BT’s Zaid Al-Qassab: ‘Don’t treat mums as a homogeneous group’

Targeting mums is a challenge, says BT’s chief brand officer Zaid Al-Qassab, but it’s no longer enough to simply have an appealing message, you have to start by understanding how, where and when they want to engage with you.


Q. How do you think brands should address mums in marketing?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that a mum is more than just some member of a homogeneous group called ‘mums’.  [Brands should] start by understanding each mum as an individual woman, in every facet of her life. Then get into the detail of her individual role as a mother and what that means. Only then is it OK to start to consider if there are some generalities to be drawn about mums as a whole.

Q. What are the challenges associated with marketing to mums and how do you overcome these at BT?

Mums are busy and their lives are complex. Today they are typically playing the roles of breadwinner, head of household and mum all at the same time, while also having their own identity as a woman. It is important to market based on a deep understanding of their lives, with products and services that are designed to meet their needs and desires, brought to life with engaging communication – that’s a real challenge. 

At BT we recognise the role mums often play in household choices and in budgeting for the family, so we try to make our packages of broadband and TV services very clear, and appealing to families with things such as free BT Sport.

Q. When targeting mums, what do you find is the most effective approach? 

Targeting mums is a challenge but it’s based on the same principles as targeting any group – you have to start by understanding your audience and looking for insights on where, when and how they want to hear about and engage with your product category. 

It’s no longer enough to have an appealing message; you need to know the right place and time to communicate that message too.  Given mums are so busy that’s the only way to cut through. At BT, we have a very wide range of ways we connect with Mums. For example, our broadband packages come with parental controls, which we choose to market via a variety of methods, but in particular via our email communication because that’s where mums have the time to think about this important service.

Q. How should marketers be adapting their communications to mums?

In today’s world it’s not sufficient to ‘adapt’ communication. You need to start with the audience in mind and design the communication for them in the first place. For example, on the rare occasions that mums have a few minutes downtime, how do they spend it?  Social media, online shopping, tweeting and watching TV are all popular with mums [our research finds], but you need to understand which of them is right for your product and your target mums. And depending on which context you choose, the message you communicate can be totally different. One way we engage with mums is via the BT Sport Action Woman Awards [which celebrates female sports stars]. It really connects with the way they feel about their own multifaceted role and the aspirations they have for their daughters.

Q. How do you use data at BT to get a better understanding of mums?

We are lucky at BT in that we have incredibly rich data. Indeed, our biggest challenge is making sense of all the data. But there’s no substitute to a balanced approach of combining qualitative insight with quantitative data. That’s the only way you can get a real understanding rather than a superficial one. 

Data always needs some human understanding applied to it in order to explain why the data looks as it does. We recently launched BT Mobile plans with a spend cap, for example, because we know a lot of mums – and dads – want to have a mobile plan for their teenage children, but want control over the costs. That insight came from looking at data and also talking to mums.

Zaid will be speaking at Mumsnet’s third annual Mumstock event on 15 March. Marketing Week is an official media partner.

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