A wealth of knowledge on mums is at your fingertips online

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According to Mumsnet co-founder Carrie Longton, market research makes up around a third of the site’s revenues, showing its growing influence on brand strategy.

Before Mark Zuckerberg angered Harvard with his prodigy like ability to create addictive social websites, two London mums looking to solve the conundrum of needing more advice on child rearing came up with the idea of a site to bring mums together.

Almost 12 years on, Mumsnet has become a consumer group “courted and feared” (as the press has put it) not only by politicians, but brands, who have all discovered the wrath they can incur with this part of the population. Need I mention the Outdoor Advertising Association, Gordon Brown, and blacklisted advertiser Nestle?

I saw Mumsnet co-founder Carrie Longton speak at an event in London yesterday run by insight consultancy Flamingo, and she gave an eye opening account of brand activity that has gone down well with the site’s 600,000-strong community, most of whom are highly engaged users.

Ford increased its brand equity amongst them by making a selection of new S Maxes and Galaxies available for test drive by Mumsnet users, who were then required to make video diaries of their driving experiences.

There are other examples, but what Ford hit on here was the sharing of real life experience combined with a good dose of humour. The young mum who revelled in listening to dance music in her borrowed Ford while her two youngsters kept quiet in the back thanks to their individual screens and headphones was a real laugh out loud moment.

As Mumsnet further opens up to brands for market research, a wealth of knowledge on an important target audience lies within easy reach for marketers.

Longton says Mumsnet can offer a panel of around 2,000 users, giving the example of smoothie brand Innocent who recently recruited a Mumsnet panel of 400 members. She says that market research now makes up between a quarter and a third of Mumsnet revenues, which are sure to grow as more brands seek the opinions of this substantial group of people who are making a multitude of purchases daily for their families, and of course, themselves.

For brands unsure of whether committing some of their market research budget to a Mumsnet panel, there are some free nuggets of advice Longton gave at the event.

What do mums want? She says they want products that make their lives easier, online solutions to save time and effort, transparency from brands, to have their opinions heard, to be enfranchised and to not be stereotyped.

They want to be involved in brand and product development, and they want to hear more about what brands are doing to make the world a better place.

But as Longton is also quick to point out, mothers are not a homogenous group, and neither are Mumsnetters. It might sound obvious, but it’s an important point to consider, especially for marketers who are receiving advice from agencies and brand consultants around a specific way to market to mums.

Marketers are hearing a lot of noise around what’s being touted as a new era for a whole range of demographics, from the new teens, the new 20/30-somethings, the new middle age, etc, and what is the next step for brands marketing to mums.

This information is clearly valuable and helps marketers make decisions around brand and product activity. But it can be convoluted, which is why going direct to the audience themselves via a community such as Mumsnet can be very valuable.

Brands are being told that mums want to see positive role models of women excelling in making both their home and working lives a success.

But being a fly on the wall on a Mumsnet forum shows there are as many mums craving time out from their children, as there are those who beat themselves up about going to work.

Being a mum is hard (I am not one, but I do know this), and I don’t think brands should shy away from this. The quality of the Sex and the City 2 film might be debatable but the scene with Miranda and Charlotte bonding over cocktails and pouring their hearts out over the difficulties of motherhood was a moment that many of my ’mum friends’ on Facebook empathised with and laughed about.

Humour and empathy, as Ford hit on with its Mumsnet activity, are key elements for reaching out to mums. But if you don’t believe me, just ask them.

Make sure you sign up for the free Insight Show on 29 and 30 June. The show is part of Marketing Week Live! at Grand Olympia, London. Register here

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