Marketing to Moms 101: Don’t Diss the Babies

Nikon DOES NOT Hate Babies

Sadly, I missed BlogHer this year. Originally I was hoping to make it a family vacation so that my husband could play with the kids while I enjoyed the conference and then we could spend a couple of days seeing the sites. Unfortunately, the national guard had other plans and my husband is on drill.

But Debbie, my co-editor at Mamanista, attended (and tweeted some fantastic updates). I was already sad about the missed opportunities to meet some fabulous people I’ve chatted with over the last couple of years and then watched with envy as the invitations to exciting parties poured into our shared inbox.

In particular, I was jealous about the opportunity to meet Carson Kressley at the Nikon Party. Carson, I adore you. You remind me of most of my college friends. But with better fashion sense.

And Nikon? I inherited a love of amateur photography from my father and my last camera was a CoolPix. I have a Canon right now but Nikon–woo me back? I know you have my e-mail address and if Carson meets me in New York and tells me a Nikon will make me look better in pictures, I’ll buy one next. Promise. I’ve never stopped thinking of you, Nikon.

Anyway, Debbie went to the party and, like others who attended, said it was amazing. Elegant. Fun. Fabulous.

Nikon did everything right except for one oversight. A few moms showed up with babies at the door of the Nikon cocktail party. They were turned away because the venue did not permit babies.

I’m just guessing here, but Nikon presumably assumed that a cocktail party invitation signaled adults only and these moms presumably assumed that any event at baby-friendly BlogHer was fair game at least for in-arms infants.

(Nikon has now apologized for not making the venue’s “no baby” policy clear in its original invitation.)

The night of the party Esther Crawford @faintstarlite tweeted:

I just got kicked out of the Nikon party because I have a BABY & no babies are allowed #blogher09 #nikonhatesbabies

Esther has since said that she had no idea that people would take up the hashtag. But it was catchy and it spread.

I think Esther was perfectly within her rights to tweet out what she did. If I was all set to go to a party (to which I had been invited and perhaps turned down other invitations to attend) and was turned away at the door, I might send out a snarky tweet or two.

And I do think that it is worth discussing how companies might better handle this issue.

However, before anyone gets into lynch mob and Shankman starts referring to Mom Bloggers as The Borg again, can everyone take a deep breath?

I do not believe that the good will Nikon earned was wasted at all. Nikon marketing to this female demographic, including moms, with a campaign that really understands how we take pictures and how we wish to appear in them. They are reaching out and they are, for the most part, doing so in a genuine way.

Whenever I see mom bloggers calling for heads, I cringe. Do you really want someone to lose their job? Over a misstep at an otherwise lovely event?

No, I don’t buy into the whole, “play nice or they’ll take their ball and go home” thing. However, could we possibly take a little perspective and make our criticism constructive without demanding firings or floorscraping apologies? Nikon is definitely listening to us and we need not shout to be heard.

Yo Mama

Moms are a desirable demographic and online moms, particularly bloggers, are increasingly seen as thought leaders.

So, companies large and small, are diving into the social networking space (or at least dipping in a toe), with various degrees of success.

The “problem” with consumer conversation is not so much a measurement issue (because there are plenty of ways of measuring ROI with social media) but a control issue.

And mom bloggers are…ummm…well…let’s borrow some of our own vocabulary: spirited? independent-minded? assertive?

So companies want to reach us, but they are concerned about the backlash if they make a misstep.

I’m almost 100% sure that Nikon does not hate babies, or moms. They just missed a key passion of a portion of their targeted demographic.

First Things First: We have kids.

This should be self-evident but sometimes it seems to be missed. And it is big. Huge.

And more to the point of the latest kerfluffle, many moms (though certainly not all) who self-identify primarily as moms (as opposed to their occupation, hobby, or other interest or relationship), who go so far as to keep online journals about parenthood or parenting products, have very young children.

Allow me to explain for the non-parents in the blogoroom. See, whether you work full time, stay at home, or something in between, the first 5 or so years are a haze of feedings, sleep issues, separation anxieties, potty training, preschool decisions, playgroups, vaccinations and a myriad of other needs, controversies, and decisions that constantly pull on your attention.

Does this perhaps make us obsessed? single-minded? dull to you non-breeders? Possibly. But we are who we are. And if you want our money, you would be smart to keep these things in mind.

As our children get older, most of them will go to school. Even those children whose parents educate them primarily at home will still develop strong, healthy relationships outside of the family. They will become more interested in the world around them and less interested, even embarrassed, of us, the moms. At which point, most healthy moms, while still identifying strongly as moms, will recall that they had a career, liked to paint (or possibly take photographs), or always wanted to sail around the world.

In the Meantime, Young Children, Particularly Infants, Require a lot of Care

Babies require a lot of attention. Some infants nurse constantly, around the clock. Some, like mine, never take a bottle.

My opinion is that wherever mom goes, an infant (especially a nursling) should be allowed to go.

I don’t want to belabor this point because I don’t think it is the main issue at hand. I am just sharing my opinion, and how I’ve handled this issue, in the interest of full disclosure.

Once a baby is old enough that he will not sleep quietly in a sling, then I would not bring that baby to an adult function. Until then, I believe he should be welcome along with me.

In fact, I recently turned down an invitation to an event because I have no one to watch my almost 11-month old. I’m not ready to travel away from him overnight, but he’s too active to just come along for the ride. However, when my daughter was an infant and still not yet crawling, I took her to several parties. She slept through them in my sling. Even some people who spoke with me never even knew she was there.

I will say that when I am invited to an event, especially if it is not specifically for moms as the Nikon party was not (other female bloggers were invited as well), I do ask if a baby under one is allowed. However, I would be surprised and disappointed to be told that no, I would have to leave my infant with a stranger if I wished to attend.

Does that make me self-centered? entitled? spoiled?

You are allowed your opinion, of course. But remember:

It is called Marketing TO Moms, not Being Passive-Aggressive About Moms

If you are child-free, or have older kids, or never missed a beat in your corporate professionalism or glamorous social life, or simply put these things on hold while your kids were younger, you may believe that moms who bring their infants to adult functions are expecting the world to cater to them.

But remember, if you are marketing to moms, you must reach out to us where we are at, not where you believe we should be.

And the question is not so much whether or not a mom should know that a nighttime cocktail party means no babies but rather whether or not someone who did a little research would know that there are mothers, perhaps even among the invitees, who would bring their babies to cocktail parties.

If I were marketing to middle-aged, male executives, you can bet that I’d reach out and do my research. And if I found that pictures of babies made them anxious, I sure as heck wouldn’t use that as part of my creative and then blame them for being immature when they don’t respond the way I had hoped.

How do you know where the moms are at?

Hire consultants and pay focus groups.

I’m not saying hire someone just because she is a mom. However, there are tons of clever, savvy, experienced, professional moms out there involved in social media. My co-editor and business partner, for example, has held executive level marketing positions at major corporations. Off the top of my head I can recommend at least a dozen blogging women who make amazing and presentable coordinators and have experience in marketing, public relations, media or a related field–some of them even have MBAs.

They might have advised Nikon to either hold the event at a venue that would permit infants (which could not have been hard–I’ve lived in Manhattan and never heard of a “no baby” policy before), set-up a babysitting suite, or at the very least notified guests ahead of time of the policy.

The question is not ultimately whether or not planning an event for mom bloggers at which babies are not welcome is a mistake, but rather whether or not some of the confusion, disappointment, and aggravation could have been avoided by consulting someone reasonably knowledgeable about the space. And considering that we’ve been down this road before, I think the answer is absolutely.

More opinions to read:

I just want to point out that this is just *MY* opinion (no one else’s) on hearing about this issue–I reserve the right to change my opinion as more information comes in. I’ve tried to make this less about Nikon (love you, babe!) and more about some points to take away.

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2 comments

  1. I absolutely, 100% agree. To me, it’s not really relevant whether the moms should have asked first or not or whether anyone has a sense of entitlement or not or even whether babies belong in bars or not. If a company wants to throw a successful event, the more contingencies they can plan for the better. That doesn’t mean I think heads should roll; just that I think it’s a valuable discussion to have amongst social media/PR folk and shouldn’t be shushed up just because Nikon and the event planners meant well. I think MOST people know they meant well, the question is, what could be done differently next time? Not because anyone “deserves” it or because moms should be able to do whatever they want but because it’s good for the company?

    But I also agree that this fizzled out pretty quickly and wasn’t much more than a blip to begin with. I’m glad for that, because I’ve cringed at some of the previous “I am mommyblogger, hear me take you DOWN” campaigns in the past.

  2. Jean says:

    Moms, I would say, make the best of what and who they are. We rule! Thanks for sharing your insights. By the way, there’s a new social networking site dedicated to parents and kids, it’s called Bluepixo.com – it’s a place for Moms, Dads, and Kids! Now, there’s even a chance to win a free iPod Nano! I’m inviting you to meet other parents. And enjoy parenthood to the fullest. Thanks.

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