The Supermom Spiral: Modern Mothers Anxiety

Over the years I’ve been involved in a number of studies exploring the behavior and motivations of mothers. An emotional and physical ‘hub’ for family activity, mothers are often expected to deliver perfectly on a mind-boggling array of demands.

To quote a mother we recently researched:

"You're pulled in many directions. Your kids want things from you, they need things from you, your house needs attention, you need to do shopping errands, [give] attention to your husband, all your chores, activites and work. There are things you want to do for yourself, but you feel pulled in many directions." - Female (2009) 

To make things worse, not only are mothers experiencing 21st Century scope creep, they’re also attempting to live up to unrealistic expectations of perfection.

Here's a quote from another mother we researched:

"My life is absolutely a fiasco. You don't know what to do first; work, play with your children, provide everything perfectly like a super-mum. And these days people are judging [you] so much." - Female (2009) 

It seems that modern mothers often feel trapped between Supermom expectations, responsibilities and compromises; all of which feed off each other. Unrealistic expectations increase responsibilities. Too many responsibilities lead to compromise. Compromise affects the ability to meet expectations.

Below is a diagram illustrating what I've termed the Supermom Spiral:
Helping to break or alleviate this Supermom Spiral is a big opportunity for organizations willing to embrace reality - so on that note I thought I’d share two tips for marketing to modern mothers:

1. There’s no such thing as perfect. Mothers place enough unrealistic expectations on themselves; they don’t need any additional help from brands and marketers. Give them a break from perfection and try embracing reality.

2. More information, data and facts aren't necessarily a good thing – often they just increase the burden of responsibility on mothers. Wherever possible cut through the ‘data smog’ and explore more emotional motivations.

Upcoming event (BCAMA)

If you're a marketer or foodie living around Vancouver, you might like to check out the BCAMA Wine & Cheese Event on March 4th:

“Join the BCAMA for an exceptional evening of wine and cheese. Learn how great wine makes farming (and farmers) sexy; how cheese became king of the hill, and what your inner cheese is really saying about you. It promises to be an entertaining event, with expert pairings of fine artisan cheeses and unique Vinaroon-crafted, earth-friendly wines.”

Speakers at the event include: Anthony Nicalo (Farmstead Wines), Tim Hendrickson (Dairy Farmers of Canada), Michael Mayes (Creative Director, TAXI) and James Nevison (Award-Winning Wine Writer). I’m also sharing some neat psychological insights on cheese.

Capturing human curiosity

Thought I’d share a new(ish) TVC from Germany. It’s from a cell phone company called O2 and illustrates the concept of human curiosity rather well:

Interesting way to drive consumers towards a product offer; appealing to human curiosity. It would have been great if they’d managed to capture more of the ‘curiosity’ proposition online (see O2 website).

A formula for marketing effectiveness (T x M = E)

One of the most powerful marketing formulas I’ve been exposed to is T x M = E. Developed by GE Asia-Pacific, this formula aims to balance and improve the process of marketing decision making. It’s also designed to balance the allocation of resources between technical and motivational activity. 
A few implications from the formula are as follows:

1. Technically perfect activity has a limited effect. Consider the perfect new product that fails to capture people’s imagination (10 x 0 = 0).
2. Human motivation has a multiplying effect. Consider the flawed product, that appeals to an underlying human need (2 x 8 = 16).
3. The best marketing effect is achieved by balancing technical expertise and motivational understanding (5 x 5 = 25).

To illustrate this formula, here's a small example from back home in Australia. 

In the late nineties, there used to be a local candy company called Binka’s (manufacturers of jujubes and gummies). Competing against global players like Mars, Nestle and Cadbury, Binka’s were struggling to maintain sales and in real danger of folding.

With their back against the wall, what did they choose to do? They focused their energy on understanding customer motivations. This is what they found:

1. The candy category was primarily about losing control with fun and indulgence.
2. However parents were also attempting to gain control by eliminating bad indulgences.
3. In jujubes or gummies, this meant eliminating bad artificial colors and flavors.

Based on these findings Binka’s made a minor tweak in technical expertise (T) and a major shift in human motivation (M). Without changing their technical product, they used their brand to tap into a deeper motivation - shifting from Binka's to The Natural Confectionery Company:
What was the effect of a minor re-branding based on a deeper understanding of human motivation? Here’s some year-on-year sales data from ACNeilson:
- Year 1: Sales volume increased by 84%
- Year 2: Sales volume increased by 262%
- Year 3: Sales volume increased by 540%
- Year 4: Sales volume increased by 866%
- Year 5: Sales volume increased by 976%

Does choice lead to customer satisfaction? No / Yes / Maybe

In a fascinating presentation given by Professor Barry Scwartz the concept of customer choice was explored. To paraphrase his findings, “Though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don't seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.”

Here's a video of his presentation from 2005:

It seems when faced with multiple options, the process of choosing becomes overwhelming. It can also lead to elevated expectations...after all, with so many choices available surely one of them must be perfect? If our choice ultimately fails to deliver perfection, we begin to wonder if another option may have been better. A vicious circle of dissatisfaction can begin!!

A diagram illustrating the impact of excess choice on customer satisfaction:
From our research on shopper behavior and customer decision making, we would agree that excess choice can often lead to dissatisfaction. Indeed we've found that choice is only valuable if it can be processed through a support system or decision-making framework. For example, our studies have shown that segmentation according to psychological or emotional motivations can improve the buying process and lead to higher post purchase satisfaction.

A diagram illustrating choice in an emotional decision making framework:
So what could you take away from this? Choice can lead to customer dissatisfaction if it isn’t done properly. More is not always better; and a GOOD decision is only possible within the context of a GOOD decision making framework.