Marketers: It’s time to start being real with moms

Credit: Alex Pasarelu
Credit: Alex Pasarelu

Motherhood is just one part of our identity.

While moms are always loved and needed, in recent years mom empowerment tropes like “warrior mom,” “goddess mom” and “boss mom” are everywhere. 

It’s fantastic to see recognition for the hardest job in the world. But these stereotypes not only take a narrow view, but are also tone-deaf – particularly during a pandemic.

Moms are struggling. I can attest that the pandemic has taken a toll on our well-being. It’s fallen to us to shoulder the responsibilities at home and work. My heart hurts for Black and Latinx moms who have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, unemployment and the country’s racial tensions. 

It’s exhausting for moms to try to be resilient all of the time. Well-meaning compliments like “you are so strong” or “I don’t know how you do it” only help to silence the overwhelming burden moms carry. 

Our obsession must shift from glorification to being real about what moms are going through, how they feel and what it’s like to walk in their shoes. Brands like Elvie and Frida are leading the way here and amassing a loyal fan following. Marketers can learn from their approach. 

Here are 3 ways brands can keep it real with moms: 

1. Speak to her as an individual who happens to be a mom 

Just because we birth someone doesn’t mean our other identities – daughter, sister, professional, friend – disappear. Motherhood is just one part of our identity.

Moms favor brands that don’t make them feel like being a mom or a caregiver is their only role. The brands they love help them take care of themselves as humans, partly because their kids rely on them.  

To do this, look beyond the functional benefits of your product. A new mom, for example, knows she needs a breast pump — but why should she pick yours? She’s looking not just at how quiet or effective the pump is, but how your brand supports her as a person.  

That applies to any brand. Did you know over 48% of moms describe themselves as gamers? Gaming companies don’t approach their audience through the lens of motherhood. They are purely gamers who also happen to be moms, and also other interests that influence their lifestyle and choices. The more we understand customers as whole people, the better we can connect. 

2. Lean into the complexity of emotions. 

Motherhood is a roller coaster of emotions. This we know.  

But our research for a leading baby retailer uncovered a specific emotional experience that highlights the complexity of parenthood. Brands tend to focus on the “write it in the baby book” moments of childhood: the first word, first day of daycare, first laugh. But parents more often observe subtle milestones: a new skill, learning to stand on tiptoes, climbing into the car seat.  

Those milestones usually mean less work for mom, which is absolutely worth celebrating. But it also means the baby just became less of a baby. This is something to celebrate and mourn at the same time. Neither emotion is wrong, and both deserve to be acknowledged. 

But moms don’t always feel like celebrating. We don’t want to dwell in the hard stuff, but leaning into human truths will connect better than focusing on just the positive. A new Mother’s Day spot fromSaucony does this by striking a balance between realistic and optimistic. 

3. Offer reassurance and clarity.

One would think that Google made life easier for mothers. Wrong. More than half (58%) of new moms are overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. 

Parents don’t need new experts — they need clarifying voices and tools. What moms really want is reassurance. A knowing nod or helping hand that says “you won’t get this perfectly, and that’s what the whole mom thing is all about.” 

On the other hand, with new voices available, moms are curating a new type of parenting village. Once locked by geography and family, moms today surround themselves with a diverse cast of voices, from TikTok influencers to review sites. Brands that offer reassurance and clarity have a higher likelihood of being invited by a mom into her village. 

Moms are multidimensional, and that should be acknowledged without bias. To win her over, champion her. Make systemic changes to enhance her life: more maternity leave, more paternity leave and true work flexibility. Go beyond the functional and connect on an emotional level. 

That’s real. 

By Lilia Arroyo-Flores is chief strategy officer at Havas Chicago

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