Confession time. I’m on the phone to a client. They tell me #lockdownlife is a nightmare with children. I react like this.
How to respond? There’s the empathetic approach, of course. “Gosh, that must be so difficult for you. I can barely make toast without my cat interrupting.” Somehow, I don’t think a self-sufficient predator who sleeps 16 hours a day is comparable.
With the ongoing furlough/working from home situation, I’m hearing a lot of the same things – life is hard with children. Some of us are using this as a content opportunity. LinkedIn is full of posts with parents integrating their children into their working life, or bemoaning a lack of privacy on Zoom calls.
Meanwhile, smuggins here is making videos and going for a run without the dulcet tones of ankle-biters.
It’s nothing personal
The parental debate has raged on for years now, particularly for women. Everybody makes their own choices and I respect that 1 million per cent. But it’s not for me. Yes, there are all the laudable reasons like climate change and mental health, but frankly, I can’t be arsed.
Call it selfish, call it immature, call it whatever you like. From what I hear, children are the “best and worst thing” that can happen to you. My mother might disagree with you – she had six natural births and now has four grandchildren. Perhaps that influenced my thinking.
But if there’s one good thing to come from having children – in particular, for marketers – it’s empathy.
Does having children make you more empathetic?
the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
If you can’t empathise, you can’t sell. Of course, there’s the fluffy modern-day approach to empathy, whereby we appeal to our customers’ emotions. We use kittens. We play Chariots of Fire. We sum up our feelings in relatable, sitcom-inspired memes.
At its core, however, empathetic marketing is looking at your brand from the user’s perspective. Consider:
- Does my blog post offer any value? Does it answer a question?
- Is my website easy to use? Can customers convert easily?
- Does my audience want to see this? Is an image of a bronzed six-pack going to send them running for the hills?
Building empathy is integral to building up trust for your brand. Indeed, authenticity is key to trust – showing our flaws through humour and relatable content. But do we really know what our customers want? And will children help us put ourselves in their shoes?
Empathising with the child and the parent
It’s very easy for non-parents to judge those with children. When you’re a parent, says blogger Lori Bacon, you realise that everybody is doing their best.
Children are learning and developing every day. They have a million and one questions to ask. Every experience to them feels new, and parents have to remember what it was like to graze their knees, get injections and have their first kiss.
You’re no longer responsible for yourself and yourself alone. Just like your customers, your kids depend on you to do your best.
Marketing to parents comes naturally
Parents can relate to other parents. In 2019, there were 19.2 million families in Britain. That’s a pretty huge market to cater to, and we see it time and again.
Take this from Econsultancy, who cite Procter and Gamble as a prime example of empathetic marketing. Their ‘Thank You Mom’ campaign was perfectly timed for the 2012 Olympics – showing the struggles of mothers training young athletes.
It’s not just advertising either. In a personal blog for Forbes, Orli LeWinter says that motherhood made her a better marketer. For example:
- Higher emotional intelligence = better leadership skills
- Better organisation helped her appeal to time-strapped parents
- She valued flexibility
- She realised what her real priorities were.
Despite this, you’d be surprised at how many people get it wrong. A seminar by Carrie Longton (and thank you to Jonny Ross for sharing this) revealed that only 19 per cent of consumers thought advertisers were parents themselves.
Why? Because the campaigns were doing it all wrong. First, they were playing on parental guilt. Second, they didn’t segment parents by age. Third, they called their audience “Mum”. Eeew.
So, if we’re not parents, we’re screwed, right?
Wrong. I wouldn’t have a job if that were the case. Yes, having a child makes you see the world differently. But with the same empathetic marketing tactics, you too can succeed – even if you can’t quite relate.
Want to hit the nail on the head with your marketing? Try this – no gestation required.
Listen to your customers.
It’s not all about you. Sit back. Watch the conversations in groups, forums, Twitter chats. Read the comments. Understand your customers’ pain points and respond to their problems.
Don’t tar them all with the same brush.
They might all be parents, but they’re not all the same. Some will be brand loyal, while others will shop around. Some will find an ad funny, while others will find it offensive. Test, test, test and see what resonates most.
Mummy doesn’t look glamorous all the time. Mummy is human, and so is your brand. Be honest – tell them when you’ve screwed up, and what you’ve learned from it.
Remember – customers are just like kids!
This is not an invitation to use baby talk. It’s a customer service technique. Akin to children, your customers need to be:
- Educated – teach them something new with product launches, blogs, infographics and more
- Encouraged – show them you care with inspiring content and social media engagement
- Rewarded – incentivise them with loyalty schemes, promotions and even a little shoutout.
It’s as simple as that.
I must go now. The cat’s nappy won’t change itself.