I was interviewed by global trend forecasting firm The Future Laboratory about the emotional and practical evolution a woman makes when she has her first child. My POV? Sure, on the surface we change in all sorts of ways...but we rarely change fundamentally, in our core values and world view. Here's the piece transcribed (linked here). My Instagram community gave the POV in this piece a big YES and the article became The Future Laboratory's most-shared story of the month. Let me know what you think in the comments.
As a new mother – and a brand strategist – I find myself caught between two worlds. One day I’m wandering in the baby aisle wondering who on earth makes the decisions about how these brands are positioned. And the next I’m in a boardroom staring at a brand’s ‘gatekeeper mum’ segmentation analysis, wondering who on earth these pen portraits are in the real world. They don’t describe the mothers I know. We don’t morph into a new consumer typology when we have a baby, adopt a shared mum world view. Quite the opposite. We become more complex consumers, not less. Our role in life is broader now, not narrower. Becoming a mother involves both change, but also unchange.
The change? Well, our spending patterns and triggers evolve. We buy things we didn’t before, possibly in different ways – shopping more often, more online or in altogether different stores. Money can be tighter than usual as parenthood brings altered working patterns, and more pressures on the family budget. This means concepts of value might shift, or loyalty may look different.
There is no doubt our media habits change – just look at every new mother’s Google search history and chat-app usage. Sudden, deep needs for information on sleep schedules, swaddling, baby carriers, evolving into searches like ‘wtf is tummy time?’ and ‘are baby swimming lessons a massive waste of money?’. I think I’d rather share a no-make-up-selfie than my search history.
And it’s fair to say our influences change, or at least, the dynamics of influence around us. It's inevitable – you try some of those searches and see what happens to your social feeds and ad-pop-ups. Algorithms drive us ever deeper into the filter bubble. Marketers are well aware of the power of the Insta-mum – some being mini-media empires with half-million communities, product lines and international publishing contracts – but the continual co-opting of these women’s reach and tone via sponsored content plays often feels clumsy and opportunistic. As Millennials, the nascent blogger-turned-celebrity generation, we can smell this stuff a mile away.
[Being] a mother is anything but boring and predictable, so how come so much of the marketing aimed at us is?
But, what about the 'un-change'?
Of course, becoming a mother can profoundly affect a woman emotionally, physically and practically – in her career, relationships and social life. But having now experienced it myself and come into contact via Young Gums with hundreds - if not thousands - of other women experiencing this life transition, I'm pretty sure becoming a mother rarely brings seismic fundamental change to us as people...what we’re into, how we like to dress, what we value and what we don’t. We’re still the same complex, idiosyncratic, sophisticated Millennial consumers we were before, just with longer shopping lists and less time.
The big question in my mind is this: becoming a mother is anything but boring and predictable, so how come so much of the marketing aimed at us is? Where are the deep human truths, the wit, the diversity, the attitude, the levity, the #realtalk, the insight, frankly the…effort… in all this advertising and editorial aimed at me now? Am I to live in a lens-flare world of domestic pastel perfection, smoothing the cotton-soft edge of a nappy against my cheek? Must I be infantalised by baby food brands and their baby talk product descriptions? And will I learn to enjoy being greeted by decade-old stock shots on your website?
We mothers are full of warmth for brands that understand the complexity of our lives and find ways to help lighten the load. Boots, for instance, has a Parenting Club as part of its loyalty programme that sends personalised monthly newsletters pointing to specialist editorial, product reviews and discounts closely linked to my baby’s developmental milestones, so it is there with me every step of the way. But other examples are few and far between. So brands, show us you get us. Please, find a way. Recognise us as people. Don’t define us by life stage. See us as individuals, not segments in the targeting model.