Think in Cult to Culture Principles
Parenting couldn’t be more different around the world, so how do you create a brand that is relevant everywhere?
What are the shared values that break cultural barriers?
First off – and this may sound clichéd – but be genuine. Parents, and new parents especially, are quick to sniff out disingenuous crap, and presenting a reality far from the truth is dangerous. The majority of new moms are infuriated by brands in the children’s space that show perfect family moments and only pictures of moms with amazing hair and 6-inch stilettos that seem to imply, “you can have a baby and look like a million bucks!”… when in reality you haven’t had time to shower or sleep in days.
The truth is, reality is interesting enough – rather than present an image of who they should be, brands need to shape their propositions and create experiences built around parents’ needs.
Parents, and new parents especially, are quick to sniff out disingenuous crap, and presenting a reality far from the truth is dangerous.
But to really end up being part of parenting culture, you need to get inside their mindset.
There’s a secret to parents, especially new ones – they are a little bit cultish. So, think like a cult brand and you’ll end up culture shaping.
First, remember that you’re selling an ideology… not products and services
With most cults, a belief or purpose that holistically defines how you live is at the core. The same goes for new parents: many subscribe to lifestyle beliefs like organic, chemical-free, etc. and seek brands that can deliver matching values and help them live that purpose or belief every day.
New parents aren’t loyal to brands, they’re loyal to ideologies. Creating a more emotional exchange, instead of a rational one, is what drives continued participation. Whatever your purpose, create a participation platform where your ideology is built into every experience with the brand, and every experience reinforces those beliefs.
Purpose not only drives loyalty, is a great driver of ability to cross-sell and upsell. Consumers in general are increasingly willing to pay a premium for purpose, and in the baby category this seems to be amplified. New parents are picky and take their time finding brands that are an ideological fit, but the good news is that once they buy into your brand, they’ll buy a wider variety of things from you. Just like TOMS created a generation of buyers sold on the circular economy belief of buy a pair, give a pair of shoes and then successfully expanded into other items, Bugaboo has converted its promise of mobility, Move Freely, from strollers to luggage. Now Bugaboo has the license to explore laterally into other movement pain points, and who knows what they’ll come up with next.
Fulfilling a more meaningful role in new parents’ lives, like the promise of freedom to move, is what ensures you a place in their homes and shopping carts.
Innovate around experience, think in rituals
Universally, new parents everywhere go through the incredible realization that everything has changed and it’s never going back. You have to re-figure it all out. We know consumers are receptive to innovation, and parents in particular will participate when you make something faster, easier, more fun, more interesting.
For example, Kleine Foodies Club, a participation platform for Ella’s Kitchen Benelux, makes the experience of starting a healthy relationship with food more fun by using playful characters to illustrate the important elements and educate parents and kids on the role of everything from touch and feel to colours and aesthetics in developing food foodie habits early.
When you solve pain points, you have the opportunity to create new rituals between parents and kids.
Tech is your friend in this respect. Johnson & Johnson’s Band-Aid Brand Magic Vision app was an early but great experience of brands thinking like this. By creating an Augmented Reality experience that used Muppets and other character-branded Band-Aids as an anchor, parents could turn otherwise traumatic moments of cuts and tears into a fun experience.
Figuring out this new phase of life as a family for the first time is difficult no matter the country, language, socioeconomic bracket… so actually be helpful. Solve a problem. You’ll be loved.
Parenting is a community sport.
Another cult-esque secret – especially with second and third children, parenting is increasingly outsourced to peers, including brand choices. This even extends to communities of likeminded strangers on TheBump and Mumsnet.
Moms are faster to outsource, because they trust each other and don’t need to do their own research first. Across the clients we work with, we see a lot of social feedback loops used to get to “the short list” – moms post a product on Facebook and ask for feedback, or just simply a question and wait for the recommendations to pour in. This is key for brands to understand and build the user journey around.
Just like social feedback loops are key to the consideration process, social proof is key to conversion. For example, Maxi-Cosi, the category generic in Germany and the Netherlands, has little awareness outside of Europe – and one of the most powerful and appealing facts in new market testing was the fact that 50 million babies have been carried home from the hospital in Maxi-Cosi seats. “If 50 million European parents trust them, then that works for us,” was the reaction of moms across the US.
We know consumers are receptive to innovation, and parents in particular will participate when you make something faster, easier, more fun, more interesting.
Nobody listens to peers quite like parents – and nobody is your harshest critic, then biggest advocate, like a new mom is. Once they love you, they really love you. This is why it’s powerful to create advocate and communities – even unofficial ones.
You can create a cult around your brand by thinking along the same lines… bond over ideologies and beliefs to create an emotional exchange instead of a rational one, keep them at the centre of every experience, create rituals that help families live according to their lifestyle beliefs and reinforce them, and let the power of community help drive brand love for your products.
At the end of the day, purpose-driven brands that think this way are the ones that will stick around.