“Ban the word mum from segmentation: there is no identikit person”

If you’re a regular reader of Marketing Week, you’ll probably be able to spot that I am female. You may not be aware that I am also a mother.


Because although it’s a very important role for me when it comes to parenting my children, it’s not one that defines me. I could equally be defined by my career, education, location, income, friendships, attitudes or multicultural background.

So why do advertisers believe that ‘mums’ are a homogeneous group? Just 19 per cent of mothers in the UK believe there are any examples of mothers in advertising that they can relate to, according to research with more than 800 consumers from parenting forum Mumsnet and Saatchi & Saatchi.

You might say that marketing often uses blunt personas to extrapolate beliefs about all consumer groups. But this is a collection of 18 million people with an estimated spending power of £1.9bn. So getting it right should matter to brands.

There are five core myths about marketing to mothers, according to the research, which you can read here. What is interesting about this particular study is that it tells us that brands are getting everything wrong: the segmentation of the group; the attitudes of the group; and the content of the advertising.

There are two stereotypes in particular that grate, according to the research: the perfect parenting specimens who have it all and need to be wonderful at everything; and frazzled, stressed women lumbered with incompetent, bumbling husbands. Women simply don’t recognise these profiles.

“Beyond the early days of a child’s birth, mothers are far more divided than they are united,” explains the study. It calls for companies to examine the way they approach this group and work out how to approach them better.

With just 23 per cent of mothers happy for anyone apart from their children to call them mum, it’s clear that mothers are asking marketers to stop lumping their experiences together. After all, what is being marketed to ‘mums’ is often being marketed to people who happen to have children. If you’re selling me baby yoghurts, it’s worth appealing to me as a mother. If you’re selling me mascara, my parental status simply doesn’t matter.

The research suggests that marketing departments should go cold turkey on using the word ‘mum’ at all. “Ban it as an audience definition. Refuse to accept it on a creative brief,” argues the study. Done that? Good – now it’s over to you.