Stop Telling Moms What to Do — Lend Them a Hand Instead

Stop Telling Moms What to Do — Lend Them a Hand Instead

Karen Ong Barone May 9, 2023 4 MIN READ

Writing to you from a sleep-deprived-doesn’t-even-accurately-define-how-tired-I-am state of mind while on maternity leave with my second child. As I sit breastfeeding with one hand and scrolling through my endless messages and feeds with my other, I’m amazed at how off so many marketing approaches to moms are. And I’m not the only one — What to Expect recently released a survey finding that the majority of moms think advertisers are missing the mark. Moms are frustrated by the old-school model of idealistic advertising — showing moms who look put together, physically fit and have a clean and tidy home. Moms want authentic messages that represent and understand the reality of their life (which, for the record, is the opposite of being put together, physically fit and having a clean and tidy home). And more than being messaged to and talked at — moms want help.

The survey found Amazon topped the list of brands moms said “get” them which surprised me. Amazon? I tried to think of Amazon’s advertising and couldn’t recall any that spoke to me as a mom. And Amazon as a brand gives me more evil-corporate-takeover-dystopian vibes than authentically-resonating-with-moms vibes. But as I dove further into the research it made sense — moms weren’t responding to the marketing or advertising messages. Not at all. They were responding to the service — being able to buy necessary stuff they needed from their phone and it being delivered quickly to their doorstep. “Survey respondents focused on Amazon’s shopping experience, explaining that it offers a level of convenience and trust that makes them feel more secure, productive and supported.”

Amazon is helping moms be productive and giving them a lifeline and access at a time when it can feel impossible to leave the house. Amazon is not interrupting them with another message but simply lending them a hand. 

I know, I know — we can’t all unleash a fleet of help to moms’ doorsteps. Most of you reading this are trying to do good in the world and have a valuable and important message for moms to hear on safety, education, health or otherwise. Your message is important, which is why it’s key to message it in a way that moms will hear it. There is a lot of competition for attention from moms (and I’m just talking about marketers and advertisers, not the attention their own children and family demand). In fact, I’ve probably targeted moms more than any other audience in my 15-year career as a behavior change marketer. I get it. Moms are a great audience. They are incredibly influential and have the power to not just impact their own behavior but that of their whole family. That said, they are also an audience, maybe more so than any other, that is deserving of peace and quiet. 

So, with the dual goal of helping good causes reach moms and cutting unnecessary noise for moms, I give to you my dos and don’ts when messaging to moms. These are things I’ve learned over the years from running campaigns targeted at mom and from being a mom myself:

Think about the backlash to “breast is best” — a well intentioned message that tells many moms to do something they can’t easily do and fails to empathize with what moms are going through. Or the backlash to “sleep when the baby sleeps” another well intentioned message that just doesn’t work for most parents. A lot of this is about tone. There are simple shifts you can make. Here is one example: Shift a statement like “Make sure you do 45 minutes of tummy time a day. Here is how.” to “Five easy ways to do tummy time that keep you and your baby entertained.” The former could make a mom (who is already stretched too thin) feel like they aren’t doing enough. The latter helps moms with something they need — activities to do with their baby. And acknowledges they themselves as the mom (not just the baby) need entertainment as well. Another example: Shift a statement like “There are toxic metals in baby food” to “Diversify the foods you give your kid to limit toxic metals”. The former raises fear and stress while the latter leads with helpfulness.  

What examples do you have? Seen any surprising messages to moms? Struggling with a particular topic?

At the end of the day, remember to be a helping hand to your mom audience. They deserve it and so desperately need it.

Karen Ong Barone is Principal + Executive Creative Director at Marketing for Change.