Every Day Is Mother's Day (Karrh on Marketing)

Happy Mother's Day!

Yes, I realize that you are reading this long before the second Sunday in May. Nevertheless, if your business involves selling something, then you should still consider today - and perhaps every day - as Mother's Day.  

Moms comprise the most powerful consumer group in America. Mintel International says mothers control up to 85 percent of total household spending. Moms even dominate purchase decisions in categories such as cars (75 percent) and computers and technology for the home (65 percent).

Here are some other compelling trends involving mothers and marketing:

  • The "average American mom" (if there is such a person) has changed significantly in the past 20 years. A Pew Research Center comparison of mothers in 2008 versus those in 1990 showed that current moms are 18 percent less likely to be married, 70 percent more likely to be Hispanic and 32 percent more likely to have at least some college education.  
  • Moms now cross generational lines; today there are significant numbers of Generation Y, Generation X and Boomers with babies.
  • Six of 10 mothers with children under the age of 3 are working outside the home.
  • More than 7 million moms are running a business out of their homes.
  • Nearly 80 percent of mothers with children under 18 say they actively use social networking sites or blogs.

How can you make every day "Mother's Marketing Day" in your business?

First and foremost, you can't fake it. Too many companies have tried to chase the dollars controlled by moms by following some stereotype-laden path of least resistance. Marketers call that strategy "shrink it and pink it" - changing the color, making the product smaller and changing a few words in order to supposedly appeal to women buyers.

You might have seen this strategy at play with products ranging from razors to cars. Dell Computer, for example, rolled out in 2009 a sister website called "Della" that was supposed to offer a more female-friendly tech-shopping experience. A (female) reviewer on the tech-review site Engadget included this comment about Della: "We do find it a bit disconcerting that they mention ‘finding recipes,' ‘counting calories,' and blissing out to ‘guided meditations' on the Tech Tips page. Tech Tips!?"

To authentically market to today's increasingly educated and tech-savvy mom, the experts tend to suggest:

  • Get social and mobile. Of the mothers who use social networking sites or blogs, 55 percent are making purchases because of a blog recommendation and 40 percent have done so from a Facebook recommendation. Because moms are so frequently on the go, you might want to deliver a significant portion of marketing messages to them via email, mobile texts or radio.
  • Recognize how mothers bond and buy with one another offline too. Beyond even the substantial network marketing businesses of Arbonne, Mona Vie, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef and the like, a number of more conventional companies have successfully recruited influential moms for in-home parties. One company claims to have organized 500,000 such "Mommy Parties" during the past five years for brands like Paper Mate and Nutella.
  • Think practical, not just pretty. Mothers tend to be deal-hunters, and that tendency crosses socioeconomic categories. Moms with household incomes greater than $75,000 are almost as likely to spend time looking for sales, discounts and coupons as those with incomes below $50,000.
  • Engage mothers in ways that recognize the entirety of their interests. Kimberly-Clark created an opportunity to stand out with its support of mom business owners and inventors. Through its HuggiesMomInspired.com grant program, Kimberly-Clark has generated for the Huggies brand millions of impressions via Facebook, Twitter, websites and blogs.   

And how did Dell ultimately recover? The company learned quickly that its new Della site came across as a bit patronizing. Among responses was the following post on its corporate blog: "For example, we've made the ‘tech tips' section, well, more technical. We'll be incorporating more business-oriented products and information. And there's less pink. We are listening." Dell wound up eliminating Della as a separate site within a few weeks.

It would be a good practice for your company to listen to moms too. Whether you choose to call your mother every day is up to you.

(Jim Karrh is the founder of Karrh & Associates and director of MarketSearch, both of Little Rock. Email him at DrJim@TheMarketingDoctors.net.)