SAN FRANCISCO When MindShare Interactive launched In the MotherHood for Sprint and Unilever's Suave in April—a social marketing site where mothers can submit short scripts about their lives, see them acted out by a cast including King of Queens star Leah Remini and vote on their favorites—mommy bloggers were skeptical that women as busy as they would have time to participate. "Pay me what I'm worth and we'll talk," went a typical remark.
But the site's success thus far—more than 3,000 women have written and submitted material and more than 50,000 users have voted—suggests that even harried moms will find time to participate in a marketing effort that allows them to connect to like-minded people. It's a finding echoed by an Accenture study about social marketing released earlier this year.
Kevin Townsend, managing partner for Science + Fiction, San Francisco, which co-produced the Webisodes on the site, said its success so far comes from allowing mothers to "have a [personal] conversation with thousands of [their] closest girlfriends." The idea, he said, was to "get women talking and to access the personal networks of these women" on behalf of these brands. Much of this was achieved by having a celebrity who resonated with the target audience, giving it "the shorthand of familiarity," he said.
According to the Accenture study, marketers who understand the community aspects of advertising will achieve greater revenue gains and market share than those who aim their marketing at individuals. The March 2007 study, called "Mastering Social Ecosystem Marketing," said marketers should examine the social and household networks of their target audience and use that information to market to the network as a whole.
"The buying-decision process is now much more household- and ecosystem-centric than individualistic," said the study. Thanks to technology, "consumers are accessing various forms of content with different devices; creating digital content themselves; and interacting within an extended household and social network. In this converged, multiplay world, the individual's entire social ecosystem has become the basis for effective marketing." It goes on to say that people who create online content (as opposed to those who view and rate content) can be particularly valuable to marketers. These content creators "are especially attractive to communications companies, such as phone, entertainment, media and electronics companies, because their high levels of digital activity correlate with higher levels of purchasing," it said.
The study's authors, Astrid Bohé and Joanna Olsen, recommend that marketers and their agencies establish household and social networking capabilities. Reaching out to the members of a household or network who influence the other members "spreads marketing messages more effectively than simply marketing to individuals," said the study. For instance, the MotherHood site tapped extroverted mothers who were interested in writing scripts and telling their friends about the contest and branded site. By definition, these family-oriented extroverts are the communicators in their networks and are heavy users of mobile phones, S+F's Townsend said. The Accenture researchers also recommended marketers partner with other companies in their marketing efforts to generate and gather more complete data about customers' social networks.
Accomplishing this may necessitate alliances with new partners external to one's own industry "to create richer, more robust, insight-generating customer data," said the study. In the MotherHood campaign, the consumer content helped Suave and Sprint gather well-rounded insights about their target audience's values and networks around many issues including beauty and communication.
Townsend concurred with Accenture analysts that when you appeal to a robust community—such as modern mothers—participation in your campaign is the easy part. "There is no shortage of people willing to tell their story," he said.