Five takeouts for brands from Mumstock

Nicola Kemp unpicks the key themes from today's Mumsnet conference on marketing to mothers.

Mums: brands need to know the rules about marketing to mothers
Mums: brands need to know the rules about marketing to mothers

1. Motherhood is not a job
Marketers need to ditch their reliance on stereotypes of stressed-out mothers lurching from one act of domestic drudgery to the next.

Carrie Longton, co-founder of Mumsnet, said marketers have become obsessed with seeing motherhood as a job. "No woman has a child because she wants another job," she explained.

Mumsnet's research suggested this reliance on the functional role of motherhood is missing the mark with mums. As one respondent noted, "brands are completely unaware of what parenting is about – it's about love. It's about everything you can't buy, not everything you can."

2. Ditch the #supermum obsession
Despite the significant economic, social and cultural advances of the past decade a significant tranche of brands remain wedded to the notion that the perfect home is the ultimate symbol of maternal success.

However, Roisin Donnelly, corporate marketing director at P&G, said the company focuses on how their products can make a small difference in consumers lives, whether that's a cleaning product that takes less time or a quick beauty fix.

It is never about achieving perfection. She explained: "I'm a person, I don't float around in a perfect world, I'm not a size zero, I don't have a perfect house and that needs to be reflected."

Mumsnet research suggests that instead of focusing on perfection brands need to shift their focus on helping mums to try to be the role models they want to be for their children.

Pointing to the impact of the Dove Legacy film, which explores how women's insecurity about their beauty translates to their daughters, Longton said: "It doesn't patronise me, it makes me think differently, and crucially they aren't telling me how to parent."

Another example of a brand successfully encouraging debate is Always, but Longton noted that no brand has managed to spark such a debate amongst both mothers and fathers and their sons and daughters.

She said: "Ads that can create discussion, brands that are attempting to make the world a better place, they will win my trust and then my custom."

3. Mums are rule breakers too
According to Mumsnet research, brands are overlooking mother's capacity for fun and the beautiful time mum's get to break their own rules. "Why aren't mums ever the playmate, the dads get the fun, the dads get to be partner in crime in brands such as Lego's campaign?" asked Longton.

Brands can provide tools and ideas to facilitate play, but they can also help by stopping to present the perfect home as the pinnacle of success. "It's time to stop presenting the perfect hallway or the cleanest bathroom as the ultimate reflection of maternal success," explains Longton.

4. Mothers are more than just carers
While caring is a huge part of motherhood the research suggests that too many brands are playing it safe in depicting this aspect of motherhood. Richard Huntington, chief strategy officer at Saatchi & Saatchi warned brands are clinging to the edge of the ice rink not wanting to fall, in focusing on the traditional caring space of motherhood.

Those brands that venture out of this space and embrace more emotional and playful sides of motherhood from Lego to Dove have made themselves famous.

"We spend so much time desperately trying to find gaps in markets, there is an ocean here," explains Huntington.

5. Earn the right to talk to mums
In the age of ultra transparency how brands connect with mothers and families is about far more than advertising. In line with this brands need to shift their thinking, as companies which cannot support family life within their workplaces cannot claim legitimacy in their marketing communications.

Graeme Pitkethly, executive chairman of Unilever, says companies targeting mums must also think of their business practices. "This is about more than just marketing, people are buying into our company not just our brands. We have market leading maternity and paternity policies and being family friendly is crucial."