Effective marketing to mothers is critical with women controlling 70% of household budgets according to Boston Consulting Group, yet many companies are getting it wrong.  Discussed in Marketing Week following an event organised by Mumsnet and Saatchi & Saatchi, the fundamental mistake brands make is to perceive women as mums first, rather than as individual people who happen to have had children. However, new research shows that three out of 10 mothers see themselves as ‘me first and then a mum’.

ITV director of commercial marketing Sarah Speake agrees that ‘mums tends to be lumped together as one homogenous group which doesn't resonate with us all…we all have different requirements…’ Grouping mothers together is believed to be far from beneficial to either the brand or the audience and by doing so marketers are widely failing to resonate with their female consumers. Interestingly, the Saatchi & Saatchi study showed that just 19 percent of UK mums surveyed consider mums in advertising to be relatable to.

The study sets out a new five point plan for communicating with mothers to ensure the best results...

 1. Motherhood does not define a person

This is the fundamental point to bear in mind when gearing any initiative towards mothers. For many women with children, motherhood is not the overriding factor that defines them – they want to be recognised as individuals, for their careers, passions, hobbies and identities over and above being mothers. Being a mother is significant but it doesn't ultimately define you as a person.

2.  Mothers are not desperately seeking perfection

Modern day mums do not want to feel the pressure to conform to the 1950s stereotype of the perfect housewife and are attracted to campaigns that focus of the more realistic messy and fun. In fact 75% of mothers questioned in the study do not believe that the perfect mum exists. This is why ideas like Persil’s 2005 ‘Dirt is good’ campaign work so well – they allow mums the freedom to stop striving for perfection and embrace the chaotic reality of family life.

3. Mothers are not prudes

 Marketers need to bear in mind when appealing to 21st century mums that just because a woman has children she doesn't become automatically devoid of sexuality and humour. Only 23% of mums surveyed think that they should stop talking about certain subjects after they have had children. Mumsnet chief executive, Justine Roberts, warns against the ‘Virgin Mary’ effect that takes over when women become mothers and believe that brands are missing a trick by not targeting mums with humorous ads and playing on the ‘ridiculous situations that mums find themselves in’.

4. Motherhood is not drudgery

Marketers should never take the stance that motherhood is a task to be endured. Apparently 60% of mums say that the best fun they have in their lives is with their children and that kids are far more fun than adults. Marketers should focus on the enjoyment that mums get from their children.

5. Don’t forget the fathers

Brands that acknowledge that fathers have an equally key role in parenting and adjust to the gender roles of the current day are more successful in engaging with families. Marketers that paint all dads as clowns and gear campaigns solely towards to female in the household make a faux pas as 60% of women surveyed said that their partner is just as involved in parenting as they are.


Half of all retailers will be using gamification in some way by 2017 according to analysts, while others argue it could become as important to customer retention as Facebook.  Discussed in The Grocer, the idea is that factors that drive millions of us to play games – desire, challenge, reward and mastery – can help sell a product, promote a brand and change both consumer and staff behaviour. 

Apparently it is things like smartphones and digital wallets that give retailers new ways to build game dynamics into shopper activity – perhaps even persuading them in-store instead of online.  It appears that games are seen as a way to capture hearts, minds and wallets of the incredibly fickle Gen Y, who by 2025 will make up a staggering 75% of the global workforce.

Forrester Research analyst Elizabeth Shaw believes that gamification is key to helping retailers differentiate themselves by building interaction, intimacy and influence. Shoppers who interact with a brand are apparently more likely to buy it.  Incentivising consumers with tokens, social currency or status on a league table can encourage them to share games with their friends and generate all important word of mouth. 

The Grocer highlights how Japanese soft drink Pocari Sweat launched an electrolyte drink in Indonesia with a game called Ionopolis. Over 94,000 signed up to defeat comic book monsters who wanted to dehydrate a city.  Players shared updates, checked out locations on Foursquare and were rewarded for buying drinks with in-game benefits.  Whole Foods awarded badges to encourage people to adopt a healthier lifestyle.  Games can boost user engagement with a website by a third, sharing on social media by 22% and content discovery by 68% according to gaming platform Gigya.

It is not just about consumers, gamification can also be used to help companies attract, train and retain employees.  Unilever uses games in training, as does US retail giant target to encourage its cashiers towards better transactions.  KPMG is using it to increase graduate intake.

Key for the introduction of any game is to ensure it fits with the business strategy.  Fatal is to retrofit a game dynamic to an ad campaign to make an organisation look cutting edge.  Not every department in an organisation will also be suitable.

With a predictions that 70% of the world’s top companies will be using gamification by 2016 at a value of $2.8bn, it is something which cannot be ignored.

Published: Bondy Consulting

An interesting article in the FT this week by Rhymer Rigby discusses whether giving 100% effort in the workplace is far too much. He reviews a new book - How to be a Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott, - which highlights that people often look at tasks the wrong way – concentrating on the detail of what they are doing, instead of the impact they have. According to Allcott, “ It is actually far more practical to think in terms of the 80-20 rule and focus ruthlessly on doing things that have the greatest impact.” We should also be delegating the mundane tasks that anyone can do, instead of not giving them up for fear of them not being done at their best. This is usually the challenge with perfectionists. “Perfectionism is how they define themselves and to let anything out of their hands that isn’t 100% goes again their sense of professional pride,” says business psychologist Karen Moloney. She believes the solution is to remember it is about delivering what the business needs, not what we want to give. While perfectionists want to always give a 100% and not doing so it tantamount to failure, Moloney says that by re-framing by saying to oneself that knowing which tasks do not need 100% shows good judgement.  

Cadbury is the UK’s ‘happiest brand’ according to new research.

The study, which ranks Andrex second on the happiness scale followed closely by Google, shows that brands which display happy tendencies connect better with consumers. Apparently, being associated with happiness helps build stronger emotional connections between consumers’ memory structure and the brand.

New research by ad agency Isobel suggests happy brands can be broken down into five key characteristics: whether they are playful, happy, trustworthy, generous or optimistic. Steve Hastings, co-founder says: “We felt these five values explained a lot of the differences in the way that people would consider a brand to be happy or not happy.” To be considered in the top 10 of happy brands, a brand must score well on each of these five values.

When it comes to happiness, FMCG heritage brands are outright winners. They dominate the top 20: Cadbury (1), Fairy (4) and Heinz (10). These are brands that, in Hastings’ opinion, ‘are simple, clear brands with good heritage and consistency of delivery. Coca-Cola only comes in at number 19 in spite of its strapline ‘Open Happiness’.

While FMCG brands have managed to perform well, grocery retailers have not had so much success. Although Aldi ranks the best of the supermarkets at 21, Tesco (58), Lidl (49) and Waitrose (50) did not do so well. According to Hastings: “Aldi, having been a UK player for a relatively short time, has benefited from being a blank canvas, unencumbered by old perceptions that other supermarkets might be.”

In other areas, digital brands performed well with Google, YouTube and Amazon featuring in the top 10. Newspapers, political parties and banks did not do so well with Lloyds, RBS, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats all featuring at the ‘unhappy end of the scale. Their positions are reflected in their lacking of the key five characteristics named above; in particularly generosity and optimism.

The top 10 brands’ results show there is value is making clear promises to customers and then keeping that word. “Advertising doesn’t necessarily solve all problems but if you have a clear promise that you consistently keep and communicate, you have a tried and tested recipe for success,” explains Hastings. Play and pleasure are paramount to the consumer experience as well; consumers get enjoyment from the nature of the brand: its packaging, texture and the way it looks and smells.

The study clearly implies that emotional and rational attributes are legitimate ways to leave a mark with a consumer. Brands that have a measure of both are the most popular and the happiest. 

In an article in the Financial Times, four decision gurus discuss how they make decisions.

Dan Ariely, Professor of Psychology and Behavioural Economics at Duke University, admits that for small decisions he makes the same mistakes most people do. However, when faced with big decisions he aims to think imaginatively.  He cites the example of buying a house; rather than being ruled by money considerations, he decided on an area with the shortest commute as people told him he would never get used to it. While a lot of work was needed in the house, the decision was to make changes every six months as opposed to a complete overhaul at the start. Six years in, only two changes have been made.

Nudge co-author Richard Taler, Professor of Behavioural Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, has spent time looking at individual choices, citing that real life decision-making is not always rational and rarely follows economic models. He gives an example of the ‘sunk cost fallacy’. This involves paying for something which cannot be undone. If you buy a plane ticket then fall ill, you need to decide whether to make the trip based on pleasure and whether it will outweigh the incremental costs, not because the ticket has been paid for.

Anil Gaba, Professor of Risk Management and Professor of Decision Sciences at Insead, has an approach that blends the rational (economics and maths) with realism (based on psychology).  He believes ‘uncertainty connotes negative things in people’s mind but it can be very positive.  It would be very boring to map out with certainty the next 20 years of your life.’

Harvard Business School Professor and teacher of decision making and negotiation, Francesca Gino, talks about the challenge of being side-tracked.  She herself got side-tracked when deciding on her university course.   Rather than doing architecture, she met an enthusiastic student when rushing to take her entry test, so she took economics and management instead.  For her it worked out well, but for others side-tracking can lead to poor decisions.  Nowadays, she tries to weigh up important decisions carefully looking at the pros and cons.  As she rightly identifies, ‘too often we decide what we want to do and then ask people we know will support that, whether or not it is the right path’.

Finally, Nigel Nicholson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School highlights that one of the pitfalls of decision making is self-deception and that our mind is good at shaping perceptions through prejudices.  He suggests putting oneself in other people’s shoes to help smooth the decision-making process.

Writing for the Financial Times, Alicia Clegg determines that emotion and empathy are vital tools in the art of negotiation and that the most diplomatic among us are those that purposefully remain connected with their feelings and those of their opposition. Clegg sites Nelson Mandela’s commitment to learning Afrikaans (the native tongue of his captors) while incarcerated, as a prime example of how the ability to see the world through the eyes of your adversaries is an important quality when approaching any negotiation. According to Clegg, possessing emotional awareness arms you with the capacity to read the situation, foresee how it will play out and respond accordingly. Those who are consistently tuned into the emotional undercurrent of the conversation are more able to ‘respond creatively to unexpected twists and turns and run with a theme.’

In his recent book, ‘The Art of Negotiation; How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World’, Professor Michael Wheeler of Harvard Business School teaches us how we can learn to embrace our nerves rather than suppress them and ‘turn anxiety into curiosity.’ Wheeler determines that if you can harness your nervous energy it will make you more engaged and allow you to listen more intently during a meeting, asserting that ‘if you are deeply attentive your mind will be quieted’. Erin Egan, a senior manager at Microsoft, echoes this sentiment, claiming that before an important negotiation she tries to channel her nerves into excitement – the idea being that it is a much more natural for the mind to shift from anxiety to excitement than anxiety to calm. By turning anxiety into excited energy she is able to ‘visualise an outcome that will be really positive.’

Professor Wheeler also draws comparisons between the skills of an adept negotiator and those of improvisational jazz musicians and comedians. Artists like these are highly accomplished at reacting to the emotional energy of others in order to tailor their performance to achieve the best possible reaction from their audience.

Clegg consolidates Professor Wheeler’s perceived similarities between musicians and negotiators into five mains points of comparison. In negotiation, as in jazz, it is impossible to anticipate every eventuality, but skilled improvisers are able to harness this uncertainty by:

  1. Paying heed to the emotions of others

    By concentrating on the body language, words and underlying tone expressed by the opposition one can spot any opportunities for compromise

  2. Knowing how to work as a team and how to fly solo

    Akin to musicians top negotiators know how to complement others, when to take the lead and when to relinquish centre stage

  3. Having the ability to change tempo

    It is important to be able to harmonise with other people’s agendas and adjust with fluidity to the pace of the conversation

  4. Stockpile fall back plans

    One must possess the emotional awareness to know when to revert to plan B when negotiations reach a standstill

  5. Staying in touch with reality

    The primary aim should be to fit plans to reality and not reality to plans. Plans should be treated as hypotheses to test, reshape and discard if necessary – not as set manuscripts

This month’s issue of Marketing includes a review of the eagerly anticipated book The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin.

Godin’s essential concept is that we are all brainwashed slaves to an industrial reality that has standardised our ambition, education and creativity. We have learnt to judge our own potential and successes within the narrow confines of the prescriptive world in which we live. Our default programme is to follow the leader and we lack all independent thought as we settle into the drudgery of everyday life and avoid flying too close to the sun. According to Godin, in this industrialised era, ‘we are not happy because we are just cogs in a machine.’

Godin argues that the remedy to this depressing picture is to pursue the creation of art. In order to overcome the confines of our brainwashed state we are to disrupt the norm, follow our dreams and accept failure as a natural part of the artistic approach.

Kristof Fahy, William Hill’s CMO who wrote the review, thinks that although Godin states some esteemed truths of how to live a good life, the book lacks any real depth of content. In fact, Fahy asserts that ‘this is one of those books where you read the back cover and you are pretty much done.’

However, despite his reservations about the content of the book, he does come away with six key concepts Godin has enlightened his readers with. The primary ways to avoid being hoodwinked by The Icarus Deception and achieve personal success are as follows:

1.     Remember that the industrialised economy in which we live is holding us back and stifling innovation and creativity. It may seem like a road to success but within the confines of standardised mediocrity.

2.     Keep in mind that the assets that matter to achieve true success are that of an artist; remarkability, humanity, leadership, trust and a story that spreads

3.     Practice your art – you can only become an artist by constantly creating art

4.     Accept the fear of failure and use it as fuel to spur you on. It is better to take risks than stay within the boundaries and never explore the depths of your own potential

5.     Make strong connections with people and make them matter

6.     Don’t sit around all day pondering decisions – do it today!

Feedback is and always will be fundamental in business, helping to improve performance, develop talent and boost the bottom line. Nevertheless, for numerous organisations, feedback is a tricky business. With a mere 36% of managers actually completing appraisals and 55% of employees claiming their most recent feedback had been unfair or inaccurate, the topic of feedback needs to be addressed.

In this month’s issue of Harvard Business Review, Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone, coauthors of Thanks for the Feedback, discuss how to receive positive and negative feedback.

As they identify, a critical performance review, a well-intended suggestion, or an oblique comment can provoke an emotional reaction. However, what makes receiving feedback even harder is that the process strikes at the tension between two core human needs – the need to learn and grow and the need to be accepted just the way you are.

Heen and Stone have devised six steps to take feedback on board and see it as a positive stepping stone.

  1. Knowing your tendencies – there will no doubt be patterns in how you usually respond to feedback. A defensive and argumentative attitude is often not the best way to react
  2. Disentangle the ‘what’ from the ‘who’ – ensure that you learn to separate the message from the messenger so that relationships don’t get in the way
  3. Sort toward coaching – some feedback is evaluative and some is coaching. Everyone needs both in order to learn and improve
  4. Unpack the feedback – make sure that you analyse the feedback before you accept or reject it. This way you can judge whether or not it’s valid and useful
  5. Ask for just one thing – find opportunities to get bite-sized pieces of coaching from a variety of people throughout the year. Don’t just wait until your annual performance review
  6. Engage in small experiments – after you’ve worked to seek and understand feedback, it might still be hard to discern which pieces of advice will help. Try designing little experiments to see what helps and what doesn’t – this might be a presentation or leading a team meeting

Criticism is never an easy thing to take on board. Although it might interpreted as unjust and ill-used, growth depends on the ability to accept feedback in whatever form it might take.