might not spend as much time with media as other consumers, they spend considerable time researching information before buying. The average British mother relies on a wide array of sources to help her make informed purchase decisions. The internet is her main resource, but she also relies on information she finds in store and complements her research with magazines, television, and even newspapers.

To win the attention of this group, therefore, the research suggests marketers use digital media – and especially social media – to create a continuous consumer-purchasing journey, from awareness to purchase.

Mary Beth Kemp, Forrester Research’s principal analyst of marketing leadership, explains: “A brand needs to use different ways to get in contact with mothers, allowing them options to pick and choose information at various different points. This underlines the absolute need for a brand to be consistent across everything it does.”

The research is part of the European Technographics Benchmark Survey, which surveyed 25,443 adults in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK in the second quarter of 2008.

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The data is weighted by Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) by age, sex, region, education and income to demographically represent the adult European population per country.

In the UK, the survey finds, unsurprisingly, that mums are busy and have active families. More than half have children between six and 12 years old, and most work outside of the home.

UK mums spend an average of 32 hours per week with media, compared with the 36 hours for the average UK consumer. They surf the internet as much as their counterparts, but that is the exception: television, newspapers and radio all rank lower on their radar than they do for an average UK consumer.

Television is the medium she spends the most time with, but she won’t necessarily depend on it as one of her top sources of product information. And although radio is her third favorite medium, she completely overlooks it when she’s considering a new purchase. Additionally, while the internet is among her main resources for consideration, she doesn’t tend to trust banner ads or search engine ads.

Kemp asks: “The question is, how do you insert yourself into the lives and problems of the people that you want to reach and use their causes as a way to sponsor yourself or fit yourself in?”

While it’s true that UK mums spend less time watching television than other consumers, it still plays an important role in the marketing mix. When they’re not actively looking for specific information, UK mothers like to watch TV in their spare time. They also trust television advertising more than the average consumer: 24% compared to a UK average of 17%.

Magazines, social media and word of mouth can offer an extra opportunity to create engagement. Magazines are the second medium UK mothers will look at, after the internet, to find out more about their next beauty purchase.

The research suggests that using social networking tools is also a good way of reaching mums – 18% are active social media users, versus an average of 15%. Thirty-one per cent are social networkers, one-fourth read customer reviews, and 19% use comparison shopping sites. Last but not least, half often tell their friends about products that interest them.

Back in the real world, capitalising on in-store promotions is a route that could pay dividends. Thirty-nine per cent of UK mothers make their final purchase decisions in-store, compared with 25% of UK consumers.

Kemp observes: “In terms of in-store marketing, one of the challenges for many organisations is that the trade operation is often managed separately. It has its own objectives and is often not well-integrated into the overall thinking.

“In-store digital applications and interactive video, for example, are clearly media possibilities that are beginning to crop up in developed markets. We’re seeing things such as shops giving people reviews in-store.”

Soup brand Campbell’s has been testing new ways to bring the connections it has built online with its consumers into stores. The US manufacturer designed an interactive touch screen device for its soups that includes key features such as a soup locator, a searchable recipe library, printable coupons and descriptions of new soups. Campbell’s is not only encouraging cross-selling but also providing a service to its consumers which aims to enrich their relationship with the company’s brands.

In addition to using in-store promotions to secure a purchase, marketers could also find a way to use these promotions to deepen engagement after purchase. The study cites Unilever’s US budget hair care brand Suave as an example of a brand that does this well.

Suave encourages US mothers to participate in an online instant-win competition by placing promotion codes onto its product bottles. Once the mum goes online to the Suave website, she is then invited to join the Suave community and participate in ongoing discussions.

Kemp says: “Suave found a way to communicate with consumers without taking over the conversation. Suave is the sponsor of the site, but the talk isn’t about the brand. The challenge for brands is how to tease out that nugget that the brand doesn’t actually own, because ownership belongs to the consumers, but essentially finance participation from the consumer perspective.

She continues: “I think we will see more and more of this kind of thing, where consumers can talk about their passion or whatever needs they have. I think the new paradigm will be those communities that are fairly specialised and will be looking at ways to finance themselves.”

Consumer goods brands might also add outdoor media to the mix: 40% of UK mums like to go out and are eager to try new things, versus 32% of average UK consumers. Brands can explore the possibility of using mobile technology, coupled with outdoor applications, to get mothers to interact with them while passing ads.

But however brands decide to approach them, they must remember that the world of UK mums is complex and busy. If marketing is to reach mothers effectively, then media planning will need to reflect that.

The Frontline

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Siobhan Freegard, Co-founder of www.netmums.com (and mother of three)

This research leads with “Mums are a desirable target for many advertisers”. And don’t we mums just know it. TV ads, magazine ads, internet ads, masses of letters and leaflets through our doors – we are constantly bombarded by ads for products and services. But actually, that’s fine by us! We want information to help us make the best purchasing choices.

But please don’t be tempted to patronise us with fluffy nursery-rhyme adverts. If you want to impress us, remember that as well as being mums, we are grown up, intelligent women. Even better, rather than talking at us, come and talk with us in the places we gather.

So where are we gathering? More than ever, you will find us online. Mums love the internet – it is the new garden fence, the virtual village green and the online school gate. It’s the place we find friendship, advice and support through the challenging child-rearing days.

For marketers, the internet is the place to engage your target audience. tell us what you have to say, ask our opinion and try to gain our respect. If you succeed, we will reward you not just by choosing to purchase your products but also by recommending them to our friends both online and offline.

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Sally Horrox, Marketing director, National Childbirth Trust (NCT)

This research highlights some interesting points, but it’s difficult to establish how much this adds to what most in the field already recognise.

I have some concerns about the basis for the study. The fact this information is garnered from a European Technographics survey doesn’t suggest an obvious fit with reaching UK mums. Surveys linked to children’s products, home products or health and beauty may offer a more robust platform for conclusions of this kind.

Similarly, Forrester has used an incredibly broad base – mums with kids under 16 years. That covers such a wide demographic as to be almost generic. This means the conclusions can only be viewed as very top line at best, given that a mother of a newborn baby will have entirely different interests and focuses, not to mention time, to a mother of a 14-year-old.

In our experience at the NCT, we find new mums and mums-to-be are most heavily influenced by information distributed directly by the NHS and other key sources, and by the views and experiences of friends and family, rather than broad media channels. This consideration seems to be missing from the summarised research, which therefore provides only a partial view on the best ways to reach UK mums.

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