Moms-the most lucrative target consumer-products companies have ever known-are a declining demo, leading marketers to rethink how they connect with them.
Many marketers have started broadening their options. Procter & Gamble Co., arguably the top marketer to moms with iconic brands such as Tide, staked a major claim in the men's market with its acquisition of Gillette Co. Rival Unilever has scored significant successes with guy-focused Axe.
But don't count moms out yet, warns Leon Nicholas, principal in the consumer-goods and retail practice of Global Insights. He notes that the absolute number of households with moms and kids keeps rising, just not as fast as the broader population.
Moms and kids under 18 still accounted for nearly one-third of U.S. households in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
However, other types of households, such as empty nesters, singles and even single dads with kids, are growing much faster than moms with kids. Such segments clearly are a rich target for many marketers as an alternative or supplement to the mom market. But these segments present their own problems. Women whose kids have grown aren't always easily targeted and aren't the grandmoms of yesteryear either, Mr. Nicholas says.
Wal-Mart Stores, built heavily around serving budget-conscious moms with kids in small-town America, has recently identified empty nesters (where, of course, the female partner can be expected to exert her usual influence over spending) as one of six key demographic targets for its segmentation scheme.
In light of moms becoming a relatively smaller force in the U.S. population, "marketers might need to make sure their advertising is reaching broader audiences," says Gary Wright, former corporate demographer for P&G and now president of consultancy Wright Futures.
The focus in categories such as laundry tends to be moms and families, but "when you look at who's really buying your product, in some cases people are succeeding because there's really a spillover away from their target," he says.
Moms remain at the core of many brands, says Ralph Blessing, principal with consultancy Arbor Strategy Group and a former marketing director on Unilever's Suave.
Suave, for example, in a restage earlier this year focused its "Pretty Mommy" campaign from Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago, squarely on cost-conscious moms, assuring them the value brand offers bona fide beauty products at guilt-free prices.
At P&G, a new campaign that Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, created for Tide is themed "Tide knows clothes best" and keeps the focus on the maternal unit, albeit in different ways, exploring moms' roles as playmate, executive and even lover.
P&G and Unilever are among marketers that have taken steps to both better reach the still-important mom segment and widen their appeal beyond it.
P&G began word-of-mouth marketing programs early in the decade with teens via its Tremor community. But since the overwhelming majority of its brands have women, and specifically moms, as their primary targets, P&G expanded the concept to moms with the launch earlier this year of Vocalpoint, a community of 600,000 women P&G uses to get the word out about new products.
Unilever worked to better leverage the mom market when it became a founding sponsor three years ago of Club Mom, an online community for mothers. But Unilever also broadened its appeal to an entirely different segment through the growth of Axe, says Lisa Klauser, VP-shared marketing services.
"We're always looking at key demographic shifts," she says, including "the shopping pattern of men."