For older generations of women, relationships with their mothers might have been defined by discipline, conversation boundaries and an inevitable generational gap.
But this year, busy schedules were put on hold, plans with friends were canceled, and homes became both classrooms and offices. In turn, a gradual change in the modern family has accelerated: Moms and daughters are becoming friends. They are making TikToks, watching Gilmore Girls and talking politics.
“Mothers and daughters are closing the distance with one another, which is breaking down the alienation between generations,” said cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken.
Through a series of ethnographic interviews and surveys, McCracken found that the lockdown has stimulated a convergence between the women of the household: They’re inviting each other into their once-secret worlds.
This changing dynamic will likely lead to a new consumer identity, and marketers should consider focusing on interests over demographics in an effort to combat stereotypes. It will also impact the purchasing decisions of mothers, according to experts.
“Moms care less about material goods and more about time, opting for labor-intensive, comforting recipes rather than quick fixes, and this all reinforces that moms are independent thinkers with strong convictions,” said Liz Furze, associate creative director at AMP Agency.
Instead of viewing moms as the “consumer in chief” of the household, marketers should internalize the “complexity, smarts and humor they possess,” said Furze.
Fifty percent of respondents said their family is stronger as a result of the lockdown, with less than 5% citing a weaker dynamic. Sixty percent said mothers and daughters are becoming closer and more connected. Fifty-eight percent said they care less about luxury goods as a result of the pandemic.
“In general, interpersonal relationships are becoming more important to people, along with a stronger desire for products and services to facilitate those connections,” said Abby Kaplan, head of creative strategy at digital marketing agency Adlucent.
According to McCracken, past purchasing decisions have gone from mindless habits to conscious choices. Instead of considering which consumer goods to spend money on, moms are reflecting on how a dollar saved could be a dollar spent on their families.
Moms are becoming hipper and daughters more cosmopolitan, said McCracken—and brands should be paying attention.
“You’re sitting at a table talking about things,” he said. “You may be talking about Black Lives Matter, allyship and what’s happening in politics. These are denser, richer conversations because they are part of an ongoing flow of ideas and emotions.”
This dynamic is hardly ever represented in media, which McCracken sees as a missed opportunity.
“We don’t have mothers and daughters very much appearing together in popular culture,” he said. “I think that’s an opportunity and a resonance. We’ve built a bridge across these generations, and influence is going to travel in both directions.”
This research supports evidence that for Generation Z, becoming best friends with their parents is actually pretty cool. They’ve gone from dismissing their folks as clueless boomers to featuring them in viral videos, opening up conversations about racial justice and convincing them to vote for Joe Biden.
Addison Rae, the second most followed personality on TikTok, has perfectly reflected this trend. Her mom, Sheri Easterling, has developed her own fanbase, and the two have just launched a podcast called Mama Knows Best.
“The best strategy is to discover what women are becoming, instead of what they are,” said McCracken. “We have to go back and examine our assumptions about who the consumer is and what they want.”