The most high-profile example of this is Procter & Gamble, which has made mums a key focal point for its Olympic sponsorship. Last month, it launched its global “Thank You Mom” campaign in celebration of 100 days to go until the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The campaign “recognises and celebrates the moms behind the athletes by thanking them for all they do”. It is the biggest campaign in P&G’s 174-year history and will run from now through until the end of the Olympic Games.
The campaign launched simultaneously around the world with the digital release of “Best Job,” a 2 minute film from Wieden + Kennedy Portland, that celebrates the role moms play in raising Olympians and in raising great kids. At time of writing it had gone viral, with more than 3 million views achieved via YouTube.
In the old days, “mums” would probably have been referred to by marketers as “housewives with kids”. But today that definition smacks of stereotyping. By contrast, the word “mum” in isolation is empowering. It does not imply that the women in question are dependent, voiceless, unable to influence their own destinies. It’s a word marketers and brands can use without fear of a backlash.
In the UK, a key player in this reclassification process has been Mumsnet, an online portal which provides advice and information on subjects related to family life and parenting. Launched in 2000, the site began to achieve real traction in around 2008/2009 and today has 2m unique visitors a month. Boosted by newspaper articles that called the 2009 General Election “the Mumsnet election”, it gave motherhood an entrepreneurial and proactive profile. Mumsnet mums were not the kind who waited weeks for their grown-up sons to call; they were the kind of mums who started up businesses from their kitchen table or ran companies. A sign that Mumsnet had really arrived came in 2010 when the company’s 10th anniversary party was held at GoogleUK’s offices with Ed Miliband, Steve Hilton and Gordon Brown as guests.
For marketers, then, Mumsnet is clearly of interest – because a large part of what it does is recommend products and services. Get the Mumsnet vote of approval and you don’t just reach their 2m audience, you also hit newspapers like the Daily Mail which regularly pick up bits and pieces from Mumsnet. To underline the value of this, Mumsnet claims that over half (54%) of its users have bought a product after reading about it on the site.
Mumsnet has recognised the power of this recommendation and now allows the most highly-rated brands on its site to display a “Mumsnet Best” logo on their merchandise and marketing material. To qualify, brands/products have to have been awarded a minimum of four stars by more than ten Mumsnet members. They then have to have products in the top five of any of its categories, which include household goods, cars, technology and entertainment, nursery products and travel & days out.
There’s clearly a positive PR component to this, both in terms of the way a brand can utilise this endorsement itself and the way a third party media outlet (either mainstream media or specialist press) might do so. But it’s not the only way in which Mumsnet can contribute to the PR positioning of a big brand or product.
More interesting, arguably, is the way that Mumsnet can be used by brands as a kind of arm’s length focus group. Visit the site right now, for example, and you’ll find M&S, Garnier Ambre Solaire, Tesco and The National Trust asking Mumsnet mums for feedback on everything from kidswear to ethical cleaning products.
It’s not just product testing that Mumsnet can help with either. Innocent, for example, teamed up with Mumsnet to get advice about how it should market to mothers and children. It did this by giving them a number of marketing strategies to compare.
The beauty of this service is that it’s an opportunity to head off PR problems before they happen. While it’s possible that mums might err on the side of caution, a savvy marketer or PR exec will quickly spot potential disasters in their marketing plan.
Of course, you might argue that the same result can be achieved with a focus group. But there are two advantages to Mumsnet’s model. The first is that you get random, uncontrollable, third party objectivity – which has to be better than the relatively confined world of focus groups [though ideally both should be run together]. Secondly, if you pass muster with Mumsnet, then you get to wear the badge, with all the brownie points this brings.