How I’m Marketed To As a Mother-To-Be

As I said in my recent article for The Daily Muse, people lie to pregnant women all the time.  They tell you that you look more beautiful ever, that they don’t judge the baby names you’re considering, that they can barely notice the varicose vein sprawling across your shin like a mountain range.

Of course, people tell these white lies to pregnant women because as a culture we (mostly) collectively agree that pregnant women deserve extra-special treatment.

So it’s no surprise that once you become pregnant, the marketing that targets you dramatically shifts in messaging.  One thing What to Expect When You’re Expecting didn’t prepare me for: spam.  Since I’ve become pregnant, the amount of spam in my inbox (and mailbox) has nearly doubled.  I don’t know how they do it.  (Though this gives me some ideas.) I bought two maternity tops and suddenly I’m subscribed to Parenting magazine, Pampers emails, and a barrage of parenting e-newsletters which are essentially random, unorganized tips planked by columns of ads.

The quantity of ads isn’t what gets me, though.  Instead, I’m puzzled by how misguided, and sometimes insulting, many of these ads are.  For example:

Ads targeting pregnant women rely on the decapitation effect quite a bit, picturing just a pregnant belly and breasts, reminding you of what you really should be focusing on.  Forget about the needs of your brain and legs, your belly is what requires your attention.  And, of course, the best way to show your unborn child your unconditional love is to buy stuff.

Other companies assume that because you are with-child, you suddenly have childlike tastes and need cartoons to help you understand complex messages like “Kids might need Vitamin D.”

The frustrating part about these ads for me, as someone interested in media and marketing, is that advertisers are missing a huge opportunity here.  More than any other time in my life, I am paying attention to what I buy.  I need detailed descriptions of products, their long-term benefits, and an argument of their quality compared to their cost.  I am turning toward brands that I trust.  I have a list on my iPhone not of things that I want to buy, but things that I must buy, in a very specific timeframe.  In other words, I am a marketer’s dream.

But I am also hypersensitive to marketing right now, as I am constantly shopping.  I am receiving unsolicited advice from everyone I meet, and I ‘m required to report my daily decisions to family, friends, and doctors.  The last thing I want is to look at an ad that makes me feel guilty or takes advantage of my anxiety or fear, like this one

or ads that refuse to acknowledge me as being an autonomous human being, separate from my child or role as a mother:

So what can marketers do to win over moms (well, at least this mom?)

1. Get social and play up the testimonials.  I trust the opinions of other parents above all else right now, so if a brand allows (and encourages) parents to share feedback and testimonials, I’ll pay more attention to authentic reviews more than any other content.  Along the same lines, brands should be using social media in two-way communication with parents that have questions pre and post-purchase.  If I see that product support will be fast and easy, I’m more likely to buy.

2. Prove that your product deserves a spot in my overcrowded home. Many ads fail at demonstrating the long-term value of their product because they are too focused on manipulating my emotions with an adorable newborn or a smiling infant.  What they’re forgetting, though, is that parents are concerned with clutter just as much as childcare.  We leave our baby showers,  and think, Where I am going to put a baby now that I have all of this stuff?  Showing that your product will last and can be used over the years (for the child as she grows or for second or third children) will speak volumes to parents.

3. Don’t spam me.  If parents begin to associate your brand with privacy concerns, they’ll never buy from you.

4. Give me a deal, but make it one that I can use easily.  When I registered for my baby shower at Target, they sent me home with a book of coupons with very long expiration periods, plenty of time for me to redeem.  I’ve already used several, and bought other full-priced items once I was in the store.  This type of deal worked: I returned to the store and I was upsold.  But when I went to a popular maternity store and was given rewards points that I could redeem only during a certain week and use only on specific items and had to save both the points receipt and my original receipt, I just threw all that crap away.  Baby brain is a real thing, and there’s no way I am going to return to a store on a certain date and sort through racks to save a few bucks.

Attention parents-to-be, how do you feel about the way products are marketed to you?  Are you paying attention to ads or tuning them out?  What brands are winning your hearts, and what brands are winding up in your recycling bin?  Tweet me @rikki_rogers.