'Mum' drinks, swears and has sex: why so much marketing to mums missing the mark

Marketers are missing a trick by trying to sell mums pastel scarves and scented drawer liners, says Christine Armstrong. Today's mums are more likely to have popped a few pills and drunk plenty of cider.

by Christine Armstrong
Last Updated: 25 Apr 2014

Mumsnet and Saatchi & Saatchi have done some research into marketing to mums. Shockingly it shows that, despite giving birth, some women swear, talk about sex and dislike being defined as ‘just as a mum’.
 
None of this should be very surprising as the average age of having your first child in the UK is just under thirty. So a mum of a ten year old may well have turned 18 in the rave scene of 1993. She has quite likely popped a few pills, smoked a few joints and drunk plenty of cider in her time. More Caitlin Moran than Linda Bellingham.
 
The problem is perhaps that when twenty-something advertising creatives and journalists see the word ‘mum’, they picture their own mothers, who are a good 25 years ahead of the current generation.  Hence Mothers’ Day gift lists featuring pastel scarves and scented drawer liners. It is also why only 19% of women with young children now relate to any of the mums features in adverts.
 
The research paints a happier picture of motherhood than some media headlines suggest. The majority – 60% - think that their partners are equally involved in parenting: so the useless Daddy Pig/clever Mummy Pig route isn’t the way to go.  For all the angst, almost two thirds are happy with their work life balance. 60% say that, far from being held back by parenting, they have the most fun with their kids. There is, for some, a move towards more conservatism after having children.  28% think motherhood has made them more reserved. Almost half think that talking about sex isn't on the table anymore: it isn't clear whether having sex on the table remains an option.
 
The most useful insight for anyone marketing to this group, however, is the strength of the bond that women with children feel for each other. It is the very truth on which Mumsnet thrives: women with children respect the advice and recommendations from others with children over just about anyone else.
 
Proof, if you needed it, that it is time to stop lumping 18 million British women into one target audience, adding 25 years to their average age and trying to sell them pink-packaged cleaning products that will make their lives sparkly perfect. 

- Christine Armstrong is a founding member at Jericho Chambers. Follow her on Twitter here.

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