Relevance and Representation: Reaching Today’s Modern Moms

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Single moms, two moms, moms struggling to pay their bills — these are today’s modern mothers. Long gone are the days of the stay-at-home mom with 2.5 kids and a laundry list of dishes, carpools and soccer games. But what does this mean for advertisers, and how can they best connect with mothers in this constantly evolving consumer environment? In a discussion presented by Scary Mommy, Vice President of e-commerce, mobile and digital marketing for Walmart, Sumaiya Balbale, executive vice president of client and business development with Publicis Group, Valerie Beauchamp, head of studio for Scary Mommy, Micaela Birmingham and founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, Randi Zuckerberg, contemplated these questions and shared their personal experiences.

The moderator, former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, began the talk by delving into the topic of representation in advertising. Balbale said she often chooses to focus on the multi-dimensional nature of moms. That is, moms are not just moms — they are women with various interests and identities and must be targeted as such.

Today’s demographic makeup of mothers has a large impact on mothers’ identities, as Beauchamp added that the age of first-time mothers is increasing annually. From an advertiser’s perspective, this means today’s moms have done and experienced more in their lives prior to motherhood than moms did 20 years ago. At the same time, all moms have struggled with the same emotions and fears, something Balbale says is crucial to understanding today’s interconnected community of mothers.

To focus solely on women, however, would be a massive mistake for advertisers. As a mother of one with her second on the way, Beauchamp referenced the growing role fathers are playing in sharing the child-rearing responsibilities traditionally placed on mothers. Although still less than women, today’s dads are participating in the parenting realm more than ever before. As such, Beauchamp believes advertisers should include fathers more in the future if they are to reach the full scope of their target market.

Just as important to effectively reaching mothers is where advertisers reach them. Birmingham said she believes strongly in the power of social media to engage with moms in a relatable and comical manner. With approximately 4.5 million mothers currently on Facebook, digital platforms are clearly becoming the prime space for mothers to receive and make purchasing decisions for their families. For Birmingham, this means creating content that is both educational and shareable, evidenced by Scary Mommy’s groundbreaking Snapchat series Madge the Vag that attempts to normalize taboo discussions surrounding women and motherhood.

However, oftentimes more taboo for brands is participating in the conversation surrounding gender inequality and political movements like #MeToo. As Beauchamp explained, brands are usually so afraid to get it wrong that they ultimately avoid the issue altogether. To make matters worse, companies often fail to incorporate female input when developing products or messages targeted at women, while Balbale added that many advertising agencies lack women in their creative departments. Taken together, this creates an environment that makes reaching the 85 million American moms increasingly difficult.

To combat this, Beauchamp urged advertisers to take risks while also preserving key business values essential to product success. Joining the conversation, however scary, ultimately allows brands to build relevancy and consumer connection with mothers. In the long run, Beauchamp believes this is the best decision, as sometimes embracing discomfort is the only way to make a change.

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