Last month the power of unhappy mommy bloggers was unleashed after Motrin launched an ad about the pros and cons of wearing a baby in a sling.(See the ad on YouTube  if you missed it.) The ruckus from moms who felt offended certainly got Motrin’s attention – in a good way – and I’m sure the brand manager has learned a thing or two about talking about babies to moms. It also shows how incredibly dicey it is to market to moms, period.
However, I want to take a moment to pause and say thanks for the fact that companies ARE marketing to moms, although they misstep occasionally. Even five years ago, ads for baby products seemed to reflect a generic mommy marketing ideal: all moms were about the same age, the same ethnicity, wore the same generic t-shirts, and achieved the same medium-attractive-but-not-threatening level of prettiness. We all seemed to care tremendously about clean laundry and clean floors. We never talked about finding affordable childcare, how hard it is to tell your boss you need to stay home with a sick child, or how to explain to one’s husband that the ob-gyn really meant six weeks. I often wondered where the world’s brand managers held the big convention that decided all 80 million moms in America still wanted to be Donna Reed, even though her last show  wrapped more than 40 years ago.
All of a sudden, thanks largely to the cacophony of voices from moms on the Internet and the collective power of four decades of moms in the workforce, it’s clear that most corporate marketers are starting to treat moms as individuals. Or individual categories of mothers, at least. Women who are pregnant for the first time. Moms pregnant with baby #2, juggling a toddler at home. Moms over 40. Black moms! Latina moms! Gay moms! Green moms!
Welcome to niche marketing, mom-style. And companies had best start listening: According to Marketing to Moms , moms spend an estimated $1.7 trillion dollars a year. Yet 60% of moms feel marketers are ignoring our needs. And 73% of moms say advertisers don't really understand what it’s like to be a mom.
Here’s proof that moms rule the marketing world: a new product called The Booty Caller , a series of ovulation alerts sent to wanna-be moms via text messages (three per menstrual cycle) that lets us know when we are most likely to be fertile. Messages like: "Your fertile window opens today and lasts five more days. Stress can get in the way of conception so relax and get a massage, meditate, or take a yoga class," or "Today is your last fertile day! If you get pregnant during this cycle, your due date will be on or around August 5, 2009."
Ironically, the Booty Caller comes from the same corporate giant that created the problematic Motrin ads, Johnson and Johnson, through their BabyCenter division. Just goes to show that the company is trying – and in my view, mostly succeeding -- to talk to moms with respect.
Why is this good? Because money is power, baby. Moms have long made over 70% of all household purchasing decisions. That means we have power. Power to change our world -- by what we like, what we buy, how we communicate with each other and what we say on blogs. This power also means more products, inventions, and services that help make motherhood easier – which will make everything in our lives easier and better, whether you juggle a 60 hour a week job with motherhood, or you just juggle motherhood.
In October, I went to the fourth annual Marketing to Moms conference. Each year this conference presents the collective cutting edge of national marketing to moms, corporate style. As evidence of the slicing and dicing of motherhood, I listened to a 45 minute presentation by the founder of The Bump , a company created to help moms get pregnant, stay pregnant, enjoy pregnancy and plan for the real live baby. Another presentation was by Miriam Muley , a former General Motors executive who now consults to companies marketing to Latina and African American moms, filled with market research plumbing the differences between moms by culture. I also saw a slide show about how visual images of mothers have changed in the past five years, and on and on. I went through two days of conference presentations and parties without hearing a single stereotype about motherhood.
And you know what? That felt really good.
Full disclosure: I worked for Johnson & Johnson for nearly 10 years (in marketing, no less – although for a division that marketed Splenda Brand Sweetener). So I feel a lot of sympathy for them on the Motrin blunder, although I agree the ad was pretty clumsy.