As millennials become parents, WARC’s Chiara Manco focuses on three brands that have successfully targeted them at this new life-stage.

Families have always been a key target audience for advertisers, but the notion of ‘family’ is in constant evolution. As Cheil’s Strategic Planning Director, MEA, Aakriti Goel wrote in WARC’s 2019 MENA Strategy Report: “Age-old ‘parent’ stereotypes just don’t apply anymore.” Perhaps most significantly, two audiences that were previously treated as distinct – parents and millennials – have now merged into one, something that advertisers need to be mindful of when creating comms. Three brands, one from China, another from Middle East and a third from the US, show how advertising can adapt to serve the needs of this emerging group.

Jinlingguan: alleviating information overload

Being digital natives, it is not surprising that millennials turn to the internet for parenting information. However, the wealth of content on offer can be intimidating and Chinese formula milk brand Jinlingguan understood this. The brand found that 62.5% of young parents worry that they are not doing a good enough job, and 70% of mums experience post-natal anxiety.

Through Mindshare, Jinlingguan partnered smart-speaker manufacturer Xiaomi to create a bespoke ‘AI Baby Expert’ speaker. The brand selected 1,200 common baby-related questions and their answers, and loaded them into the speaker. Parents could direct their burning questions to the speaker hands-free – a significant perk – and receive neutral, research-backed answers. The speakers were given out when consumers purchased more than a month’s supply of milk powder and were promoted on China’s top mum-and-baby reality show, Fantastic Baby.

With zero media spend, Jinlingguan heightened its tech credentials among its digital-savvy audience, with Q&A sessions through the speaker reaching almost 55m. The brand generated US$2.2m in sales and won Silver in the Effective Use of Tech category of the 2019 WARC Media Awards.

Babyshop: siding with modern mothers

In the Middle East, children’s retailer Babyshop viewed motherhood through the lens of societal change. Arab women are increasingly career-focused, although this societal progress is not reflected in the Arabic language itself, which still contains several words stemming from masculine roots. One such word is ‘parenthood’, which literally translates into ‘fatherhood’. Despite their increased focus on entrepreneurial success, modern Arab women still place high importance on being a good mother, seeing it as a vital part of their identity. In a controversial move, Babyshop pointed out how the Arabic language was failing today’s mothers, and provided a solution.

Together with FP7 McCann Dubai, the retailer created a new word for ‘parenthood’, one that encompassed both ‘motherhood’ and ‘fatherhood’, and launched it on Mother’s Day. The backlash was expected, and Babyshop recruited 40 Arab micro-influencers to address the negative commentators and convert them into supporters. The new word was promoted through a new kids’ collection, a pronunciation guide on YouTube, in-store interactive screens, a school outreach programme, a magazine and more.

Any alteration to the Arabic language is dangerous for brands and can result in long-term damage, but this initiative proved successful for Babyshop, earning the retailer increases in brand love, relevance, consideration and new customers. What’s more, while the campaign received 50% negative sentiment at launch, the positive sentiment eventually grew to 87%. Thanks to its ROI of 3.1:1, the campaign won numerous awards over the last year, including the Grand Prix for Effective Channel Integration in the 2019 WARC Media Awards.

In the case study, Mitin Chakraborty, Babyshop’s Head of Marketing, wrote: “We were persuaded to do something no brand or retailer had ever done in the Middle East region. It was a world-first for the language. We had sleepless nights when the negative comments started coming in. But the plan we had in place, of generating the endorsements and having the word propagated, was planned and executed to near perfection. This has encouraged us to create more work that influences culture and keep pushing the boundaries of what retail brands can do, because that’s the only way to differentiate in today’s world.”

Primrose Schools: reassuring working mums

Working mothers can be prone to ‘mum guilt’, the feeling of not being able to devote enough time and attention to their children. In a crowded category, US early education provider Primrose Schools wanted to differentiate itself from competitors by helping working mums let go of that guilt and make them realise they were already doing a great job.

Primrose Schools selected five working mums and agency Jackson Spalding interviewed their friends, families and their children’s teachers. The interviews – emotional accounts of each mum’s strength and love for their children – were then shown to the mums themselves. Alongside the reveal videos, which were posted on social, the initiative included content on Primrose Schools’ blog, an email campaign which encouraged readers to send a message of reassurance to their friends and family, influencer engagement and internal communications within the schools’ network.

The campaign resulted in 1.1m video views and 2.9m social media impressions, winning a Gold at the 2019 North America SABRE Awards.

Aspiration vs. authenticity

With a new generation of parents come new worries, and some millennial parents feel like they’re not living up to idealised imagery of parenting on social platforms. Research from Spark Foundry quoted in WARC’s ‘What we know about marketing to parents and families’ says that many parents state that they do not post honestly on social media in order to keep up with appearances. Recent campaigns from baby-care brand Waterwipes and UK retailer Mothercare provide powerful reminders that authenticity will trump carefully-curated social posts every time.

So, for any brand targeting this group, take heed from this quote from a WARC article by Spark Foundry’s Global Head of Strategy Shula Sinclair: “For brands and marketers, there’s an opportunity to remind parents that they are doing okay. By avoiding idealised versions of the ‘perfect parent’ in their advertising and brands, by instead showcasing authentic parenting life, brands can build a relationship with parents.”