Why mum should be in the driving seat when it comes to marketing
Yesterday, as most of us will know, was Mother’s Day. It is observed around the world in different forms, and quite often on different dates, but the focus is always the same; mum and motherhood. The American incarnation started with a woman called Anna Jarvis, in 1908, and became an official holiday in 1914. Ironically enough, rebelling against its commercialisation, Jarvis spent most of her later life campaigning to remove it from the calendar.
But motherly celebrations and recognition can also be traced back much further, to the Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honour of mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele respectively. But it’s the Christian festival of Mothering Sunday that is the clearest modern precedent, and why in the UK it falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent, rather than in the middle of May as elsewhere. It was traditionally when you were expected to return to your ‘mother Church’, or in other words, the one closest to your home. Now though, it has become a much more secular event, with the adoption of the more American values of giving flowers and tokens of affection to your mum.
So, given that we’ve been celebrating motherhood both culturally and commercially for some time, it is surprising that some businesses and brands, especially in the car industry, still don’t really target, or even know how to market to mums. Or more to the point, why they should. Women, just in general, control up to 70% of household purchases, and help spend over twenty trillion consumer dollars worldwide. In the UK, women and children are our most powerful demographic. And our marketing industry spends over two billion a year targeting them. But is it well spent?
A survey published by Saatchi and Saatchi, and Mumsnet, showed that 81% of mothers felt they couldn’t relate to what they see. Marketing Magazine found similarly, that 46% of mothers thought marketing presented unrealistic ideals for them to live up to.
Some have suggested this is due to a disproportionate lack of mothers in the workplace, and discrimination against those in it. The November 2016 report found that up to 54,000 women faced dismissal due to being pregnant, and as many as 100,000 mothers received negative comments and harassment on returning to work.
Throw into the mix that less than 5% of creative directors are women, let alone mothers, it is perhaps understandable why the messaging can go wrong. Which is why, rather than basing marketing on assumptions, involving your target audience in the process (in this case mums), is always essential to creating something engaging and connective.
Mum-to-mum, and mum-powered marketing is therefore not just important, but quickly becoming the most effective way to reach key decision makers when it comes to purchases.
American car advertising in particular has always traditionally portrayed women as an accessory to the car, and more often than not, one found in the passenger seat. Or, in trying to remedy the situation, they’ve portrayed women in the one traditional role that comes to mind – a mum doing the shopping, the school run, etc. etc. And of course, they all drive people carriers.
Fiat were one brand that took this head on, with a parody that addressed the realism of motherhood. Whereas this was successful in reaching their target audience at a more realistic level, it was still criticised for its ‘soccer-mom’ depiction of a woman’s role.
Car manufacturers are slowly but surely realising that women really are in the driving seat when it comes to consumer marketing. Audi for instance, used their prime Super Bowl spot to send buyers a message about equality both inside the company and on the road. And generally, we’re seeing more ‘user’ orientated messaging overall: campaigns that focus on functionality and practicality, regardless of gender.
At GForces, we’re proud to say that we too go against the grain when it comes to the stereotype. Working mothers are an intrinsic, important part of our workforce. Lauren Ambrose, our Client Service Director; Kara-Lee Ellingham, our Head of OEM, Enterprise & Marketing; Sian Williams, our Client Services Manager; Natalie Whitcombe, our HR Manager; and Caroline Mercer, on of our Lead Developers to name just a few. And there are many more we don’t have the room to give adequate appreciation to in a single blog. But we’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to you all for the sacrifices you make, and your contribution to making GForces what it is…a family! And they all encourage us to buck the trend and reassess how we depict women and mothers in both internal and client messaging.
We also genuinely see motherhood as something to celebrate. Over the last few months several GForces families have been blessed with the arrival of a new member, and at the same time, we are looking forward to welcoming back much missed colleagues from maternity leave soon. So, to all our working mums here at GForces, and all those further afield, a happy, albeit belated, Mother’s Day.