Marketing to moms? Here’s what you need to know

Survey shows gaps between how mothers see themselves and how advertisers portray them


Canadian moms think advertisers are missing the mark on realistically portraying their lives, according to a new survey from online parenting resource BabyCenter.

While three in five moms (60%) said it is important for brands to portray them realistically, only 15% believe advertisers actually do so. The survey found big gaps between how mothers see themselves versus how advertisers portray them:

  • • Busy (69% self-described vs. 38% brand portrayal)
  • • Emotional (45% self-described vs. 21% brand portrayal)
  • • Anxious (28% self-described vs. 13% brand portrayal)
  • • Confident (36% self-described vs. 54% brand portrayal)
  • • Beautiful (26% self-described vs. 61% brand portrayal)
  • • Fit (11% self-described vs. 40% brand portrayal)

“Brands are presenting an almost a too-perfect image of parenting and they’re inadvertently putting even more pressure on moms,” said Julie Michaelson, head of global sales for BabyCenter. “Moms are not responding well to that and brands could easily be alienating the very consumers that they’re trying to connect with.”

Michaelson’s advice to advertisers is to portray moms as they really are. “For example, you might show a mom with a baby in one arm and groceries in the other,” she said. “That’s perfectly normal and that’s her life. She wants to see that brands understand her and they want that reflected back in the marketing messages they see.”

The reason it’s so important to get this right is that four out of five Canadian moms re-evaluate product and brand choices when they become pregnant and have a baby, added Michaelson. “This is a critical time for brands to solidify their relationship with this audience and instead of alienating them, they need to be supportive and helpful.”


The survey also found Canadian moms are increasingly turning to crowdsourced opinions, with 92% saying online product reviews are somewhat or very influential on their buying decisions, compared to 88% last year.

They are also more likely to use their smartphones while shopping, with 84% having done so this year, up from 74% last year. Some of the main reasons for smartphone use while shopping include:

  • • Search for or read product reviews (49%, up 43% from 2015)
  • • Search for better prices elsewhere (48%, up 44% from 2015)
  • • Search for/download mobile coupons (38%, up 35% from 2015)
  • • Make online purchases of products seen in store (20%, up 155% from 2015)


The study also found an uptick in moms who feel pressured by social media. While trying to juggle both job and parenting, 68% said social media causes additional stress in their lives, up from 43% last year.

The study points to respondents’ increasing concerns about being the “perfect mom” as contributing to the trend. The strain appears to be felt most strongly on Facebook, where total minutes among Canadian millennial moms dropped 18% this year – a total of 1.5 million minutes lost.

“The pressure to be perfect is definitely something they’re feeling based on what they’re seeing and reading on the various social platforms,” said Michaelson. “They’re avoiding it a little bit more because they don’t want to be made to feel like they’re not measuring up.”

The study included qualitative and quantitative research conducted by BabyCenter in seven countries, including Canada. The full study can be found here.

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