Parents are People too – Why Marketers May be Missing a Trick

parents are people too

Something funny happens when you become a parent. Suddenly you are inundated with marketing about your child. From baby products to things for your teen, it seems as if the only ads we see and communications we receive are all about your child.

And of course we are purchasing all sorts of things for our family members, after all, parents hold the household purse strings. But why is it that some marketers think that now that you are a parent that you have stopped being interested in anything other than kids’ stuff? Could they be missing a real trick?

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Are brands missing a trick when it comes to marketing to parents?

As I wrote for the Irish Times and Dentsu Inside Marketing last year, parents are people too. 

Many marketers tend to think about consumer segments in a very specific way – by age, life stage or interest. It is too often assumed that once people have children, the only thing they are interested in is buying for their kids. In fact, most parents really don’t like being targeted as such by marketers.

Just because you have had a child doesn’t make you lose interest in products or experiences for yourself!

Don't Pigeonhole Parents

Our experience with marketers since we launched Mykidstime in 2007, has shown us how they consistently think of parents as only being interested in things for their children or for housekeeping. Some examples of this:

  • A media buyer for a movie brand couldn’t understand why parents would want to see ads for non-kids’ films. What about date nights with your other half or girlfriends? Most parents want a break from their kids too!
  • A beauty brand manager said we only target the younger women age group. Do they think Mums don’t like a bit of mascara or lipstick? Now that masks may be disappearing this is the ideal time to promote beauty again to Mums, to help them feel wonderful again!
  • The agency for a health and wellness brand said “we need to wait until we have a kids product available to work with you”. Don’t they realise Mums need help to feel healthy and well again?
  • A drinks brand agency said they were focusing on a new product, fruit flavoured water but missed the fact that Mums need to hydrate and that kids could take this healthier option to school in lunchboxes.

These examples really inspired us to think outside the box and to create ParentsandBrands as an opportunity for marketers to find out what parents really want.

Parents and Influence

500 parents answered questions, actively shared their opinions and gave detailed commentary on how parents they approach giving and receiving recommendations on products and services, and what influences them to try new products. 

Download our free mini Insights report about Parents and Influence.

Think Wider Than Kids' Stuff

Indeed there are lots of opportunities to market to parents beyond just kids’ products.

Parents control between 70% and 90% of all domestic purchasing decisions. They buy everything for their household from energy to cars to food to entertainment. If you are only thinking about kids angles for parents then you may be missing a trick.

Their influence and purchasing extends to all aspects of family life from insurance to cars, financial services to telecoms, entertainment to holidays and gardens to decor.

Parents are really the gatekeepers to family life. They don’t just make purchasing decisions for themselves but are key influencers and decision makers for their children, their own parents and extended family. They have to have a strong level of trust in the brands they buy from. And they will freely recommend brands they trust to their peers and network.

Understanding Parents is Key to Unlocking Them

Really understanding this segment well is key to communicating to them and activating them.

Often outdated assumptions about who is buying in the household still persist.

For example, the name on the credit card may well be male but there could be many reasons why the female buyer has put the male down as the main contact – perhaps the Dad’s car is the one they will use for their ferry crossing. Or the card being used happens to be the one with the male name on it but it’s a joint account.

A well-known car brand manager expressed surprise that a woman would be involved in the car decision saying that it was mostly males who made the purchase. If they think that Mums aren’t involved in looking at the boot space that it can easily fit the buggy, or that the back seat will accommodate 3 child car seats, then they need to rethink their buyer personas.  

Parents Have Different Seasons

Parents work to different seasons compared to other consumer segments. This is because they have particular seasons that are either unique to them or matter more to them than younger or older demographics, for example, back to school or communion time. Another season for parents is September, we call this “Mum’s New Year” as they will have a bit more time potentially for themselves after the busy summer holidays with the kids back at school.

They also have to plan ahead and budget for expenditure across particular seasons. Children can be costly and particular seasons can hit the family household budget hard, so researching, buying ahead of time for any early discounts, these are all tricks that parents learn.

COVID has also brought a blurring of seasons. For example, in September we could see views from parents on content covering Back to School, Communion Time, Halloween and Christmas all in the same month – this was never the case before. It shows that parents have had to adapt and are changing the way they research and plan for events.

One parent says:

“When I know an event is coming up I start to save for it. I have different accounts for Christmas, birthdays, holidays, back to school, weekends away, weddings, new babies etc.”

A new Approach to Marketing to Parents

We have found that parents are happy to give feedback on all aspects of their lives and what influences them.

They want to be involved with improving products and services for themselves as well as their family, and they definitely are interested in so much more than kids’ stuff.

Influencing this valuable segment requires a different approach these days, one that reflects the diversity, behaviour and network that parents represent.

Companies need to be talking to and segmenting parents differently. Parents are not a homogenous group, families are no longer made up of two different gender parents with 2 or 3 kids. They come in all different shapes and sizes, and parents are having children later in life.

Family stages have stretched out now. Many families told us they have kids in younger and much older age categories. They may be shopping for both a preschooler and an older teen.

Online access to information to research, reviews to read, forums to join and chat with has changed how people research before purchase.

What Brands and Businesses Can Do

Here are 3 simple starting points to change your approach:

1. Communicate and get offers out earlier.

For example, it might feel odd to be talking about Christmas in summer time but that’s when many parents start their budgeting, planning and research, from what the hot toys of the year are going to be to the best new tablets to where Santa is going to visit. Tap into this early planning to get your brand front of mind with useful planning related content helping parents with this research stage.

2. Get under the hood of what parents are thinking

This will help you to understand not only what will resonate but also how you can leverage their network and word of mouth. What are parents thinking about your brand, product or service? Where are they finding out about you? What is their network telling them and what are they telling their network? What would activate them?

3. Sense check your communications regularly

Checking in with parents across the year before you spend that precious marketing budget is vital. Talk to them, find out what will resonate, what will activate them, and move away from a push to a listen-learn-tweak-test model. This will ensure you maximise your marketing spend, that your brand resonates with key consumers and they become the word-of-mouth advocates you dream of.

And if you would like our help to talk to this valuable consumer segment, we’re here to help. We work with companies and brands large and small in a variety of sectors to help bring them in depth feedback and actionable insight to grow their business and engage with and more importantly, activate parents. 

grow your business with consumer insights

Would you like business-transforming insights for your brand? Use our tailored panels of engaged parents and our dedicated private platform to gather critical insights to help your decision making and activate customers.  Contact us now to find how we can help.

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