‘Ad mum’ is dead, long live real mums

At last year’s Mumstock, the annual ‘marketing to mums’ conference we rather cheekily told the 400 or so marketing and advertising professionals who paid to come along where lots of them were going wrong when it came to connecting with mothers.

The truth – not that surprising when you think about it – is that while lots of mums spend much more time on domestic tasks than dads do, they’re not enthused by campaigns telling them that they’re defined by their choice of floor soap or bioactive dairy product.

Research we carried out with Saatchi & Saatchi last year, published by Marketing Week, revealed that just one in five mothers could relate to any of the ‘mums’ used in advertising. Mumstock is about helping marketers to understand this hugely diverse, clever and canny audience better, partly by busting long-held myths – from “motherhood is a life of drudgery” to “mothers seek to be perfect”.

But – as any mum worth her salt will tell you – occasionally getting it wrong isn’t the end of the world. This year at Mumstock, of which is Marketing Week is a partner, we’ll be talking about how organisations can appeal better to mums by exploring the emotional pull of motherhood. Being a parent isn’t a series of chores; it’s one of life’s most enjoyable and exciting experiences, packing a deeper emotional punch than pretty much anything else you’ll ever do.

At Mumsnet, we spend a lot of time working with brands, talking to them about how they can best interact with the millions of women in our community in a positive way.  Frankly, it takes time and effort, a willingness to take criticism on the chin, a lot of emotional understanding and not a little brainpower; but it’s worth it when you get it right.

Too often, the average mother has been portrayed as, bluntly, a bit thick: insular, humourless, and worryingly over-concerned about getting her whites whiter. ‘Advert mum’ doesn’t care about economics or politics, doesn’t tell jokes and can’t hold her own in an argument (unless she’s berating ‘advert dad’ about his domestic idiocy). Mumsnet gives the lie to this view on a daily basis: our users are a really smart crowd – fully engaged with the wider world, discussing everything from IS to I’m a Celebrity, and often very funny with it.  When it comes to their own lives, the dilemmas and advice our community share on Mumsnet has shown us how varied and nuanced – how three-dimensional, in fact – their view of family life is: our community has helped us to understand what modern motherhood really means.

The research we’ll unveil at Mumstock will aim to bring this real version of Mum to life for marketers. We heard last year of agency hearts sinking when they see the word “Mum” on a creative brief. Our research identifies 8 key emotional roles to help marketers better connect with mothers. All of these roles are important to her – she uses them to varying degrees depending on what each child needs, the life-stage of her children, and the situation. It is only through starting with these emotional roles, rather than just the functional ones, that a marketer can truly understand and bring Mum to life when advertising.

As well as sharing our own insights, at this year’s Mumstock we’ll be hearing from the marketing minds of some brands who work hard to hit the right notes – including Unilever, O2, Lego and Cadbury. They’ll be talking us through how they reach mothers to best effect – how to get the portrayal of mums right, how to speak to the issues which really move them, and which channels work most effectively to connect mums and brands.

Our users make it clear that they want authenticity and competence from marketers – which brands are bold enough to take the challenge and reap the rewards?

Justine Roberts is the founder and chief executive of Mumsnet.