This week, we delve into how brands can cut through the chaos and make it into mum’s carts.

What a mum wants

Motherhood didn’t just change what I buy, it changed what makes me buy.

Natasha Velkova


Learning Organisation

5 minute read

I first became a mother in late April 2020, one month after NSW went into its first lockdown. Everything changed at once. How I slept, what I wore, where I could go, who I could see. But among all the bigger changes, smaller ones developed too.

Naturally, what I spent my money on changed, but more surprisingly, what compelled me to spend my money did too. Motherhood had irrevocably changed the fabric of my life, and if a brand was going to make it through the chaos and into my cart, it had to deliver on seven key things.

In short
  • Parenthood doesn’t just change spending habits – it also affects how you interact with advertising itself.
  • An understanding of the realities of parenthood should inform a brand’s marketing strategy for that audience.
  • Good ads cut through stereotypes and solve problems for parents.
1. Peace of mind

I’m already dealing with year three of a pandemic and a toddler with gastro this week. I’ve googled umpteenth ailments from the colour of healthy excrement to a slightly raised gland (both hers, to be clear). Please let me know there’s something I don’t need to worry about for five seconds – like how my nappy subscription won’t go to the address I no longer live at again, even though I’ve updated it twice.

What this mum wants: Reassuring notifications at every stage of the purchase journey.

2. Truly exclusive offers

My own parents don’t see me anymore, even when I’m in the same room as them. It’s just one example of how The Child overrides all else. When I do make quarterly plans with a friend, I’m met with disappointment that I won’t be bringing my daughter, who we inevitably talk about the whole time anyway.

Being a mother is people’s key point of reference for me now. And even though I’ve mostly embraced this – and am sometimes incredibly thankful for it, having a drastically outdated sense of culture, politics, and basically all normal topics of conversation – if you give me a rare chance to be ‘selfish’, I will grab it with both hands.

What this mum wants: Offers that give me permission to guiltlessly indulge myself.

“What I spent my money on changed, but more surprisingly, what compelled me to spend my money did too.”
3. Content marketing

If you told me years ago that I’d be poring over articles on toilet training sent to me by a place called Baby Kingdom… you get where I’m going with this. Previously I’d have avoided sponsored long-form content like it was COVID. Yes, and I’m a writer. But as a first-time mum, I know basically nothing, so will willingly engage with information that’s positioned to help me ‘hack’ parenting – or life in general, really.

What this mum wants: Content that’s concise, easily actionable, and consistently relevant – meaning data hygiene that avoids me being targeted with articles on swaddling two years too late.

4. Real talk

I’ve witnessed a small (but not-that-small) human come out of my body. Flowery marketing talk just doesn’t hit the same. Don’t try and convince me of something, solve my problems, and fast. This doesn’t mean your brand needs to be devoid of personality, just don’t bury the core intention of your message under too many adjectives and clichéd anecdotes about motherhood.

What this mum wants: Copy that solves, not sells.

5. Peer reviews

Long gone are the days of impulse purchases. Now I religiously read reviews of products – often over many weeks – before buying them. 1. Because they’re usually for my daughter, and god forbid I somehow screw up her development by getting the wrong sleepsuit or sippy cup, or 2. because I have so little money after nappies, day care and organic vegetables, that when I do spend it on myself, it has to be PERFECT to justify my having diverted resources away from her.

What this mum wants: Authentic product reviews. Oh, but you want my opinion on a product? You better send that email well after baby’s in bed and compensate me for the precious me-time I’m going to spend writing it.

6. Flattering representations

I’m still a sexy snowflake. Or at least I want you to treat me like one. If you send me an email with a stock mum mindlessly smiling while rocking a double singlet or a top with shoulder cleavage, you better hope your unsubscribe link is more than four scrolls beyond the limit of my attention span.

Maybe being a millennial who’s not only grown up with analogue and digital tech, but crazily conflicting standards of female beauty has led me to still believe motherhood and attractiveness aren’t mutually exclusive. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for the ‘Yummy Mummy’, ‘MILF’ or filter-happy Insta Mum. I’m just shooting for conservatively aspirational over here.

What this mum wants: Representations that don’t assume all mums love Target, are white, and live in Midwest America.

7. Repetition

You may have heard of the Mental Load1. It involves an always-on and ever-growing list of things I not only have to do right this instant, but in 6 months’ time. Birthday presents, dental appointments, vacuuming, bills. If you don’t get it out fast, I will automatically switch off and think about that. It’s my default brain state. And because I’m only ever half listening, you will need to remind me of what you’ve already told me at least once.

What this mum wants: Persistent reminders about what you’re selling or need me to do.

Motherhood as parenthood
Even though I’ve used the words ‘mum’, ‘mother’ and ‘motherhood’, a total of 10 times in this article already, much of what I’ve talked about applies to anyone who identifies as a parent. When a child comes into your care, whether that’s through adoption or birth, your priorities shift. Your available time shifts. How you divide your resources shifts. How your brain functions even shifts (yes, for dads too2). While there are things that divide us parents, like race, culture, our socio-economic and marital status, it doesn’t change the universal value of the above things you can draw out in your marketing strategy to improve its effectiveness on us.
on Mother’s Day regret
Shortly after Mother's Day became an official United States holiday in 1914, the woman who created the day, Anna Jarvis, fought to have the day shut down due to fears that commercialism was killing a holiday originally intended to be a ‘very private acknowledgment of all the mother does for the family’3.

Written by Natasha Velkova, 52 Words and editing by Abby Clark, key visual by Patrick Brennan, page built by Patrick Brennan
  1. Leah Ruppanner, Understanding the mental load, what it is and how to get it under control , (14 September 2017), ABC
  2. Christian Jarrett,How becoming a father changes your brain (17 July 2014), Wired.
  3. Laura Coffey, The history of Mother's Day: The story of Anna Jarvis (13 May 2017), Today.

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