Ask not her age, but the age of her children

Mom's the word. Harbinger's Jennifer Lomax delves into why you should reframe your target definition.


By Jennifer Lomax

As marketers, we often define our female consumer target with the usual demographics:  her age, her career orientation, household income.

But what if, instead of characterizing a female consumer by her own age, we considered the age of her children?

Statistics prove that motherhood in North America is not a one-age-fits-all milestone. Specifically, the age of mom when this life-changing event takes place differs by geography and is rising over time. Did you know:

And as mom’s age at childbirth varies across women, so too does the age of her children; and it should be no surprise that the age of her children has a substantial influence on her values, priorities, behaviours and brand loyalty drivers. In our latest research, Harbinger identified three specific consumer life stages, which reflect how the things a woman cares about evolve as her children pass milestones of their own: birth, starting school and fleeing “the nest.”

Some values, behaviours and loyalty drivers emerged consistently important across women; examples include the high priority of relationships and family, and the influence of value and efficacy on brand loyalty. But there are some significant differences.

Meet the “Pre-school Mom,” the “School Mom” and the “Zoomer Mom”:

Pre-school Mom

This life stage begins when a woman has her first child, and she remains here until all of her children have started full-time school (up to five years). Pre-School Moms in our study average 32 years old. The Pre-school Mom life is overwhelmingly consumed by her children, and personal priorities such as her career, health and fitness and her friends fall dramatically.

More than other moms, she seeks brands that make her life easier and make her feel good about herself; Pampers and LG are brands that only this mom group named among their top 25.

School Mom

This life stage starts once all of mom’s children reach school age (five years) and lasts until each has reached adulthood or independence (21 years). School Moms in our study average 42 years old.

When a woman transitions to School Mom, her time and attention shift away from her kids and spouse back toward herself and friends. This trend persists as her children mature, and though still important, raising children becomes an increasingly lower priority.

Her brand influencers are more likely to include alignment to her personal values and nostalgia, with Jif, Dawn, Lysol, Heinz and Clorox ranking higher among this mom group’s favourites.

Zoomer Mom

A mom becomes a Zoomer when her children reach adulthood and independence (21 years); she is also likely contemplating retirement. In our study, she averages 62 years old.

By the time she reaches this life stage, her priorities have shifted dramatically from growing her children and advancing her career to pursuing leisure and wellness.

An experienced consumer, she is least likely to be influenced by emotional drivers, such as feeling good about herself when purchasing or using a brand, or by recommendations. Olay, HP and Samsung are a few favourite brands that ranked higher with these moms.

So what does this mean to marketers?

Mom’s preferences, purchase behaviours and loyalty drivers vary by life stage – not her age alone.

By failing to consider family composition, marketers run the risk of generic programs and failing to build meaningful connections with distinct groups of moms.

If marketers broaden their target consumer definition to include life stage, brand decision-makers and agency partners will be much better positioned to design a compelling brand purpose and focused programs, which leverage the similarities and differences among moms.

So, the next time you ask her age, don’t forget to ask how old her kids are, too.

Jennifer_Lomax_Headshot[1]Jennifer Lomax is senior strategic planner at Harbinger. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock