I recently connected with Kat Gordon the founder and creative director of Maternal Instinct, an agency of creative problem solvers for marketing to moms. Kat is also the creator of The 3% Conference, an event that highlights the business importance of female Creative Directors — who comprise only 3% of their field – to succeeding in (her words) an estrogen-driven marketplace.
I asked her a few questions to help get her expert opinion on how women, specifically mothers, are influencing purchase decisions and using social media. I also wanted to get the scoop on why she feels the marketing and advertising industry needs an event such as her upcoming 3% Conference. Read on …
Q. You’ve spent the majority of your career focusing on helping brands market to female consumers with a focus on moms. Was this sparked due to your new perspective as a new mother or did you recognize a market that wasn’t being served by other marketers?
A. Shortly after my second son was born, I was asked to help launch a new brand for Gymboree called Janie & Jack. That one project set into motion a series of new clients that included BabyCenter, Pottery Barn Kids, Target, and Cord Blood Registry. Suddenly I was developing a reputation as the “mom whisperer.” It was partly because of my training as an advertising copywriter where you work hard to understand the consumer and partly it was because I had become that consumer myself. I was amazed at how heavy-handed and misguided the work in the mom marketplace was. Clearly companies were making assumptions about moms without walking a mile in her shoes.
Q. We’ve heard the term “mommy bloggers” and have seen women become very active in social media over the last few years. How have you seen this market change over the last decade? Give us a snapshot of where the market is now.
“There has never been a time when it’s easier, faster or less expensive to get a read on what the marketplace wants.”
A. First of all, the term “mommy bloggers” is out. I would say “Influencers” is the term du jour. Women are using their influence across so many platforms – beyond blogging into podcasts, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter and more. And more women are differentiating themselves by authoring multiple blogs to showcase different aspects of their life experience. I also see a movement where women are using their online influence for social good. I moderated a panel at the Mom 2.0 Summit called “Ten Ways Moms Can Change Media” in which we shared the many ways moms are mobilizing folks in their circles to do everything from signing petitions to supporting local businesses to calling BS on brands with unsavory marketing campaigns.
Q. Pinterest, more so than just about any of the other major social networks, has emerged to become a major driver of social discovery and social commerce. 6 months ago, Pinterest’s audience was said to be over 95% women. What do you make of this correlation?
A. I doubt the female skew is quite that large, but I’m not surprised that Pinterest has experienced such traction with women. I wrote a blog post this year called “5 Ways Pinterest is Like Catnip to Women” where I outlined its appeal. In a world where we’re bombarded with noise and disturbing images, the silent, beautiful presentation at Pinterest is a much-needed zen experience in a busy woman’s life. It also champions the underdog, lending the spotlight to lesser known artists and merchants, which women love. Plus, it’s an incredibly useful tool to enable collaborative decisions. Think how much easier it is to scroll through images with your husband rather than ask something open-ended like “Honey, what kind of drapes do you want in the family room?”
Q. In recent years we’ve seen mishaps in marketing towards mothers such as the infamous “Motrin Moms” campaign which now stands as a prime case study on how not to do it. How have brands been missing the mark when trying to market towards mothers? How can they do it better?
A. There has never been a time when it’s easier, faster or less expensive to get a read on what the marketplace wants. Twitter is a real-time focus group that’s open all day and totally free. Facebook makes polling customers monkey simple. Yet so many companies skip these important vetting steps and run campaigns they favor themselves from the comfort of their conference rooms. What’s more, many companies don’t verse themselves in the demographics of motherhood which have changed dramatically in recent years. 41% of babies are born in the U.S. to unmarried women and Caucasian babies no longer account for the majority of births. Yet you’d never know that if you crack open an issue of Parents magazine.
Q. How can agencies equip themselves to better serve this growing market? Is the key to simply hire more women or is the solution something deeper?
A. Agencies need to look at who’s creating the work. 97% of creative directors are men! Most men wouldn’t buy a $100 gift for their wife’s birthday without weighing in with a female perspective from a relative or salesclerk. Yet the same men, if they work as brand managers or VPs of Marketing, are entrusting multi-million dollar accounts to their ad agency. They’re asking other men what women want!
Don’t get me wrong: men can create brilliant campaigns for women. And vice versa. But a 97% skew results in groupthink that misses key insights about what matters to women. So yes, agencies need to recruit and retain more female creatives. And they need to rethink what qualifies as a “women’s account.” Women influence the majority of buying decisions across all categories, including automotive and financial services. The Atlantic just released research that women are now the lead adopters for every single kind of technology, yet VCs and technologists still operate under the assumption that young men are “the” target. Not so. Agencies need to wake up to these facts, too. When people refer to the women’s market as a niche, I set them straight: women aren’t the subset – they’re the superset.
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