A massive segment of society known as ‘mums’ has long been rich hunting grounds for marketers. And it makes sense given women control as much as 70 per cent of household purchases (according to Boston Consulting Group).

As marketing has become more sophisticated it is easy to segment according to many different characteristics, resulting in more precisely-targeted and therefore more effective marketing. Yet mothers are still marketed to as if they are single-dimensional characters defined solely by their motherhood.

There are countless articles in marketing publications and online about marketing to ‘mums’ more effectively. Very few of them acknowledge that mothers are, in fact, not a homogenous group of women with the same desires, needs, fears and living conditions. That a woman is also a mother does not tell you everything you need to know about her. It actually tells you hardly anything about her and it certainly isn’t enough information to market to her effectively.

Just like all other people, including women who are not mothers, men who are fathers and men who are not fathers, mothers can only be effectively segmented for marketing by taking into account a whole host of factors. As well as being a mother, she may be:

  • under 21
  • over 55
  • working outside the home
  • a stay-at-home mother
  • a fitness fanatic
  • a food connoisseur
  • a charity volunteer
  • wealthy
  • poor
  • city-based
  • country-based
  • a homeowner
  • a renter
  • living with extended family
  • a single parent

and many, many other things besides. To define someone simply as a ‘mum’ is to miss the entire point of marketing. Treating mothers as a single homogenous group makes brands look out of touch and can risk alienating the very group they’re trying to target.

This kind of blanket categorisation rarely happens to men, even if they are fathers. They are marketed to as CEOs, tradies, sports enthusiasts; anything other than the single thing they have in common: fatherhood.

Marketing to ‘mums’ isn’t just potentially offensive. It’s also incredibly short-sighted. Marketing to ‘mums’ without considering a host of other demographic characteristics is likely to be completely ineffective and a waste of marketing budgets. The brand might as well say they’ve narrowed their target audience down to ‘people’!

Marketing directed at ‘mums’ also often makes a series of assumptions that simply don’t apply to every single mother. For example, some advertisers seem to assume that mothers want to be perfect, that they do 100 per cent of household chores and that they are generally humourless because the role of a ‘mum’ is difficult and unrewarding. Perhaps most egregiously, these campaigns seem to assume that mothers are ‘mums’ first and foremost and therefore aren’t concerned with any other aspect of life.

Marketers must start demonstrating a realisation that mothers are a variety of different types of people. They cannot be categorised into a single group. Instead, they should be targeted according to all of their relevant characteristics including age, socioeconomic background, geographic location, hobbies and interests, and of course, spending patterns.

Once marketers do this effectively, they will likely see a much better return on their investment. Marketing to ‘mums’ is both lazy and inefficient. Take a smarter approach and the results will speak for themselves.