McCann Surveys How to Talk to Global Moms Online

Dream Apps Would Be Let Users Time Travel, or Just Help Them With Dinner

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Many moms use the internet to share and receive parenting tips, exchanging information in a "mom economy" where knowledge and credibility are currency, according to a global study.

Dave McCaughan
Dave McCaughan

"What they're looking for is means to broadcast themselves, so brands can help by offering either technology or services that help them show off what they know, share what they know," said Dave McCaughan, Asia Pacific director of McCann Erickson's Truth Central, the global intelligence unit that conducted the research.

The study comes amid recent buzz about the role of mothers, particularly working moms. One of the top stories this week was Yahoo's appointment of Marissa Mayer as CEO -- not only as a woman taking a top job in Silicon Valley, but also one who's soon going on maternity leave. This follows on the heels of a much-forwarded essay published by The Atlantic on "Why Women Still Can't Have It All."

"We found that 67% of mothers globally think technology helps them be better mothers. In China, that goes up to 91%," Mr. McCaughan said. "In places like China and India, the world has changed so much and is so different from their own mothers' experience." Nearly 40% of moms surveyed said they write blogs at least occasionally. In China, that figure is 86%. (Posting on China's popular Twitter-like microblog platforms was considered blogging by the study's authors.)

Chinese moms tend to rely more on the internet because of the country's one-child policy. Women now having children are products of the policy, and many grew up without siblings and few cousins. Without many female relatives in their generation and moms seen as out of touch with modern parenting methods, Chinese women increasingly turn to websites and blogs for advice.

"The other side of that is , Chinese mothers, because they've grown up in that one-child-policy era, it taught them to be selfish," Mr. McCaughan said. "They want to be seen as successful mothers ... so you use blogs and social media to broadcast your own expertise."

The study also revealed telling divides between moms in developed vs. developing countries. Respondents were told they could choose only one: for their child to be happy, successful or rich. Across all eight countries in the survey, moms predominantly chose happiness for their child.

In Italy, 94% of moms picked happiness, as did 87% of American moms. But in India only 53% of moms saw happiness as most important; 46% felt it was better to be successful. In China, 77% chose happiness, 20% chose success.

Moms were also asked what their dream app would be. Respondents everywhere said they wanted an app that could stop time or travel through time, perhaps wanting to skip past the parts with the dirty diapers and tantrums, while slowing down the rewarding bits.

But in Japan, moms requested a "Cook My Dinner" app. Not because they can't cook, but to help cope with pressures that come in a perfectionist society where it's not uncommon for school officials to criticize mothers for not showing enough effort when making their children's "bento" lunch boxes.

"It should have rice and three or four little side dishes; [the food] has to have the right range of colors, beautifully laid out," said Mr. McCaughan, adding that some women in his office devote an hour each morning to preparing their children's lunches.

Meanwhile, in China, a popular imaginary app "would transport my kids to all their activities and act as a taxi" -- underscoring the "tiger mom" mentality that is prevalent among many urban parents, with children's schedules packed with tutoring sessions and extracurriculars to boost chances of getting into the best schools.

The McCann survey analyzed online responses from 6,800 mothers in eight countries -- the U.S., U.K., Italy, Japan, Brazil, China, India and Mexico.

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