Trillion-Dollar Moms, Marketing to a New Generation of Mothers by Bonnie W. Ulman and Maria T. Bailey
If men are from Mars, mothers are from Venus and advertisers are from another galaxy altogether. Fortunately, authors Maria T. Bailey and Bonnie W. Ulman have a hot ticket for corporations that hope to rocket to the new frontiers of mother-focused sales. Backed by credible marketing data, real-life case studies and their own experiences as mothers in the world of marketing, Bailey and Ulman decipher the consumer motivations of modern moms and New Age grandmothers. They include excellent examples of successful corporate strategies and of some misdirected advertising campaigns as well, plus easy-to-understand charts, sidebars and graphics. This makes the book repetitious in parts, but still strong. getAbstract.com warmly recommends it to marketing, public relations, advertising and business development professionals.
- Mothers – the consumers with the greatest clout in the U.S. – represent a huge, but largely untapped business opportunity .
- The ages of a woman’s children have a greater impact on her consumer behavior than her own age does.
- The number of working mothers has declined, but the field of women with stay-at-home businesses is burgeoning.
- Boomer mothers, guilty about working, gave their kids many treats, toys and perks.
- Gen X moms – born 1965 to 1976 – are active consumers and very diverse.
- Echo boomers or Gen Y mothers – born 1977 to 1994 – have been hit with a barrage of marketing since birth, and will regard your message with skepticism.
- Gen Xers push for individuality, while Gen Y moms seek group affiliations and like to buy everything from cookware to lingerie at home parties.
- Moms respond to products offering tradition, nostalgia or educational value.
- Moms feel the tight grip of time. They value productivity and efficiency.
- So, to earn a Mom’s cash, “walk in her shoes.”
Trillion-Dollar Moms Book Summary
Finding the Target
Don’t just think outside of the box. You’ll need a new box to be sure your product reaches the modern mom. Too many businesses waste valuable time and effort with worn-out products and promotions. Others mistakenly completely overlook moms, the largest consumer group in the U.S. What’s more, some companies use a half-hearted, “one-size-fits-all approach. That’s bad business. Consider the data: Mothers control more than $1.6 trillion in annual household spending. Businesses owned by women represent $1.15 trillion in yearly sales. Mothers are 80% more inclined to purchase an item or service from a corporation that demonstrates its understanding and recognition of moms’ multiple roles.
“Great opportunities exist for marketers who connect with mothers using the right words and images.”
Various short-term and long-term factors have altered the Maternal Market. For example, traditional age-related boundaries have shifted; women no longer “act their ages.” In fact, a Baby Boomer mother (born 1946-1964) with a young child is likely to act more like a Gen X mom with a child the same age than like another Boomer who has teenagers. For marketing purposes, the ages of a woman’s children have a greater impact on her activities, decisions and spending patterns. Gen X and Gen Y moms are very tech savvy and skeptical about ads.
The Generation Gaps
Society has traditional labels for different generations of moms. “Silver Birds” are mothers born during the Depression Era, from 1935-1945. These older women are the mothers of Baby Boomers, born post-World War II. Younger generations of mothers include, Gen X (birthdates: 1965-1976) and Gen Y (1977-1994). Although these groups are marked by the major events of their eras, previously well-defined age-related boundaries are blurring. Generational issues remain important, but increasingly women’s social networks (co-workers, fellow PTA members, neighbors and more) shape them more than their ages.
Mothers at Work
About 70% of mothers with school age children work. But one class of working moms is decreasing. Mothers of younger children were 60% of the workforce in 1998, and are 55% now. But don’t be fooled; the traditional 1950s Leave It to Beaver family has not returned.
“Mothers represent the most powerful consumers in the United States today.”
After watching many Baby Boom mothers struggle to balance high-powered careers and family life, younger moms see the home vs. work equation a new way. Gen X and Gen Y moms use their familiarity and comfort with technology to create profitable, flexible home-based businesses. The founder of Baby Einstein Videos, an educational company, was a stay-at-home mom. On a smaller scale, many Gen X moms operate lucrative E-bay storefronts from home computers, raising their children during the day and earning money at night.
“Although it is true that all moms are women, not all women are moms, and expecting to connect with a mom if you speak to her only as a woman is a well-documented misnomer.”
One out of every 11 females in the U.S. is a business owner, according to data from the Center for Women’s Business Research, but women with traditional corporate jobs also seek the flexibility that ownership delivers. “Mom-friendly” corporate benefits include fluid work schedules, childcare subsidies, take-out dinners, job sharing and telecommuting. When companies fail to offer those benefits, Gen X and Gen Y moms move along. They do not work – or shop – at companies that do not support integrated family lives.
“It’s extremely important for marketers to remember that moms are women with children.”
To gain potential consumers and employees, corporations need to understand how much an integrated lifestyle matters to modern moms. They often need to order school and work supplies with equal ease. After packing lunches and driving carpools, many moms flip on their computers and work. Remember their dual roles when you market your products and services.
The Baby Boom Mom
After World War II, Silver Bird moms created very traditional households as stay-at-home moms. They raised the children; dads supported the families. But even as they filled traditional roles, Silver Birds (consciously or unconsciously) pushed their Baby Boom daughters to want more. Indeed, given an education, a career and a home, they believed Boomer women could have it all. Work became a status symbol, and Boomers clung to their cherished careers even during motherhood. They led the parade of mothers entering executive suites.
“The Tupperware party was the forerunner to what marketing professionals today refer to as viral marketing, which relies on an influencer to tell her friends about a product or service, and, in short order, a message is spread.”
However, that dual track led to a significant increase in daycare centers, relocations and divorces. “Latch key” children arrived home to empty houses. With the disruption of nuclear and extended family ties, Boomers needed a “village to raise a child.” To offset their guilt about long hours away from home, Boomers spent heavily on their children. Spurred by a competitive spirit, they invested in their kids’ intellectual and physical growth, including paying for educational programs such as tutoring. With high disposable incomes that they are willing to spend, Boomers remain a very attractive market.
Gen X on the Spot
Gen X members hate to be labeled “Xers.” As the children of working and/or divorced women, Gen Xers became self-reliant while their mothers worked. The kids spent their after-school hours playing early generations of video games and watching MTV. They developed problem-solving skills and observed their moms’ difficult struggles with the pulls of home and work.
“For brands to connect with Gen Y, they must speak to Gen Ys’ aspirations and visions of their ideal selves.”
Gen Xers push for individuality. They seek personalized jewelry, clothing and stationary, and are very receptive to do-it-yourself home improvement. Given their turbulent childhoods in divorced, blended or latchkey families, Gen X moms want to create stable homes. Let Boomers have their villages, Gen X moms believe children need to be raised by families. They place a premium on educational toys and tuition savings programs. They are joiners, so they like “Mommy and Me” gatherings, volunteer events and religious study groups. Home shopping parties are favorites with these moms who get together to buy jewelry, kitchen ware and children’s books in their friends’ living rooms – thereby creating a nearly $30 billion industry.
Tapping into the Y-Not Generation
Generation Y is the latté generation. Spoiled children of prosperity, Gen Y girls grew up with gourmet coffee treats, manicures as teens and pre-teens, and average weekly allowances of more than $80. This generation owns Playstations, DVD players, cell phones and other electronic toys. Technology is a key social and economic tool for Gen Y Moms, who connect with their friends via the Internet, camera phones and instant messaging. Reaching these consumers requires communicating through multiple channels in various mediums.
“Minorities make up 34% of Generation Y, up from 24% in the Baby Boomer cohort…Gen Y is a well-blended generation that celebrates diversity.”
Given their comfort with technology, Gen Y moms prefer work environments that offer telecommuting, flextime and part-time schedules. Therefore, market watchers should expect Gen Y mothers to swell the ranks of home office workers and small business owners. With an emphasis on home and traditional values, Gen Y mothers are more likely to home school their children, a potential market for companies that produce office supplies and educational materials. Gen Y mothers prefer:
- Trendy, but original merchandise – Gen Y shoppers purchase popular fashions and then customize the garments with personal touches.
- Relevant products – They seek products that best suit their lifestyles.
- Increase skepticism – Gen Y moms have been inundated with advertisements since their childhoods and brand names don’t hold much significance for them.
Silver Birds and Golden Purses
The money trail often leads to Silver Bird grandparents, typically born during the Depression Era and early 1940s. Grandparents represent a major economic force. The American Association of Retired Persons reports that typical grandparents spend an average of $500 a year on items for their grandchildren, and two out of five spend $2,500. Silver Birds enjoy buying educational toys and nostalgic brands such as Matchbox and LEGO. Today’s more youthful grandmothers shop with their Baby Boom daughters and Gen X or Y granddaughters at stores such as Old Navy, where three generations of women can find hip, but age-appropriate clothes. Today’s grandmothers fit three categories:
- “Traditionalist” – Keepers of stability and rituals.
- “Empowered” – Seekers of careers, experiences and adventures.
- “Enlightened” – Builders of bridges between the two other roles.
“Moms are the greatest problem solvers in history. Perhaps they haven’t signed treaties to end wars, but they have mastered the art of negotiating whose turn it is to use the blue PS2 (Play-Station 2) controller.”
Discard all your stereotypes about bent, gray grannies in rocking chairs. Silver Birds and Boomers are grandmas on the go. Today’s grandmothers are more involved in their grandchildren’s lives; some are even primary caregivers. Smart companies recognize that fact and pitch their products with a multigenerational spin. For instance, Disney has hosted “Grand Gatherings” – promotional events designed for extended families and grandparents.
Moms and Media Messages
Marketers hoping to target the Mommy market should empathize, but not patronize. Provide timely tips, problem-solving answers and insightful data. Modern moms want to know that you “get it,” so avoid superficial outreach programs. Multitasking moms will punish your company at the cash register if your marketing campaign hits a false note, condescends or offers inadequate solutions to complex problems. Make your marketing campaigns matter by tapping into five basic themes that are the foundation of many homes:
- “Time” – Every woman seeks that “twenty-fifth hour” of the day. Highlight how your product or service will save energy and time.
- “Family enrichment” – Advance kids’ educational, cultural or athletic skills.
- “Health” – Family health and physical well-being are top concerns.
- “Value” – Maternal mathematics works like this: “Performance + quality + benefits = value.” Moms are value hunters with a sharp eye for quality.
- “Solutions” – Products that answer nagging problems (misplaced socks, unwieldy juice boxes, saving half-eaten goodies) are big hits with moms.
Tapping the Right Channels.
Meaningful marketing dialogues take place through several channels: online communications, direct mail, magazines, newspapers, specialty publications, catalogs and hybrid “magalogs,” (part magazine/part catalogue). Pack your message with informative how-to ideas and market it in multiple formats. Harried modern mothers are very selective and especially value periodicals that directly address stage-of-life and quality-of-life concerns.
“If you consider that women, whether with child or without, have only had the right to vote since 1920, it’s not surprising that the career of working mothers is short in terms of America’s history.”
About one-third of moms are offended by many advertisements and very few (20%) believe that advertisers successfully reach out to mothers. Homerun ads include a recent McDonalds pitch touting healthy salads for mothers: “Now Mummy has her Yummy.” In that campaign, the company acknowledged that moms want more from fast-food restaurants. In contrast, a recent glossy car ad struck out with some moms. The ad featured photographs of several types of drivers, but did not include women with children. The pitch ignored the lucrative maternal market.
“The term supermom was born and society recognized a new generation of self-sufficient, multitasking women who could be mothers and CEOs. Progress came with…mothers, who are tired of trying to have it all right now, and are open to the idea of more fluid work choices.”
Moms want to be entertained, educated and assisted while interacting with your brand, store or service. Pay attention to details, such as the shape of product packages, the layout of your store, the cleanliness of your bathrooms and your company’s community service programs. Use skillful PR to reach moms, who are less skeptical of public relations messages than they are of advertisements. PR provides a stage to educate and communicate. What’s more, a successful PR campaign operates with a longer shelf life than the typical half-minute television commercial or 60-second radio voiceover. A well-crafted PR campaign can generate positive “word-of-mouth buzz” in the highly profitable Mom Market.
About the Authors
Maria T. Bailey is the CEO of a marketing firm that serves major retail and entertainment clients. She hosts the national Mom Talk Radio show and runs BlueSuitMom, a magazine and Web site for women executives. Bonnie W. Ulman heads an Atlanta consumer research and communications company.