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How stereotyping is costing brands millions of consumers

There are 6.2 million mothers in Australia responsible for $132 billion in spending. They represent the powerhouse of the Australian economy not only spending for their own families but acting as key influencers in the spending decisions of their extended families and networks.

Yet they feel misunderstood, misrepresented and undervalued with 63 per cent of Australian mums claiming that brands and advertisers don’t understand them. Why? Stereotyping. And it is costing brands significant sales, eroding brand loyalty and threatening the future of many brands.

Number #1 mistake in marketing to mothers

Stereotyping about mums is the number one mistake brands make according to Marketing to Mums research of 1800 mothers.

“Don’t think that because we are mums we want ugly dressing gowns, fluffy slippers, cookware or cleaning appliances. We like being self-sufficient. We will use tools, fix broken things. We are not afraid of getting dirty. We are not just mums,” one respondent said.

“I baulk when a product is clearly being targeted to a stereotype of mothers or some ‘Stepford Wife’. Just be real about what your product is and let your audience find you,” said another.

By stereotyping, brands are doing more harm than good, repelling the very women they are trying to attract.

How are brands performing?

In recent times, Mondelez UK has come under fire for gender stereotyping with their portrayal of a couple of dads who get distracted and momentarily forget about caring for their children. The ad was banned in Britain, for failing to meet the new gender stereotyping rules set by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The Mondelez UK commercial demonstrated a significant lack of insight about its audience. Mothers. They should have known that mothers are repelled by brands who depict their partners as incapable, careless or incompetent. It is a very dangerous position for a brand to take.

Then there’s the constant depiction of stay at home mums when we are seeing mothers return to work in record numbers. Marketers, it’s time to move at the speed of mum and stay ahead of her changing behaviours. Ignoring key trends among this powerful and influential consumer group is negligent.

Why is stereotyping still happening?

Many brands unknowingly engage in stereotyping because they make the classic mistake of thinking that they know the mum market. They fail to acknowledge how quickly mums’ behaviours are changing. They don’t realise their thinking is outdated, and – without realising – they start relying on stereotyping.

In many instances this is driven by senior management holding unconscious biases about who mothers are, based on their own experiences with raising children 20 or 30 years ago. In other cases, brands are relying too heavily on their advertising agency.

According to a PwC study, the average profile of someone working in an advertising agency in Australia is a 27-year-old white male with no children. These are the very people brands are relying upon to come up with ideas and creative content to connect with mothers.

How can these people manage to relate to the day to day life of a mum, create campaigns that appeal to her, communicate with her and maintain a good brand relationship with her? It results in campaigns that really miss the point and, in many cases, revert to stereotyping mothers (and fathers too for that matter).

It’s a similar story the world over; advertising agencies aren’t conducive to motherhood. With late hours often required they force many mothers to look for more family-friendly industries to work in. It’s having an impact on the quality of work being produced for the mum market.

What brands need to do?

Ensure you have a mum on your team. Not just your internal marketing team but in all your external supplier teams. This will minimise any potential blunders or major gaffs. Invest in regular research. Make sure you are considering the changing family structure which is taking place across the globe.

Recognise women are returning to work in record numbers so stop constantly trying to appeal to the stay at home mum audience. Reflect the growing cultural shifts too. Don’t forget to include grandma and dad who are getting more involved in day to day purchasing decisions.

I often ask the brands I consult to – have you got a grandma strategy? With more grandparents looking after their grandchildren and involved
in purchasing decisions, the path to purchase is more complex than each before. Grandma and dad shouldn’t be overlooked when developing your segmentation strategy.

Ensure your board and senior management are regularly briefed about the Australian mum landscape. It’s essential they remain well informed and connected to their customers. I recently provided a board briefing where I shared key shifts in Australian mothers social media habits in the past three years. It allowed my client to get really laser focused on which social media platform to invest in to build rapport and develop trust with their ideal
shopper, mums.

Astute marketers who are investing resources into understanding their mum more deeply and removing stereotyping from their communications, and are reaping considerable financial gain. With Australian mothers responsible for spending almost double the sales revenue of Alibaba, the potential gains far out-weigh potential investment.

Katrina McCarter is a marketing strategist, best-selling author, speaker and advisor, and the founder and CEO of Marketing to Mums.

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