NBCU Talks Moms and Tradition at ‘Power of the Purse’ Event

Plus: Sarah Jessica Parker!

Bravo's Andy Cohen, Sarah Jessica Parker, NBC News' Andrea Mitchell, and NBCU's

At NBCU’s Tuesday morning “Power of the Purse” breakfast, which focused on marketing to moms, one thing was abundantly clear: the American family is less “traditional” than ever. Women are having children into their 40s and 50s, many are single mothers, and according to a Women at NBCU study, very few mothers are willing to define themselves as “soccer moms,” said Lauren Zalaznick, the opening speaker and NBCU’s chairman of entertainment and digital networks and integrated media.

But even with only 4 percent of families meeting the U.S. Census Bureau’s definition of “traditional” (meaning, quite narrowly, that they contain a working father, stay-at-home mom, and kids under 18), NBCU’s study found that if there’s one thing that moms really want it’s a return to some sort of traditionalism: Half of moms say that they aspire to be “traditional” parents, three-quarters would prefer that their children have good manners over good grades, and more than half of working moms said that they would prefer to stay at home. (Then again, so did a third of all working dads.)

So how do you market to nontraditional moms—most of whom consider themselves to be the family’s CFO—that crave tradition? That was the question on hand for the morning’s panel of marketing and media experts, moderated by NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell.

According to Melissa Lavigne-Delville, NBCU’s vp of trends and strategic insights and integrated media, moms don’t want to be marketed to as if they’re June Cleaver. Instead, they look at traditionalism—embodied by family dinners or good manners—as an aspiration. They’re not aiming for perfection, but see themselves in a “beta state.” Linda Sawyer, North American CEO of Deutsch, echoed the concept of a need for balance between aspiration and reality, saying that women don’t want to be marketed to as if they’re “super-mom,” but related to by marketers.

“Authenticity” was another important concept, with panel members—as well as Sarah Jessica Parker, who participated in a keynote Q&A with Bravo’s Andy Cohen—stressing the fact that women want to feel as if brands are connecting with them authentically. According to Diapers.com co-founder (and the panel’s lone male) Vinit Bharara, the idea of authenticity is especially important in social media, which he said should be used to create an “authentic” two-way conversation between the brand and the customer. Similarly, Julie Eddleman, marketing director for North American media and shopper marketing at Procter & Gamble, said that inviting customers’ participation is an important factor in P&G’s marketing strategy, in addition to creating a brand purpose and a “big idea.”

The discussion ended with a conversation about how mom marketing is changing, including concessions to economic concerns (Mitchell noted a shift to giving new moms more “practical” gifts at showers) and the need to start marketing to women who aren’t moms, but still have children in their lives—or, as Mitchell put it, the “godmothers” of the world.

(Of course, no event involving SJP would be complete without a discussion about footwear: In case you were curious, she was wearing Roger Vivier.)