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Study Marketing to Women



More than 40 years later, American women have come an even longer way. They are highly educated in greater numbers than ever before; they are working professionals climbing the ranks; they are the privileged product of generations of women who have fought for equality in and outside the home. Yet as much as they have changed, in many ways they are the same. Today’s woman is still the designated chief operating officer of the home.


As this Advertising Age and JWT white paper will explore in depth, women with children still handle the bulk of the household and child-care responsibilities, the so-called “second shift”—whether they are working full time, staying at home or something in between. Even younger women consider marriage and parenthood more important than men their age.


The fact is, no matter how progressive they are, women are up against some- thing that just will not budge: biology. Motherhood will always distinguish most women from men and put them at the center of home and family life. While that is not necessarily a bad thing, many mothers, especially working mothers, are time- crunched and stressed, putting in long hours at work and at home.


Much can be said about the need for corporate change—a move away from the traditional 9-to-5 and toward flex time and telecommuting, an embrace of family leave for mothers and fathers—but that is not the business of this paper, which focuses on how marketers can change their strategies to more effectively communicate with these women.


This paper is based on a quantitative study of 870 men and women conducted in July 2009 using SONAR, JWT’s proprietary online research tool. (All data have been weighted to 2007 census estimates across gender, age and household income.) It is also based on interviews with more than a dozen marketers and experts about the study’s results, as well as qualitative research conducted with women around the country via the video-based community ExpoTV. It explores what women want when it comes to family, work and life in the 21st century—decades after the millennial mothers and how they differ from their older counterparts.


Increasingly, Gen Xers (ages 30 to 44) and millennials (ages 18 to 29) are not beholden to perfection. Having seen their predecessors exhaust themselves trying to achieve an elusive ideal—the corner office, 2.5 well- groomed children at home and Julia Child’s command of the kitchen— these younger mothers realise that “having it all” does not require doing it all.


While a decade ago mothers aspired to be “Supermom,” today’s mothers aim to be pragmatic, efficient and rooted in reality. They want to be real moms. (That lowercase is intentional; these women do not need fancy titles.) Perhaps more importantly, they want to be real women, with interests that include and extend beyond their roles as caretakers, providers and nurturers.


In this way, real moms look to subvert the so-called “mommy trap,” where a mother has to choose whether to forfeit a career to care for the kids or plow ahead at work and hand over the stroller reins to the nanny. Real moms understand that tradeoffs are implicit in motherhood; they just do not see things as black and white.

Real moms still have unmet needs—as women and mothers. Boston Consulting Group estimates that women control $4.3 trillion of the $5.9 trillion in U.S. consumer spending, or 73% of household spending. To reach this demographic, marketers need not just to communicate that the goods and services they offer are practical and convenient; they also need to make real moms feel confident and in charge.


Marketers should empower these female consumers to delegate to others (spouses, children, brands) so they can have more time to be who they want to be—at home, at work and on their own. And marketers have to use new ways to reach a population that rarely has time to sit down to read or watch or enjoy something without simultaneously doing something else.

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