The Missing Market: Moms of Older Children Matter

Most marketing strategies miss the biggest market when marketing to moms: moms of older children. There are 77 million moms in the United States. Only nine million have children in the infant and toddler range. Ten million more have children ages three to five. But a full 25 million women are moms of young adults (ages 18-29), and another 12 million are moms of teenagers (ages 14-17).

Moms are a 77 million market, with 25 million women as the moms of young adults

In considering branding initiatives that overtly target moms, my observation is that many of the "mom-focused" marketing messages address mainly moms in the youngest child age ranges, specifically infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Branding efforts are greatly reduced for moms whose children are middle school age or older.

While I understand the brand strategy of choosing to focus on only the older teenager or young adult, our research for the book Tuning Into Mom, reveals that, at times, this approach stems from an old paradigm that does not accurately reflect the frequent consultation and communication between today’s older children and their moms.

Our research found that for certain topics, mom’s influence remains strong even in the young adult years of 18-29 and that today's young adults are in frequent contact with their moms on a wide range of topics.

Consider this observation from Sarah, the mom of young adult son, as he was entering upon his college search:

"The branding that became important at this point in time was academic reputation. I know this is why we chose Creighton, because it had a stellar image.  We agreed with its brand image and thought it had a stellar image. We agreed with its brand image and that it was a good one that fit us."

We observe that mom’s influence in decision-making with middle-schoolers, teenagers, young adults and even older adult children is a missed opportunity for brands and marketing strategies. In many cases, Mom is easier to reach than the child, and she continues to either make the decision outright and/or significantly influence her offspring.

Mom’s influence on her older child's spending is seen in two ways:

  1. Through brand preferences and habits developed during childhood and adolescence.
  2. Through frequent consultation.

An example of the first influence would be, "I considered going to that college because Mom too me there for her college reunions, so I felt comfortable."

But the second influence is much more powerful. We find that today's young adults frequently consult with their mothers as a trusted resource on categories with which they are less familiar. For example, they will ask their parents for advice on insurance or work and career decisions. Again, Sarah shows below how she provides guidance through sending her son articles. Thus, articles can provide a marketing opportunity for a brand or organization to support mom in this guidance.

Moms, the Missing market. Sarah, mom of a young adult"School achievement is still a really hot topic because it is such a foundation for later in life, but right now he’s establishing his independence from me, trying to make all his own decisions and be an adult.  So I provide guidance by suggesting articles to read and other adults to talk with."

Anyone responsible for brands targeting young adults should take another look at the mom market. It just might be the missing link in your marketing strategy.


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  • What an excellent article.

    I have a 19-year-old son in college, and we've always been close (not creepy-close---he definitely does his own thing) but we routinely discuss news, politics, etc. every day; he still asks my advice and opinions on these subjects.

    It actually never occurred to me that marketers have been ignoring me as a mother of a young adult, but as I think about it, I guess they have been! (I usually automatically skip "Mommy" ads, and blogs, since I already know they're going to be about potty training or breastfeeding, and clearly, I'm WAY past that point.)

    Coincidentally, my son is interested in marketing/communications in college...I will email him this article...maybe he will be one of the first in his field to change this marketing approach, since he knows firsthand that "Mommy" is still important even when you're old enough to vote....


  • Thanks for the great input., highlighting the relevance of politics and news discussion between today's young adults and their moms! It's also interesting to consider how technology choices can enable the discussion for young adults not living at home (compared to a few years ago when we had the choice of a long distance call or letter).

  • Wow - never thought of this before but you're right. I have two older teens (one at college) and a little guy but I rarely read "mom" stuff as it's usually marketed to moms of very small kids. I also love to read anything I can about parenting teens as it's usually witty and seasoned. There's a huge gap there!

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    Absolutely true! I run a marketing to mothers agency -- one of the few in the country -- and I'm constantly broadening our client base to include brands that target moms of older kids. We've worked on airlines, sleepaway camps, orthodontists, and video games -- but never on a diaper or stroller account. This is a big, juicy consumer segment that deserves marketing that understands the rhythms and priorities of post-baby family life.

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    Michal Clements

    Michal is co-author of Tuning Into Mom and an experienced consultant. Michal develops winning growth strategies and detailed go to market plans for some of the world’s outstanding organizations including McDonald’s, Gatorade, Abbott, Barilla, Tylenol, Clorox, Key Bank, Eagle Ottawa, Quaker and the Baker Demonstration School.

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