US moms place less value on 'self-love' than others, says MullenLowe study

Global survey gives insight into moms' minds before and after the big day

With baby-care spending in the U.S. due to hit $67 billion next year, marketers of all kinds are paying attention to the needs and hopes of new moms. Now, a new study from MullenLowe offers some insight into how moms in the US differ from their counterparts around the world.

More than any other moms in the world, US mothers see selflessness as essential to doing the job, according the survey of 1,800 women in six countries (300 in the US). Though the overall percentage of American women who said selflessness was key was relatively low — just 28% — it was still higher than moms in any other country. Australian moms were second in valuing selflessness, at 22%, followed by the UK (21%); India (18%); Colombia (14%); and China (11%).

"We have a hard time practicing self-love" in the US, said Shaun Stripling, chief strategy officer and global director at Frank About Women, the MullenLowe "think tank" that conducted the study. "We have a hard time understanding that part of our role as a mom is to be healthy and take care of ourselves, too." Such moms are likely to respond to positive brand messages that "give her permission, support the idea that you’re not being selfish if you take time out to see a doctor or get a massage or even something as simple as a pedicure," she said.

Globally, mothers list patience as the most important characteristic for a "good mother" to have. It was the only attribute worldwide that a majority of the mothers surveyed agreed was necessary.

Moms everywhere feel pressure to meet expectations, whether those set by society or themselves. Globally, 65% of pregnant women worry about being a good mother, 59% worry about getting enough sleep, 55% worry about balancing household chores and 54% are anxious about breastfeeding.

These concerns are "huge opportunities" for brands to engage with mothers, according to Stripling, whether with products that solve problems or discounts that save money or advice that saves face. For example, American mothers breastfeed at lower rates than European mothers, despite the proven health benefits. "Even brands that have alternatives to breastfeeding in the marketplace can play a very pivotal leadership role," Stripling said. "They can build moms’ confidence to breastfeed by supporting them early on, and along with that confidence comes brand affinity or brand engagement, so they may very well choose [the brand’s] products down the line outside of breastfeeding."

One common characteristic of most moms around the world — 81% — is a dependence on women like themselves for advice and comfort. The study refers to these women as "Frexperts," trusted friends with the right expertise — though they’re not always technically friends. Instead, they can be "people in the social space who look like her, act like her, make decisions in the same way that she does, so she’s trusting them sometimes as much as an actual friend or an actual family member," Stripling said.

While a brand can’t become a frexpert, Stripling added, "they can take on that tone," and brands that understand the needs and concerns of mothers may find they’ve gained an effective spokeswoman of their own. "Many women feel that it’s their responsibility or their duty to inform loved ones and friends and family of their own past experiences so that the people around them can be better prepared as they make some of these decisions," Stripling said.

But Stripling cautions brands against using women’s concerns against them. "Her insecurities are off limits. They’re real, and they run deep," she said.

"You will find brands that will take advantage of understanding moms’ insecurities, and that may win a short-term gain," she said. "But it is deadly for a brand in the long run."

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