Mom and Prom: Marketing Strategy for a Growing Market

Mom and Prom: Marketing Strategy for a Growing Market

Brands that supply prom dresses, tuxedos, jewelry, makeup and limousine rentals have significant marketing opportunities in this steadily growing market.  And that’s just the ‘before the prom’ spending, which focuses more heavily on fashion and appearance.  ‘After the prom’ spending by moms can also be significant to ensure safety.

With the median age of first marriage in the United States reaching about 28 for men and 26 for women, senior prom is sometimes taking the place of lavish weddings for a young adult’s “coming-of-age” celebration. USA Today reports that, in 2012, an average family will spend over $1,000 for prom preparations (up from over $800 last year).

And just who holds the purse strings for these before and after prom purchases? That’s right, Mom. Prom hits two of Mom’s hot button themes we identified in Tuning Into Mom: Health & Safety and Fashion & Beauty.

In Health & Safety, teen driving and drunk driving fatalities are a major concern for moms.  This means that many moms are also spending significant resources for ‘after the prom’ efforts to create a fun and safe after-party, either at the school or another venue.  This creates opportunities for brands to capture mom’s spending and, importantly, support her efforts to keep her child safe (e.g., through sponsorships and messaging).

In a SAAD survey of 11th and 12th graders, 90% of students, “believe that their peers are more likely to drink and drive on prom night when compared to any other night of the year.” Obviously, moms are very concerned about drunk driving, and an organized after-party is a solution. To create a win-win, they also have to ensure the after-party is attractive to high-schoolers. Here’s a short description of one such $20,000 mom organized after-party in Deerfield, IL that went from 11am-3:30am.

If there isn’t a school organized after party, moms need to decide whether to host a party at their home, or help another parent organize one and hold it safely.

On the Fashion & Beauty angle, teens shopping for prom dresses and accessories come to their moms for advice (and funding). As Amanda says, remembering her high school experience:

“My friends and I all had our moms help us make the final decision on prom dresses and accessories, even if we went shopping together as friends first. And so did my younger sister. We all wanted a grown-up, elegant look that we knew we had to reach outside our peer group to find.”

Ellie also adds about her dress-buying experience:

“It was mainly just me and my mom. We discussed the budget in advance and I had decided on a classy look.  We found it at BCBG. It’s important to try it on to see how it fits, and my mom and I agreed this one fit perfectly.  My mom really liked the dress and was on the same page as me as far as being able to wear it again.  After finding the dress, I also shared it with my friends at school using a Facebook page created for this purpose.”

Moms also help their sons prepare for prom. Judy, the mom of a senior son, adds, “I have helped him select a wrist corsage for his girlfriend…this year, he has become more fashion-conscious and wanted the colors to match his date’s dress.”

Judy also mentioned that moms ended up arranging the limo service to and from the prom, which is a big-ticket item at $80 per child:

 “Biggest challenge was getting the kids to decide what they want and who was going to share the ride.  They were looking at options, but it became obvious that they weren’t really getting anywhere, so some moms took over…it’s a haul from school and then to the after-party, which is an hour away.” 

A brand targeting prom-going teens should focus on marketing strategy that helps both teen and Mom feel like they’ve found the “perfect dress,” “perfect shoes,” or even “perfect nail polish.” Moms are in the mood to stretch the budget to help their daughters (and sons) have the “perfect prom experience.”  Part of this perfect experience is making sure their child is safe, so they are willing to put time and money into well-organized after-prom parties.


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  • While mom still is involved with prom, a follow up story today reported that $1000 spending was over-stated. More typical spending is a few hundred dollars.

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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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