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Mumsnet tips on marketing to parents: and why so many companies get it wrong

6 May, 2015

Carrie Longton Mumsnet Buy Yorkshire 2015

Last week I attended Carrie Longton’s seminar ‘Marketing to Mums’ at Buy Yorkshire. Carrie is an online marketing expert thanks to her experience as the co-founder of Mumsnet.com, the UK’s biggest online parent network. Mumsnet boasts more than 15 million visits per month.

Read my Buy Yorkshire review here

Carrie’s seminar was full of helpful tips and information for anyone marketing their services or products to mums or parents, which I’ll share with you in this post. But first, I wanted to explore some of the issues she highlighted with marketing to parents – and why so many companies get it wrong.

The lucrative “parent demographic” – misunderstood?

It is no wonder that parents are seen as such a prime target demographic for marketing campaigns. Companies are always looking for new customers – and loyal customers. Targeting parents opens the doors to their children too – and a potential lifetime of brand loyalty. And once parents find a brand their kids like, they are much more likely to stick with it.

But so many companies get it wrong – why?

courtesy of jms-group.com

courtesy of jms-group.com

3 mistakes advertisers make when marketing to mums

(1)   Playing on parents’ guilt

This is a pet hate of Carrie’s. A guilt marketing strategy is compelling for parents. Tapping into parents’ insecurities or feelings of inadequacy is an easy way for marketers to push products that claim to make a child’s life happier, healthier or more comfortable. The “your kids deserve more” approach is difficult to ignore. But this type of marketing promotes competitive parenting and worry – with parents making purchases out of fear. Mumsnet does not support this kind of advertising, and instead promotes “positive marketing”, whereby parents are supported, and instead feel inspired and encouraged, rather than guilty.

(2)   Not understanding parents

In her talk, Carrie quoted a survey in which mums were asked if they thought marketeers actually understood them (i.e. did mums believe that a real mum had been involved in putting together any part of the marketing). Only 19% said they did.

There is as much variety within a mums and parents ‘group’ as there is in the general population. They should not be seen as homogenous. Age is a big factor: The baby boomer generation have kids at college or university, and many now have grandchildren too; Generation X parents may often choose to buy products that offer simple solutions that give them more quality time with their children; while Millenials are more responsive to emotional advertising. Within each of those group, there are the usual “innovators” who are first to try new products and the  “key influencers” who will actively share recommendations with their friends on Facebook or via word-of-mouth. To understand “parents”, marketers need to do their homework and understand the current networks and relational complexities within the group in order to effectively engage with them to try new products and build brand loyalty.

(3)   Calling them ‘Mum’

According to research cited by Carrie in her talk, only 23% of mothers are happy with people other than their family calling them mum. ‘Mum’ is a very personal family term and advertisers who wade in and use the word without first being invited can be seen as intrusive or irritating.

Mumsnet logo

Mumsnet: 5 tips on marketing to mums / parents

Carrie firmly believes in positive marketing; if you buy a product and feel positive about it you’ll want to tell people about it, and it’s very important to think about this in your marketing and communications strategy.

Carrie explained that when Mums where surveyed about how companies engage with them and their online marketing strategy they received the following results:

  • Only 19% believed mums had been involved in the marketing campaigns planning process
  • Only 23% were happy with anyone other than their family calling them mum
  • 79% bought a product after seeing it recommended on Mumsnet and 80% would look on Mumsnet before buying a product

Here are Carrie’s top five tips for engaging mums and parents in your online digital marketing:

  1. Listen, engage, get to know and understand your audience before you start your marketing campaign.
  2. Don’t say your product will make me a better parent, just give a better product.
  3. Write genuinely funny or useful content only, entertainment is the key to successful marketing and will catch the eyes of those parents looking for some light relief. It’s fine to entertain them!
  4. Help them celebrate the fun times; having fun with kids makes a mum feel like a better parent.
  5. Do a good deed in a dark world and tell your brands story.

Carrie’s final thought of that day was: stop, think, empathise, enfranchise, engage.

  • What do you think about Carrie’s tips for marketing to mums/parents?
  • Are you a parent? Marketeer? I’d love to know your views.

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  • […] to find this out. For example, Leyla Brooke calls herself a “mummy blogger” on her blog. Yet Carrie Longton from Mumsnet notes that many don’t like this term, preferring “parent blogger” […]

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