The CMO Show:
The CMO Show: Katrina McCarter...

With 63% of mothers feeling that advertisers don’t understand them, how can we start making mum happy?

We all have one, yet when it comes to mothers, it turns out that advertisers and marketers may not be as familiar as they claim to be. Enter Katrina McCarter, founder and CEO at Marketing to Mums.

Driven to her wits end by a string of poorly suited advertisements, McCarter’s on a mission to answer one question: What does mum really want?

Presenting her findings at AD:TECH 2017, McCarter says advertisers are swamping mothers with outdated stereotypes and inauthentic messages on “the perfect life”.

“Many marketers actually think that mums are aspirational and that mums are striving to attain this perfect life,” she says. “It’s real suicide for a brand because mum immediately turns off.”

Instead, McCarter has found that mothers are demanding more authenticity from advertisers that doesn’t gloss over the complex “juggling” act of their daily lives. Now is the time to show what motherhood is truly like and reflect mum’s other interests, warts-and-all, she says.

Listen along as Mark Jones and JV Douglas get the scoop on the role of influencers for this market segment, how the generational divide is shaping messaging to mothers of all ages, and why making mum smile is the best type of relationship builder.

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The CMO Show production team

Producers – Megan Wright & Tom van Leeuwen

Audio Engineers – Jonny McNee & Daniel Marr

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Participants: Host: Jeanne-Vida Douglas
Guest: Katrina McCarter (KM)


MJ: You’ve tuned into the CMO Show with Mark Jones.

JVD: And JV Douglas.

MJ: It’s great to have you with us.

JVD: It always is and today we’re going to talk to someone who knows a lot about someone who’s very close to most of us.

MJ: Well, we all have one.

JVD: And they’re very special, I’ll say and that’s mums.

MJ: Hurray for mums.

JVD: Absolutely. We’ve probably already broken all of the rules that Katrina McCarter, who’s the head of Marketing to Mums, has actually come up with as part of her research because what she’s done is, she’s gone out and she’s spoken to thousands of mums about what they like and what they hate about the way marketers speak to them.

MJ: To quote Monty Python, “We’re all individuals”.

JVD: I’m not.

MJ: There was an interesting stat here that she quotes, 63% of Australian mums don’t believe advertisers understand them.

JVD: And understanding them is a very, very lucrative game if you can get into it because they’re actually worth $132 billion. If you can tap your way into the mummy market, you can make a packet, but there are things that we just don’t sell to them or don’t sell them the right way.

MJ: I don’t know, I just thought all mums wear white t-shirts and blue jeans in a carefree manner, just throw the clothes on the line while the sun streaks through. You know, isn’t that – isn’t that the lived shared experience for all mums?

JVD: Well it’s exactly that kind of marketing that really, really turns mums off apparently.

MJ: Clichés.

JVD: Yeah, totally. And the really interesting thing is too, different generations of mums get upset about different things, right? Because, of course, you’re first question would be, if we’re talking about marketing to mums, what about to…?

MJ: Yeah, what about the dads? Come on.

JVD: Yeah, what about the dads?

MJ: Right.

JVD: Baby-boomer mums don’t mind so much if their husband, their partner is the butt of a joke in an advertising.

MJ: Right.

JVD: Oddly enough though, Gen X and millennial mums really don’t like it, if their husband or the father of their children isn’t also taken seriously. So there’s a really strong generational shift.

MJ: Geez, that’s a hot button for me. The dumb clueless dad stereotype in ads?

Oh my gosh, I get so bent out of shape when I see it.

JVD: And so do Gen X mums.

MJ: Yeah. I’m a clever mum and my husband, well he’s, we just tolerate him. He’s a bit silly.

JVD: But again, if you’re selling to baby-boomers that makes sense to them because they’re part of the stereotypes of that generation. They’re stereotypes though that have largely been lost, as we share more of the load.

MJ: So is this a conversation about segmentation then? So the idea that mums are not a monolithic you know, buying mass but there’s ostensibly niche markets within the broader mum community and her point is we don’t get it.

JVD: That’s effectively it and she’s identified nine mistakes that advertisers regularly make when it comes to marketing to mums. Within those, most of them would apply to any segmentation. Don’t stereotype me, give me things I’m that actually interested in. Don’t overtly sell to me just…

MJ: Sounds obvious.

JVD: …be relevant to who I am. There are however, some things that she came across that are particularly relevant to mums and one of those is the importance of influencers and the importance of social media because mums are more likely to listen to advice from trusted sources or from friends than they are take on third-party information.

JVD: And so being able to use the influencer community effectively and with a really authentic voice, it become crucial when you’re trying to tap into this potentially huge market.

MJ: We could go on but how about we let Katrina go on instead?

JVD: Yeah, absolutely. You’ll learn more from her, I’m sure.

# # #
JVD: I’m here with Katrina McCarter.

JVD: Now Katrina, you’ve actually got nine classic mistakes that marketers make when they’re speaking to mums. I’d like to kind of delve into some of those actually and ask some other questions about them. For example, you mentioned being funny. Why aren’t more ads to mums funny? Like ads to dads are always funny but mum ads just lose the humour. What’s going on there?

KM: It’s a definite problem and mum is calling out for more humour, she likes someone to make her smile. Like she’s dealing with a lot in her day, that juggle is really real. For some, if a brand can come and bring a smile to her face, that’s a real relationship build. But you’re right, it’s really absent and humour can be used in so many different ways. So one of the things that I always say is don’t dumb down your message, don’t simplify your message because it really gets mum offside. But you can deliver really scientific and technical information in a really humorous way. It’s just being missed by marketers. So that is a key opportunity that’s out there right now.

JVD: The other thing that struck me is how few marketers actually tell the truth about mothering and motherhood and families in their messaging. Why is it that we’re still trying to gloss over things?

KM: I think that many marketers actually think that mums are aspirational and that mums are striving to attain this perfect life. But what we’ve found is that mums don’t. They’re not aspiring for this perfect life that is being depicted in social media or in our advertising. They don’t actually mind that juggle and they feel right now that there’s a real disconnect between advertising and their reality. So, you know, marketers can make an awful mistake by trying to depict this perfect life. And it’s real suicide for a brand because mum immediately turns off.

What she really wants is some authenticity. She wants you to reflect the complexity of her life and few brands are actually doing this well. And I think I spoke about it in the presentation today. We’ve seen the rise of bloggers like Constance Hall who has now got a following of over a million mums in just a few short years because she’s real. She’s relatable and she’s showing motherhood warts and all.

JVD: Katrina, can you tell me a little bit about your organisation?

KM: Sure. I’m the founder of Marketing to Mums. I’m a marketing strategist and I really specialise in helping businesses drive sales and profit amongst the most powerful consumer in the world, mums.

JVD: Can you tell us a little bit about how big that market is?

KM: Look, in Australia, we know from research from global data, that mums are responsible for $132 billion in spending every year. Now this report goes on and tells us that if mums were an industry, that they would be the largest contributor to GDP in this country.

JVD: The thing about this is too, they’re not just making spending decisions for themselves, they’re making spending decisions for multiple parties. What are some of the, I guess, the inconsistencies in the way we’ve thought about marketing to mums and who we’re actually marketing to?

KM: Look, absolutely, great, great question. So society sees that mums just buy the groceries but you know, what we’re seeing is ABS data showing how highly educated mums, you know, women are and many of these are actually mums. What we’re also seeing is that there’s this real trend towards mums opening businesses. Women are now going into business at two to three times the rate of men. And this is really driven by women that are looking for greater flexibility and more meaningful work after having their children.

So they’re not just out there buying the groceries, they are out there buying advertising, accounting and legal services and they’re signing commercial leases, buying cars and security systems. So I think that we’ve pigeon-holed them for way too long in terms of the narrow scope of what they’re responsible for. Mums, we also say, have incredible influence over other friends in their network but also their extended family members. They effectively become that go-to person for advice if someone’s got a large purchase that they might need to make.

JVD: Now speaking of advice, one of the things that really came out in your presentation is the importance of referral-type marketing and of influencers within the sector. Can you talk a little bit about why that’s particularly important when you’re marketing to mums?

KM: Absolutely. So what we see is that mums are rejecting corporate sales messages. They feel like it’s a really big push strategy and when a business gets salesy, they automatically turn off. It’s red flag time for mum. What she wants you to do is actually respect her and earn her attention. So when she now wants to make a purchase, she’s out checking testimonials on a business, she’s going and having a look at their Facebook page.

She’s seeing what other mums are talking about, what they’re saying about that business in closed Facebook groups where she feels a lot safer in sharing information. So this is like a really safe ground for mum to share bad experiences and good experiences about brands. That’s where they’re talking. And it’s – the challenge for marketers is how do we get into those Facebook groups and start to infiltrate and I guess start listening to mums and sharing things about our business that are going to be meaningful to her.

JVD: Why is social media particularly important when it comes to marketing to mums?

KM: Look, this is the place where you can develop a relationship with mum. And mum doesn’t want to purchase from you unless she understands you, and knows you, and know what you value. She wants to know you quite well before she’s going to consider transacting with you. So social media is such a fertile ground for learning more about mum and I guess listening to her. I always talk about my love of soft data and that’s just taking the time to have a look through your social media to see what mums are saying. You can reveal unmet needs in there and that’s what I think goes missing so many times. There are gems that are there if you’re willing to sit and invest the time.

JVD: You mentioned Facebook groups and the opportunity that that might provide. This brings us to this whole idea of – it’s sometimes referred to as the dark web. The web that marketers can’t tap into. There are going to be some changes afoot in this – in this area. What are some of those changes and what should marketers particularly be paying attention to?

KM: Yeah, look, Facebook groups are incredible and I guess the challenge has been for brands, is how do they infiltrate? How do they get into a closed Facebook group for mums if (a) they’re not mums. And so that is, I agree, a real challenge but there’re other ways around it. So very few marketers are actually approaching administrators of these Facebook groups and looking at collaborative ways that they can work together.

I’ve taken a number of my clients and we’ve worked within Facebook groups through the administrator and the owner of that Facebook group and it’s a really untapped opportunity. These groups where mum, as I said before, is feeling really, really safe and so she’s more likely to talk more openly about a product or a service. So, yeah, please first up, go and approach an administrator of a Facebook group. It’s a perfect opportunity.

JVD: Tell me too there’s, a lot of the brands that you work with have come to you or the companies you work with have come to you saying, “Explain to me how to market to mums.” There’s this other group that don’t consider themselves marketable to mums. They don’t even think of mums as being an audience. The classic case that I’m always citing is that no one sells whisky to mums. What is it about that? Why are no whisky brands actively selling their product to mums? Why is it all cleaning products that I get on my Facebook feed? What’s going on there?

KM: Yeah, look, a great feed and I think that’s one of the things, is that suddenly when a woman becomes a mother she’s treated differently by society. She’s seen as really one-dimensional and that’s really… I guess the feedback we’re getting from our survey is that, “Reflect my other interests, I’m not this one-dimensional being. I have lots of interests and they might be whisky.” Speaking of which, I know a woman who is actively involved with whisky that I will look to connect you with.

JVD: Sounds fabulous. Tell me too, what are some of the other basics that we’re missing when it comes to marketing to mums? Because you mentioned as well the idea that mums being mothers of young children, that that’s a particular focal point.

JVD: I guess in terms of marketing to mothers of older children and even mothers of adults. Because let’s face it, they don’t go away. Why are those other ideas of motherhood being lost?

KM: [Laughs] I know. My whole aim is to have my kids ready to leave when they’re 18. Like if they’re independent by then I’ve done my job and I’m really happy. I’ve already told them that I’m moving to New York. My youngest knows come 17, she’s finished year 12, that I’m off to New York. Coming back to it, one of the big things that I’ve uncovered is that mums of teenagers are really lacking products and services and support.

So what we typically see is that everyone sees that mums with young children are really time poor. They’ve got this huge juggle that they’re doing then. Then you go through this I guess more settled time, when you’re dealing with primary school kids. You get into a bit of a rhythm, you’ll have people going back to work or they’re more – they’ve adjusted into parenthood because man, it’s a big transition. But what we’re seeing is that mums of teenagers and I guess this extends to fathers as well, is that they have… You’ve generally got two working parents then, you’ve got kids that are traversing puberty and you have no idea at the end of the day what you might walk home into.

And what mums are saying or certainly in our report, they came back to saying, “We’ve got so many unmet needs. I’m so stretched now, I’m stretched now than when I had them as little babies. And there’s no services, there’s no support for me, there’s no products that I could be using to help me manage that.” So she’s calling and saying, “Hey, recognise who I am and recognise my juggle right now and what can you do for me?”

JVD: Another thing that strikes me is that marketers really don’t make use of the intergenerational influence mums have. If you think about like the brands that you’ve just always bought because you’ve always bought them without even making a decision. Almost invariably, a parent will have introduced you to that and predominantly it will be a mum. Why isn’t it that marketers don’t make more, I guess, more messaging around that intergenerational transfer because it’s so powerful?

KM: Well, I think it is for certain categories and certain things. My research has actually disproved that because I actually thought that was true too. But what we found from the mums is that their mum is not as influential as we might think and it’s actually mums that they identify as being someone like them, they don’t have to know them, actually have more influence over them than their mum. That was really, really interesting finding. So yeah, it’s all about testimonials and what another mum might have said even if they don’t know them.

JVD: I love it when my assumptions get trounced by the research, it happens all the time on this show. That is fascinating. So essentially it’s about the people who you’re listening to in your peer group and that might be…

KM: Correct.

JVD: …all different colours, and shades, and ages, and all the rest of it. It’s identifying that influential peer group, yeah?

KM: Yeah, definitely. That’s why social becomes so important because she’s so information seeking. As soon as the kids are down, it’s flop on the couch, TV is on, phone’s out, we’re scrolling through emails, we’re scrolling through social media, we’re looking for that checkout time. But it’s then that we’re also being influenced by what we’re saying in our News Feed, what other people are up to that we might aspire to be doing or buying or what they’re doing.

And we might be researching because we research so much more than you know, previous generations. We find out huge amounts of information before we make decisions now. It’s not that immediate transactional thing anymore, we really want to have that relationship with a brand before we’re buying.

JVD: You mentioned that there’s a generational difference between the way mothers like to see their partners depicted and the father of their children depicted. Can you just talk us through that a little bit and maybe discuss where that change might have come from?

KM: Look, I found this really fascinating. I went over to New York last year in October and I listened to… It was a whole conference around millennial mothers and marketing to millennial mothers. This was really interesting to me because I’m not a millennial. And so I wanted to see what the differences were and one of the key things that mums said, a millennial mum, was, “Whatever you do, don’t undervalue or misrepresent my partner. Because we see the parenting journey as a very equal partnership that we’re doing together. So when you downplay his role or downplay or make light of what he’s capable of doing or not, you are absolutely having a slight at me as well.”

This is what we found from the millennial mum, whereas with an older mum she’s quite happy to, you know, have a little bit at a laugh at something that dad does wrong. That kind of humour doesn’t bother her as much. But for a millennial mum, it is absolutely critical that you avoid it. You are really going to get her offside.

JVD: You can see that too in rejections of phrases like “Dad’s babysitting”. Like, “No, he’s not. He’s looking after his kids.”

KM: Absolutely. So yeah, that might be fine for a mum in her 40s, but if you were to do that to a millennial mum, you would have lost her forever.

JVD: Now if you could then change one thing about the way the marketing industry treats mothers in Australia. What would that one thing be?

KM: I think that I would join the chorus of 1800 Australian mums, “Please stop stereotyping mothers.” Without question this was her number one beef and I think it’s strongly mine as well. Becoming a parent is a massive transition and it’s more than just learning to deal with a baby. It’s about how society then starts speaking to us. It’s very different and we’re trying to traverse this new landscape. We can’t understand why we’re just being kind of pigeonholed or seen as this one-dimensional thing. I think it’s really, my call is, is to treat us a women first, mothers second.

JVD: Absolutely. Listen Katrina, this has been a fascinating conversation. Thank you so much for the insights that you’ve brought to the CMO Show. We’ll definitely in our show notes depict the nine key mistakes that marketers are making so we can teach them not do it again next time. Thank you so much.

KM: Thank you. Awesome opportunity.

# # #

JVD: She knows about marketing to mums.

MJ: She knows a lot about it. You know, and it’s great to hear someone really have an opportunity to express and understand and work with her passion.

JVD: Well it’s also that thing of a business idea that’s born of frustration. A lot of things begin when someone says, “Why aren’t we doing this better?” Which is effectively where Katrina began, with her saying, “Hang on, why are people giving me stupid, irrelevant ads?”

JVD: Why don’t marketers already have these insights? And she was being asked for them so often that she actually turned them into research and into useful material.

MJ: Well, clearly she’s got a, you know, quite a long way to go still and an opportunity to keep educating the market, so good luck to her.

JVD: Yeah absolutely.

MJ: Well that wraps up another episode of the CMO Show.

MJ: My name is Mark Jones, thank you for joining us.

JVD: And I’m JV Douglas. And don’t forget to leave us a review on iTunes or on SoundCloud because the reviews are what makes sure people get to hear the show.

MJ: That’s right. We’ll also be your friend forever.

JVD: Always.

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