By now, you’ll be hearing a lot about March 8’s International Women’s Day. I am, and it’s making me think hard. About how simultaneously powerful and powerless women are. About how much we love our moms, wives, sisters, daughters for their wisdom and sense of humour (matched by common sense.) About how it’s incredible to celebrate our achievements while seeing clearly the tough road that still lies ahead.
My eldest daughter is leaving soon for her first year of college and I love that it comes at a time when events like IWD remind us of what we have and what we still want. 2022’s theme #BreakTheBias is especially relevant, about imagining a gender free equal world “free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination.”
The global goal is to raise awareness against bias and forge women’s equality through action. Today my small contribution is to highlight one thing women suffer from globally and which I’d love to see vanish.
I’ve written before about the ground breaking research my Marketing to Mums organisation did which represented the first time ever that almost 2000 mothers were asked how they want businesses to communicate with them.
It found 63 per cent of moms believe advertisements and brands don’t understand them.
This staggers me, chiefly because there is a massive opportunity going begging here. With annual global spending power in the trillions, moms are the world’s most powerful consumer. More than half are unhappy with their treatment by brands. And nobody is asking what they really want and how they want to be seen.
The research found there are nine key mistakes brands and marketing agencies make when it comes to communicating with mothers. Stereotyping is at the top of that list of shame and its damaging effects are myriad. First up, stereotyping women and moms significantly limits your ability to attract and retain your ideal target market. It will directly affect your sales conversions.
How many times are moms depicted as a size 8 dynamo, juggling boardroom demands with kids’ needs before turning waspish know-it-all showing a hapless husband how to separate the whites from the coloureds?
While I’m sure those challenges are valid, the way they’re communicated are outdated or just wrong. Triumph—one of the world’s leading underwear manufacturers—reports that in Australia and New Zealand 48 per cent of women are size 14 or above. So this stereotype immediately isolates your brand from the very person you want to attract.
A massive 2014 study by ad giant Saatchi & Saatchi and UK parenting site Mumsnet found only 19 per cent of UK moms have ever identified with a woman in an ad. They found stereotyping of the perfect mom was a turn off, with 74 per cent of respondents saying they weren’t aspiring to perfection anyway.
The message? Stereotyping makes your business look disingenuous. Your aspirational approach won’t land because moms can’t relate.
“Don’t think that because we are moms we want ugly dressing gowns, fluffy slippers, cookware. We like being self-sufficient. We will use tools, fix broken things. We are not afraid of getting dirty. We are not just moms, we are modern women,” is what I heard during my research.
I’m inviting all brands and advertisers to #/BreakTheBias with these three things:
Do your homework
Start investing in research and marketing to women specialists to better understand them.
Most businesses skimp on research, yet this is the foundation that underpins the whole strategy. It’s a vital step. Mothers are not one homogenous group and it is vitally important your brand understands their behaviours, their drivers, so you can demonstrate empathy and a level of understanding that is currently lacking in the market and that will set you apart.
Hire the people you need
Ensure you have moms on your internal and external teams. Even better, support agencies which are mom-led (if you can find one—statistically, around 8 per cent are.) Forbes reported the median age of staff in agencies in the US is 38 and that more than 60% of ad industry employees are aged 25-44. The industry is male heavy because of the recognised gender pay gap.
That means younger, single, white males guide a lot of brand spend while lacking insight into moms’ needs. Agencies need to make more effort to hire and retain women with lived experience to make sure they’re offering their client brands and base a deeper level of insight. Having moms on your internal and external teams show you have representation of your target audience and it mitigates potential risk of a public brand misstep.
Go to the source
Simple: involve women and moms in your new product development. Typically, businesses don’t do this well and miss creating new income streams. They miss product design improvements that could be implemented. Women want to have a say. My current heroes in women-led businesses are beauty brand 19/99 (named for their age range), Super-She (a private female-only island off the coast of Finland) and Squealing Pig, an Australian rose brand created by women.
Have a memorable IWD and carry #BreakTheBias way beyond the one day allocated to it.