Walmart SVP Tony Rogers: Getting Moms Involved is the Hardest Part of Marketing to Them

Advertising Week kicked off today with a crazy long line outside of the Times Center on 41st Street as attendees waited (and waited) to check in and get started. Press was able to zip through quickly and our first stop of the week (PRNewser and our AgencySpy colleagues will be checking in on events throughout the week) was “Moms & the New Zeitgeist: The Complex World of the World’s Most Important Audiences.” That’s a name huh?

The panel was all about reaching moms successfully and just about everyone on stage, except for Walmart’s marketing SVP Tony Rogers, was a mom. Moderated by The Wall Street Journal‘s Suzanne Vranica, the discussion covered a variety of topics outside of advertising.

According to the description in the Ad Week booklet, “Moms control more than $2.3 trillion in spending power, yet three out of four moms say marketers don’t understand them.” Perfect segue to the first question of the panel, “What’s the hardest thing about reaching moms?” Rogers said it’s getting moms involved in the process of creating the creative. Once you have that, reaching them is relatively easy. But moms are necessary for “shepherding you through the process,” he said.

“Getting the message is the hardest part,” he continued.

In terms of messaging, everyone on the panel pointed to humor as a successful game plan.

Alicia Ybarbo, Today show producer and co-author of Today’s Moms: Essentials for Surviving Baby’s First Year, said anything that could make her stop and laugh for 30 seconds has got her. This is because motherhood has been “too idealized,” said Katherine Wintsch, VP and group planning director of The Martin Agency (which was presenting the discussion) and founder of The Mom Complex.

“As long as the insight is real, you can get as aspirational as you want,” she remarked.

The panel offered up a few key reminders worth mentioning:

-Much of mom marketing focuses on the mother with a baby or toddler. “Mom is a first time mom at each stage of the journey,” said Michal Clements, co-author of Tuning into Mom: Understanding America’s Most Powerful Consumer.

Nearly half (41 percent) of births involve unmarried moms, which is not a negative, but should be addressed in a matter-of-fact way. For example, a visual that shows a mom and kids but no dad.

-Millennial moms are on the rise. They’ve always known digital (which everyone agreed is a great way to reach moms, even with advertising which is watched on mobile devices and on different websites) and are very “open to sharing,” Wintsch said.

-There are some things that translate across cultures and others that do not. Things that do: making ends meet and anything dealing with the family’s happiness and well-being. One thing that does not, according to research Wintsch said The Martin Agency is conducting in the U.K.: work/life balance.

This being an Ad Week event, there was some talk of the ads that everyone liked. We’ve attached one from Walmart (with help from P&G brand Olay). Isaiah Mustafa’s Old Spice ads, the Volkswagen Darth Vader clip, and the Sienna “Swagger Wagon” were others mentioned.

The one real “Hmm… really?” moment of the morning came courtesy of Vranica’s question about how marketers should handle the tough economy.

“You have to be optimistic and upbeat despite tough financial times,” said Rogers. After a long pause, Vranica simply said, “Interesting.”

What do you think of that advice?