Why Moms Rule

Interviewing for the Toughest Job in the World

Moms reward brands who get it. In this example the social share numbers speak for themselves.  Over a million views on You Tube and thousands of tweets from various sources covering this brilliant video for an online card store. 

The video features real people who think they are interviewing for a ‘director of operations’ job. But as the interview goes on, they find out they are in for way more than ‘9 to 5.’  Take a look.  Hopefully other brands will learn from this first-out-of-the-gate effort for Mother’s Day advertising and we will see more gems on the way.

Don’t ‘Let It Go’:  What Marketers Should Know About Frozen

By Hollie Rapello

How to describe Frozen?  It’s gone from mere hit status to near obsession for girls three and up.  With Good Morning America hosting a live "Let It Go" sing-a-long in Times Square this week and girls around the world posting videos of their own versions of the song, the buzz around Frozen leading up to this weekend’s Oscars is deafening. According to Digital Journal, the film has already earned $865million, sending Disney’s fourth quarter profits soaring.

In the past few years, Disney princesses have elicited much debate among moms and dads with headlines like “Are Princesses Hurting Girl’s Self-esteem?”  It seems Disney was listening with Frozen's departure from the usual princess-meets-prince storyline to focus on girl power and sisterly love.

There is much marketers can learn from Frozen’s success.  Below are three must-reads on the success and shortcoming (yes there is one!) of Frozen:

Cruise ship operators should start with planning for moms’ basic needs when an on-board emergency happens. No mom will forget last year’s disaster when a cruise ship was stranded and eye-witnesses described “babies crying because the ship ran out of formula.”  

Former Bank of America Global Wealth President Sallie Krawcheck discusses “Barbie’s” Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue on Bloomberg Television’s “In The Loop.” (Source: Bloomberg)

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Every now and then you come across a brand that has perfectly tailored its offering to moms.  A great example of this is Stew Leonard’s, the Connecticut-based grocery store.  Why Moms Rule contributor and mom of two girls aged 6 and 4, Annabel Kelly, was recently treated to a behind-the-scenes look at Stew Leonard’s flagship store on the invitation of Beth Hollis Leonard, vice president and daughter of the founder, Stew Leonard Sr.  Annabel came away with insights for any retailer hoping to attract the patronage of parents.

By Annabel Kelly

Find one mom (or dad) who enjoys taking their children to the grocery store, a weekly necessity for any expanding household.  With heightened concerns about the food we eat, like how it is processed and its country of origin, grocery shopping calls for a full on due diligence exercise worthy of a corporate auditor. However, your average mom shopping with a demanding child in tow is lucky to have time to think about which aisle she needs to be in let alone scour labels for allergens or nasty additives.  It’s no wonder that parents refer to the exercise in very negative terms:

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Words used by parents to describe grocery shopping with young children.

A Grocer That Watched and Listen to Moms

Just over 40 years ago, Stew Leonard Sr. saw the pain firsthand when he accompanied his sister (a mother of eleven children!) on her weekly grocery trip.  Normally positive and upbeat, he witnessed her left reeling and complaining from the experience.  At that moment he was inspired to create a grocery store that would transcend its category by not only providing quality products and services at a good price but also an entertaining environment.  With its Disney-style singing and dancing anthropomorphic characters alongside live animals and fresh produce (often locally sourced), Stew Leonard’s soon came to be regarded as a local attraction, a fun activity for families to enjoy together.  

In the design of his shopping experience, Stew Leonard let himself be further influenced by the other women in his family:  his wife and mother of his four children, Marianne Leonard, and daughters, Beth Leonard Hollis and Jill Leonard Tavello.  Described as the “backbone of the business,” Mrs. Leonard refused to allow her husband to run the store like “all the others” and was instrumental in Stew’s no quibble return policy.  Some years later, Beth, having recently returned from apprenticing in a bakery in France, suggested to her father that the store needed its own in-house bakery where all baked goods would eventually be prepared from scratch.  The young Beth was given free reign to develop the department—despite the wishes of the middle-aged male advisors that had Mr. Leonard’s ear—and today the bakery is one of the biggest draws for customers.

Beth, along with other family members who now constitute the management team, have followed on from their father’s lead and spend much of their time listening (and responding) to the needs, wants and concerns of their shoppers: “You cant be in an office and know what the customer thinks.”  She spends a lot of time walking the floor talking to both customers and staff to identify opportunities and trends.  Recent research led innovations at the store, including new and planned gluten-free baked goods and the introduction of an interactive kiosk to allow customers to pre-order from the service deli.

Reducing Waste to Pass Savings on to the Customer

The public at large is becoming increasingly aware of both the economic and environmental cost of food wastage.  With an estimated 40 percent of the U.S. food supply ending up as waste, and a large part of that attributable to supermarkets, it’s worth drawing attention to the many waste-reducing (and, ultimately, cost saving) initiatives Stew Leonard’s has in place:

  • All of Stew Leonard’s fresh food is made in-house so the company has a lot of control over its inventory.  If customer traffic is slowing due to bad weather, they reduce or even stop production.  Similarly, if a batch of bananas in the produce department is on the verge of over-ripening, it’s dispatched to the bakery to make banana bread. 
  • You won’t see two ketchups at Stew Leonard’s.  The store only carries 2,000 items (compared to around 30,000 for a traditional supermarket) and is committed to selling only what sells, again avoiding wastage.  In addition, as these “best of the best” products are sourced from vendors “by the truckload,” Stew has considerable clout when negotiating wholesale prices.
  • Free samples at every turn, often prepared in full view.  If the shopper feels comfortable about how to prepare a product or recipe and, more importantly, their child is found to like it, the likelihood of the food going to waste at home is reduced.

 A Friendly, Engaged and Responsive Workforce

Another thing shoppers notice is the caliber of Stew’s staff.  The store only hires nice people: “You can train people to use the cash register or make a bagel but you can’t be trained to genuinely care for people.”  In addition, Stew Leonard’s does a great job of creating an entrepreneurial spirit.  Employees are encouraged to suggest new products to carry as well as use their own judgment when it comes to responding to situations in the store.  There is no rulebook.  If a child drops their ice cream, it’s ok to give them another one; or if a disabled customer is having trouble negotiating one of the displays, it’s ok to move it.  Examples of exceptional customer service are applauded at weekly team meetings, in the monthly newsletters and through the award of “Moo Notes” that translates to a free lunch.

A Loyal and Influential Fan Base

Stew Leonard’s has attained an enviable position with a loyal, broad and influential fan base.  The store attracts many celebrity chef book signings, and when Stew Leonard’s announced the launch of its new “crogel” (a cross between a croissant and a bagel) via its Facebook page, the news was picked up and covered by a large number of bloggers.  Staff and customers view the regular film crews operating in the store as another “part of the Stew experience.”

A Slow Growth Strategy

Bad news for moms and dads outside of the Connecticut area, however, as Stew Leonard’s is not planning a national expansion any time soon.  With three stores based in the Connecticut area and one in Yonkers, NY, the company’s slow growth strategy is a conscious effort not to dilute the integrity of its relationships and brand.

By Hollie Rapello

While some big brands are hosting mega-bashes in NYC for Super Bowl XLVIII, many moms will be in charge of planning smaller affairs at homes around the country.  Pinterest is awash in Super Bowl recipes for the big event and mom bloggers are sharing tips with their readers on everything Super Bowl from how to throw a party on the cheap to how to go green with the festivities. 

Check out this infographic from FoodyDirect with a few staggering statistics on just how much food will be consumed around Super Bowl time.

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 By Hollie Rapello

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when planning a marketing strategy to reach moms who are hyper-social and hyper-connected digitally.  And if your brand is merely filling up the marketing calendar with holiday-themed social media parties, you may be missing some big opportunities to solve problems for moms online, not just engage them.

There have been many things written about the best ways to reach moms through a brand’s digital strategy and social media outreach. Social platforms are awash in endless mom-themed Twitter parties, Pinning parties, Facebook giveaways and Instagram contests, not to mention the endless sharing of recipes and child rearing tips.  While certainly these tools have a rightful place in a marketing plan to reach moms and “drive engagement,” in the end are they doing very much to really help moms or build brand loyalty?  And, are they even reaching moms with the highest spending potential? 

For many marketers, it’s time to step back and look at the bigger picture.  That can be very difficult when your boss is asking “What’s our [insert latest social platform here] strategy?” every other day.  However, below are three questions marketers should be asking of themselves to ensure their brands aren’t merely driving engagement but building real loyalty.

Question 1: What do moms need?

Duh, you say.  But have you really taken the time to talk to moms and find out what is keeping them up at night?  Let’s take a real world example:  summer camp registration is in full swing (yes, I know it is January) and moms, especially working moms, everywhere are suffering from mild anxiety to what one blogger described as “hysteria” at planning out an entire summer’s activities to keep their little ones busy.  According to the most recent American Express Spending & Saving Tracker report, parents plan to spend $55 billion to keep kids active and educated during the summer. That’s on average $856 per child (and even double for affluent families), and up 40% from 2012.

There is a huge opportunity for brands to really dig in and help moms with the overwhelming task of planning out their children’s summers.  I couldn’t find one example of a brand actively involved in helping moms with this challenge, and by involved, I don’t mean a single blog post on the topic.

Question 2: Can we build something to help?

Continuing with the example of summer camp planning, find a way to build something (website? App?) useful for moms.  Involve them in the process.  How are moms searching for camps?  Are there new ways moms want to approach the process? How can moms share calendars with other moms? What is out there? How can it be made better?  Currently there is a website attempting to meet this need, Activity Hero, and it does have some useful functions, but it falls short because of the lack of camps participating.  Think of the liberation a brand would have to aggregate all of this information, without trying to make money from the camps.  Shifting a portion of marketing dollars from traditional media to a fund for building useful tools that actually solve problems for moms can help a brand to stand out among all of the social media gimmicks and contests.

Question 3:  How can we go local?

Moms devour local news—never before in our lives have we been more tied to a community and responsible for others’ day-to-day lives than now. Big global brands must find ways to give moms the local intel they need.  Think if P&G sponsored a website summer activity planner and aggregated all of the local camp information in one place, with a weekly camp planner I could share with my friends?  That would do more to earn my loyalty than any Facebook promotion could ever attempt.

There are regional parent magazines all over the country that are already tapped in to local information like camp schedules, so partner with them. Don’t just place an ad, but build a new branded information source powered by their local knowledge. 

Never before have brands had the opportunity to help moms in their daily lives through digital media as they do today. If brands aren’t stopping to ask these questions before they embark on planning their marketing strategy, they may miss huge opportunities to gain the trust of moms and build lifelong brand loyalty.

 

"I love it when my Mom uses her smartphone at the store…"

By Hollie Rapello

A new study on moms’ shopping habits was just released by Placed.com. The study uses smartphones to combine “mobile survey questions with the direct measurement of consumers’ location activities.” The study looks at 5,221 U.S. smartphone responses from women with children.

Broad strokes are used to paint a picture of moms’ shopping habits in the U.S., as the study does not break down the mom population by education or income. However, there are some interesting takeaways.

Study highlights:

  • On the whole, moms visit the tried and true national supermarket chains over specialty grocers. Kroger comes in first as the nation’s most visited store.
  • Perhaps a result of the economic times, Moms over-index on visits to dollar stores. The Dollar Tree, Dollar General and Family Dollar are the most popular discount store brands with moms.
  • Ethnicity differences with moms’ shopping include Hispanics moms spending $300 more per year on groceries than non-Hispanic moms, and Asian mothers are most likely to visit specialty grocers like Trader Joe’s.
  • A majority of smartphone-owning moms use their device for grocery shopping (4 in 5).
  • Moms are using general coupon website/apps more than they are visiting consumer packaged goods websites in order to gather coupons for shopping trips.
  • The study also provides preferences moms have for couponing on smartphones based on where they shop.

It would be interesting if the study went a step further to ask moms about which grocery stores (if any) go over and beyond to cater to moms. Things like easy parking, carts with double seats, clean carts, bathrooms, easy layout, accessibility and distractions for kids are important considerations for stores looking to win with moms. 

Stew Leonard’s, a local Connecticut-based grocery store chain with a cult-like following, is the best I’ve ever seen at this concept. It is a cross between Trader Joe’s and Disney, with singing vegetable characters for the kids and a not-to-be-missed Halloween hayride through the parking lot. It also has amazing Stew-branded baked goods and top-notch produce, seafood, organic meat and its own outdoor restaurant. Plus, you can see Stew himself walking the aisles chatting with customers many days.

As smartphones continue to take over the daily minutiae of our lives, it will be interesting to revisit this study in a year to see the new and creative ways moms will be using their phones to simplify grocery shopping and maximize savings.