Targeting your commercial to moms? As a voiceover artist, I’ve been hired thousands of times to play a mom and talk to other moms on behalf of hundreds of brands. And while what we say to moms and how we say it has changed to stay current, what hasn’t changed is the consumer importance and buying power of moms in general. Nor has the importance of capturing what the various “voices” of moms’ sound like.
One of the biggest insights I can pass on is to be specific. Never generalize about moms. While being a mom can be an important part of a woman’s life, it is only part of it and her identity as a human on the earth is much more than that. Successful marketing makes an emotional connection with core values(responsibility, community, safety, security) rather than pigeon-holing women into one predominant role and therefore “mom-voice” deliveries should avoid that as well.
Use the Bechdel Test to Avoid Mom Stereotypes
Holly Buchanan, in Marketing to Women Online, adapts the Bechdel Test for film which measures the presence of women in movies with 3 simple questions, and created the Buchanan test to measure stereotypes in advertising that goes something like this:
Look at your most recent ads targeting women (or women and men if they are both your audience).
Can you answer “yes” to the following three questions:
Do you feature a woman outside of the home?
Do you feature a woman in a role other than “mother”?
Is she NOT doing yoga?
Ok. How’d you do? You’d be surprised how few commercials pass this test.
I would offer here 2 questions in the “Handysides Test” for avoiding stereotypical voiceover performances for any mom character:
Listen to your delivery of the copy. Can you answer “yes” to the following:
Does your mom character have emotions other than a mothering calm, worry or scolding disdain?
Does your mom character relate to her surroundings the way any other person in the same surroundings would, irrespective of children who exist in her life?
Tips to Make Mom Tropes More Relatable
Though I just spoke about avoiding stereotypes, there is a shorthand in writing advertising copy that relies on some tropes to quickly describe what “type” of mom is being targeted. If done right, the copy should allow for nuance and layering within that shorthand. Because in every sense of the word, voice acting IS acting. This means even for a Tide Commercial, a professional voiceover actor will have put some thought into what character she is portraying and what their thoughts/fears/desires might be surrounding the “environment” of the commercial. Regardless of mom-trope, finding ways to make that character relatable and real will be more memorable and therefore help sell more products or services than a shallow stereotype.
What does that mean? Lauren Drell, makes some great points in 7 Tips For Marketing to Moms, written for Mashable. It involves parsing the trope and looking for the reality for the character. What follows are some Mom tropes in advertising I’ve identified. Let’s take them apart and look for ways to make them relatable:
The Soccer/Helicopter/Wired Mom
This woman is busy, harried, overloaded with driving kids to every conceivable sports practice, dance lesson and after school event, while still managing to find the time to cook, clean, make dinner, do laundry and all with an exhausted, but a contented smile on her face. Ok, while that may actually be the occasional mom, most are overloaded-fighting-to-stay-organized while-trying-to-keep-up-with-everything-their-family-needs moms. They probably wouldn’t describe themselves with “Soccer” or “Helicopter” labels. They may love what they do some days and feel overwhelmed the next. Her struggle for control is real. Keeping this in mind for the ad can help layer in some reality that will resonate with other busy moms.
The New Mom
New Babies bring with them cute fat rolls, that great new-baby smell and a ton of reasons for mom to be freaked out with worry over their ability to meet baby’s needs, especially in terms of safety. Marketing to New Moms often involves bringing that “you’ve got this, new mom” sentiment to the spot. A gentle confident calm goes a long way to helping these moms stay grounded to Earth after the baby arrives.
The Working Mom
In this mom’s world, it’s all about TIME, and the gross lack of it. This fantastic Organic Balance commercial perfectly captures what working moms go through on a daily basis and artfully captures the “messy, tired, and crunched-for-time ladies who happily reveal that 33 percent of us never make the bed, 21 percent have used an article of clothing to hide a stain, 58 percent of us will swear at someone or something, and—wait for it—9 percent of us cite dry shampoo as one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century.”
The Wry, Been-There-Done-That Mom
Moms have pretty regularly seen it all and often times it’s an “if you don’t laugh you gotta cry” moment. Approaching this mom with a shared sense of “wait until you hear this” and “oh yeah, my kids have done that” wry humor can connect with them in ways few humans outside of foxholes in wartime experience. Been there, done that Moms, just like everyone else, can appreciate a good “my 4-year-old kid decided to shave the dog today” story.
The Loving Mom
What is a kid’s cold medication commercial without a concerned, caring mother? Capturing the nurturing, helping moms who care for their loved ones when they’re sick taps into a maternal core most moms relate to, no matter the trope. Highlighting mom as a protector, comforter and safe haven, emphasizes the power moms have as a force for good in their kids’ lives.
The I-Am-Not-Amused Mom
Raising kids is not a task for the faint at heart. There are times when it is all a mom can do to hold it all together. Times when she must be sheriff/judge/jury, arbiter/umpire/negotiator to keep her kids in line, ready for the world and safe. We’ve likely all been around a mom who has that harried I-love-you-but-I-need-some-quiet-time look on her face. And most moms wear this look regularly and can relate. Constantly showing kids where their boundaries are often means being the “bad guy” which isn’t easy and sometimes these moms just need a break.
Let’s not forget the moms of moms, the grandmom voices who are often called upon to step in to help care for grandkids when their daughters or sons aren’t available. Whether for an evening, or something more permanent, these moms are a voice of experience and (hopefully) reason and are generally calmer and more considered in pace. And often they appreciate the value of a good porch.
Whomever the mom, try to keep in mind that she is a person first, and a mom second. She’ll have a full range of attitudes, emotions, speeds and perspectives that brought together inform the commercial and help create brand authenticity and relatability to attract this large target audience of consumers.