How brands can reach moms during COVID-19
Hear more about marketing to parents on this week's edition of the Marketer's Brief podcast.
Brands are well-practiced at marketing to moms on Mother’s Day. But the holiday—which arrives on May 10—brings new challenges this year, with COVID-19 waging war against both companies and consumers. The way brands speak to mothers matters now more than ever as parents suffer new stresses like homeschooling and working remotely. In addition, due to the uncertain economy, many parents have been forced to clamp down on their household budgets and are being much choosier with where they spend their dollars. Marketers have a lot at stake in getting it right. Here’s what they should consider:
Tone matters—now especially
Experts say the coronavirus has accelerated several trends that were in play well before the pandemic. Moms were already paying attention to brand meaning and purpose more than the average consumer, but now they’re watching even more carefully. More than 80 percent of moms report that the way brands behave during the crisis will affect their desire to use those brands in the future, according to a recent study by market research firm GfK. Brands are under a lot of scrutiny right now, and should avoid being tone-deaf in messaging, says Debbie Welch, director of data science at agency Swift.
Moms are also seeking more truthful authenticity from brands. The notion of picture-perfect parenthood is now an unrealistic fantasy of prior generations. Brands also need to be careful not to mom-shame, which can lead to backlash. “It’s gone away from a super polished, Instagram-
perfect place,” says Welch, noting that influencers and celebrities who communicate this message will benefit. “More and more people are showing the realities of what it means to be a mom—it’s messy, it’s imperfect, and it’s OK to mess up.”
Find moms where they are spending their time
Before the pandemic, moms were spending a good deal of time on digital channels. But now, their social media usage has skyrocketed. GfK found that moms’ use of social media is “significantly higher” than the U.S. average, with 39 percent of moms with children under 18 noting they spent more time on Instagram than other channels. Moms, especially those with young kids, are “more engaged in a lot of the social networks,” says Jola Burnett, a GfK VP overseeing consumer trends. Those brands that offer a sense of community—like a “mom tribe” where mothers can connect with other parents, trade advice and offer tips either on social channels or on their own websites—will win more dollars, experts say. “Brands that are keeping up with her in terms of media—not just traditional media consumption, but she’s on her mobile more than ever—have a better chance of reaching her,” says Brooke-Lynn Howard, head of strategy at Swift.
Be a resource
With the stress and anxiety brought on by COVID-19, moms are increasingly looking for help, and experts say brands can step up. Sesame Street recently partnered with Headspace, a meditation app, on offerings with characters including Cookie Monster and Elmo, designed to help children navigate their emotions. Similarly, in March, Mattel unveiled Mattel Playroom, a site with activities, tips and content from its popular Barbie, Fisher-Price and American Girl brands for parents looking for DIY and activity advice to reduce their children’s dependence on screens. Chuck Scothon, senior VP of Fisher-Price and global head of infant and preschool at Mattel, says the toy company’s relationship with moms used to be more seasonal, but has evolved to be more of an ongoing dialogue that positions Mattel as a resource. During the pandemic, Fisher-Price and agency Wieden+Kennedy unveiled a “Home Collection” with tips for parents around creating playthings at home—making a dragon out of an egg carton, or a puppet out of a brown bag, for example.
“You need to remain true to who you are as a brand. Be authentic, be helpful, but you also want to make sure you’re bringing a unique voice to the table,” says Scothon, noting that the collection takes a less serious note by providing a way for parents to think about things differently. “You need to be a resource for parents and not be marketing to parents.”
Personalize offerings, but keep it simple
It’s also important that brands realize that not all moms are alike—and they should not be addressed in the same way. “This generation of parents are used to be spoken to in a very customized way,” says Amy Henry, president of FlashLight Insights, a brand consultancy. “They expect a brand knows exactly who they are and caters messages to be relevant to them.” Henry says brands should engage with moms to get a sense of what their individual needs might be so that the brand can offer a specific solution. In addition, she advises brands to move away from the overly sentimental montages during the coronavirus crisis and try to stick to more simple messages. “I’m not discounting those [emotional] messages, but sometimes moms’ sense of normalcy comes from a brand just acting like themselves right now,” Henry says.