Why it's time to kill off the 'supermum' concept
A view from Jane Hodson, joint CEO, M&C Saatchi Milk

Why it's time to kill off the 'supermum' concept

If you didn't have elephants you couldn't invent one. They belong to a small group of living things so unlikely they challenge credulity and common sense, much like the concept of super women and supermums created by our industry, writes Jane Hodson.

My heart no longer sinks every time a brand tries to sell a story to women saying they can do it all. A big yawn, instead. I am one of this rare breed and can barely muster the energy to stay awake through the ad breaks anymore, let alone be told I now need to aspire to super woman status.

The latest Batchelors ‘Ready When You Are’ TV campaign targeting ‘do-it-all’ women to promote its Deli Boxes is just that. A wearisome idea that has boxed working mums into a segment - one who can cook, bake at dawn, fight fires and then eventually dons her nurse’s uniform on without breaking a sweat. It is either this or the Microsoft ‘Honestly’ ad which brings us back to what really matters to women: marriage and babies. There is nothing in between.

The march of supermums towards being more ambitious, more progressive but still able to hug their children and shed tears for them perhaps started with Procter & Gamble’s ‘Thank You Mum’ campaign. An inspired piece of work, it managed to engage with a segment that is not traditionally targeted by sport. The result was that other brands jumped on the bandwagon - the Christmas ads for Asda and Morrisons, for instance - to target mothers, without understanding that the P&G campaign created distinctive content by understanding the interests of its audience that was both relevant and appealing.

The problem is that it is easy to make assumptions about this one demographic - mothers, and especially working mums - because of the hype surrounding this segmentation, which leads to brands forgetting the true behaviours of people within this segment. All of whom are trying to build their own realities around a complex set of highly personalised needs.  Meaning working women will not be fooled just because your campaign is not bright pink and instead features super hero mums. Quite like the Batchelors advert, which will hardly win us over by showing all working mothers as super women going to work with a whisk in one hand and a suitcase in the other. If a planner tells you that this is the one uniting factor - the do-it-all-attitude - take your whisk and use it as a weapon.

Or simply follow these top tips:

1. Don’t box working mums into a persona or a segmentation – the beauty is they flex into different modes (and moods!). Not each one of us is obsessing over becoming the next Sheryl Sandberg, gleaming homes, whiter whites and healthy snacks for the family in one breath. Celebrate the differences. Each and every one of us is unique, and wants to be seen as such.

2. They build their realities around a complex sets of needs and want people to understand them at an individual tailored ‘my’ needs type of level. Right content, tight tools is key to engage with them. If you are going to sell to me then make it feel like a service, a helping hand.

3. Time is precious, meaning timing is a key component. Brands need to be always on for working mums and ready to proactively follow up when they engage with you; be it a simple enquiry about a product/service, a search for cooking tips online. Or, in my case best destinations for a stroppy seven-year-old in the wet Easter holiday - just one of the million little jobs I struggle to juggle.

It is time to kill off the supermum. There never was one, and we shouldn’t have invented one. The only person who is qualified to call me that is my seven-year-old.