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).
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:
- Through brand preferences and habits developed during childhood and adolescence.
- 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.
"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.