The Parent Trap: Marketing To Parents

By: Amanda Ray Filed under: Marketing

January 22, 2015

mother kissing baby

For TV channels like Sprout and Parents TV, websites like and, and magazines like American Baby and Parents, today’s generation of parents offers a captive audience for marketing. Pushing everything from ergonomic strollers and toys to organic snacks and clothing, parent-focused advertising is big business for established brands and niche industries.

Parents are such a prime marketing demographic target because of the emphasis that today’s marketers and advertisers place on brand loyalty, says Todd Browning, a Graphic Design and Advertising instructor at The Art Institute of Tennessee — Nashville.

“Brands need new customers; they need people who are loyal to that brand,” Browning says. “By targeting parents, you’re opening the door for their kids, too.”

Strategies for marketing to parents

One of the most compelling strategies that companies use to reach parents is playing up the emotion of guilt, says Browning, who knows from personal experience – as the father of a teen – how strong the pressure can be to buy a coveted product.

By tapping into parents’ insecurities or feelings of inadequacy, Browning says, marketers have an easy opening when pushing a product that promises to bring happiness to a child’s life.

“Parents are targeted with that mindset, ‘Your kids deserve more,’” Browning says.

Depending on the product, marketers may enlist multiple strategies to attract parents’ attention, Browning says. By using research methods such as surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews, advertisers try to determine the psychology behind what will make a parent buy a particular product, he says.

Marketing to mothers

Brand strategist Jamie Dunham tracks the buying power of American moms on her blog, The Lipstick Economy. She suggests that advertisers and marketers follow parenting blogs and establish brand ambassador groups to uncover what messages will resonate with parents.

“About 73% of moms say that advertisers don’t understand them and don’t understand their needs,” says Dunham, whose consulting company, Jamie Dunham Brand Wise, advises clients on brand development and integrated marketing solutions.

In general, families are one of the largest consumer segments in American society, Dunham says, buying more food, more clothes, and more products overall once children come along. The Marketing to Moms Coalition recently reported that mothers are worth more than $2 trillion to U.S. brands, Dunham points out.

Today’s advertisers are able to target special-interest parenting groups and their buying power through blogs written by moms, for moms, Dunham says.

“One of the things that’s important for advertisers to understand is the differences among parenting groups,” Dunham says.

For example, Baby Boomers typically have kids in college or young grandchildren, and are experiencing their own unique parenthood needs. Generation X parents often gravitate toward products that offer straightforward solutions to problems, while Millennials, currently the very youngest parents, respond to more emotional advertising and products that enhance their well-being, she says.

Within each generation, so-called “power moms” or “chief influencers” are key groups that advertisers follow, Dunham says. These parents are inclined to share information with and make recommendations to family and friends, she says, and help to spread campaign messages through Facebook, Twitter, and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth.

Power moms are also typically the early adopters of the technology that’s changing the way Americans shop, Dunham says. From online videos to coupon sites like to social media, parents’ shopping habits are quickly evolving, driven both by technological advances and the recent economic downturn, she says.

And, as evidenced by reports from this past holiday season, the smartphone has emerged as the biggest player for retail marketers to reach parents and their shopping lists, Dunham says.

“As more people get smartphones, we’re carrying computers around in our pocketbooks,” Dunham says, adding that the parenting demographic is quickly jumping on the smartphone trend. “It allows us to shop 24-7, to have the ability to stand in a store and gather information about that store and other stores.”

Marketing to parents' emotions

Another effective way for marketers to reach parents is by promoting a cause that’s dear to parents’ hearts while being relevant to the advertised product, Dunham says.

Dunham points to Tide Loads of Hope, Dannon’s Cups of Hope, General Mills Box Tops for Education, and TOMS Shoes’ One for One campaigns as some of the most visible examples of brands that speak to parents’ concerns by promoting an image-enhancing cause.

“Most moms are more likely to buy a product from a company that they see to be socially responsible or have a cause,” Dunham says. “Parents want to support companies that have the same values that they do.”

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By: Amanda Ray Filed under: Marketing

January 22, 2015

marketing to parents parent marketing parent-focused