Why Brands Love Mommy Bloggers

NEW YORK Gretchen Vogelzang and Paige Heninger are much like other suburban mothers, with seven children between them and busy schedules. The difference is they also have a high-powered Hollywood agent, ad campaigns with some of the world’s top brands and distribution through Google’s vast network.

Welcome to the world of mommy blogging, where women juggle the demands of childcare with building audiences online. It’s also, increasingly, a place where top brands battle for their attention, hoping for reviews from “real moms” and access to the valuable power of word of mouth. Being a player in the mommy blogger world can mean access to free products, getting big media buys and even trips to the red carpet in Hollywood and Caribbean cruises.

Vogelzang and Heninger are among the mommy blogging elite. Their sponsors include Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and, most recently, State Farm. The insurance giant has contracted with the women to create 10 episodes of their video series, MommyCast (available on iTunes, MommyCast.com and YouTube), around themes like home buying, the need for mothers to get life insurance and making a house safe for babies. The videos will appear as well on a State Farm-branded YouTube channel and, through a distribution deal with Google, will potentially reach tens of millions of Web users through parenting and mom sites in the AdSense network.

Ed Gold, director of digital strategy for State Farm, said Vogelzang and Heninger have an authenticity that wouldn’t be there in  “authority-driven” media content.

There’s plenty of research to back up the potential power of mommy bloggers. Mothers are estimated to be responsible for $2.1 trillion of U.S. consumer spending, controlling about 80 percent of household expenditures, according to BSM Media. They’re also active online: 87 percent use the Web regularly, per comScore. What’s more, 60 percent of their online conversations — the type of discussions also heard at playgrounds everywhere — include a mention of brands or products, according to a study done last year by BabyCenter and Keller Fay Group.

“When you’re up in middle of the night nursing, the best way to get advice is to go online,” said Sarah Hofstetter, vp of emerging media and client strategy at digital shop 360i, who has run influencer campaigns targeting mommy bloggers. “You’re going to identify with that person. If that person says, ‘Get XYZ stroller,’ you’re going to do that.”

Brands, particularly consumer packaged-goods companies, have taken note. P&G and Walmart have mommy-blogger outreach programs. J&J has a wide-ranging mommy-blogger strategy that includes sending out product samples and bringing select bloggers to its headquarters. Its new YouTube contest, “Big Bubblin’ Stars!,” which solicits bath time videos, is hosted by mommy blogger Christine Young, a homeschooling mother of six.

“We thought it was important to have a real voice,” said Lori Dolginoff, director of communications at J&J.

Not all mommy bloggers get such high-profile gigs. The most common tactic for brands is sending out product samples in the hopes of a review. It’s gotten so popular that the avalanche of offers has led some mom bloggers to create separate sites or sections dedicated to reviews. The benefits of brand attention can go up from there. Frito-Lay, looking for online buzz for its new line of snacks, last month flew mommy bloggers out to Los Angeles to meet Brooke Burke and preview its “Only in a woman’s world” ad campaign. Disney in January took a group of mom bloggers on a trip to the Bahamas to showcase its cruise line.

Participants in both instances blogged about their trips and the brands.
“Nurturing relationships is one of the core values of a mom,” said Maria Bailey, author of Mom 3.0 and CEO of BSM Media, which advises Disney and other brands on reaching moms online. “It’s an inherent need of a mother to share information.”