Potty mouth. How brands can cut through the crap and reach parents.
When I think of life before kids, I think of myself as a water bug, pirouetting along the surface of a pond so large and still, it’s not even there. ‘Lah lah lah, another margharita please!’ sings the water bug, whilst below lurks a gigantic and turbulent world of experience that has only one way in… and no way back.
Get a baby, become a parent. I dare you little water bug.
And then, splash! Weighed down by the nappies, school choices and sheer exhaustion, the water bug plunges through the transparent surface, into a new universe of uncertainty, chaos, and about a million products flying at your face as fast as you can scream “just give me one minute to poo please!?!”.
The other side of parenthood is an insanely interconnected puzzle of platforms, voices and brands. And if you’re got something to sell and you want to talk to these mums and dads, you better have your shit together. But the stuff that really lands with me is not about polish and perfection. I’ve been thinking: is ‘warts and all’ communications the trick to helping your brand stand out?
In the day to day of it, major channels like print and TV seem to fade into the background, as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest become all-consuming pastimes and lifelines. Who has time to watch TV or pick up a magazine? Only people on TV and in the magazines, I suspect.
No one is alone in the middle of the night. Digital platforms make it possible to build and nurture a huge ‘mothers’ group’ of strangers flung across the world, and they are your first port of call for advice on burps, bouncers, and even the right 7-seater vehicle for your family. And these (mostly) ladies, don’t mess around.
As soon as a new product comes on the market it is discovered, purchased, tested, exalted or rejected, by literally thousands of parents, who are just gagging to share their opinion and experiences on their personal YouTube channels and in FB groups numbering in the hundreds of thousands. And there’s very little polish or sugar coating, when it’s real people, telling it like it is.
‘Kmart Mums Australia’ numbers over 290,000 members on Facebook, which bills itself as “A friendly community to share the love of all things Kmart :)”, is one such community, where you can gather with a few thousand other ‘mums’ and celebrate the retail giants amazing cushions. Seriously, you can’t buy this s**t!
The ‘Mums Who Organise’ FB group has 81,000+ members and reassures you that “Being a mum is hard, but having great organisation helps.” Posts in this group, crowdsourcing storage and organisation solutions, regularly have more than 120 comments (with pictures) which suggest products from retailers such as Target, Kmart, Bunnings and the Reject Shop on the daily. It’s just as often a forum for sharing jokes and memes, and commiserating about husbands and their inability to replace a toilet roll.
So, how do mainstream brands and publishers find their place on the digital juggernaut piloted by the parents themselves? And how do they make an impact amongst all this noise?
I see an opportunity for brands to participate and really stand out by celebrating the really, real bits of parenting. But there’s no room for fear. It’s going to be messy, dirty and a little bit rude.
I mean, my then 1 year-old daughter once ate her own poo. This is now one of my best stories.
In fact, even as Pinterest and Instagram spruik an impossible standard of beauty and perfection, memes such as #nailedit rise to counteract the pressure and give us ordinary folks a pole to hoist our norm-flags high.
This meme has even spawned its own Netflix Original series ‘Nailed It’ – “Home bakers with a terrible track record take a crack at re-creating edible masterpieces for a $10,000 prize. It's part reality contest, part hot mess.”
In ‘Momsplaining’ - a quite excellent branded-content series produced by the Ellen Degeneres’ Ellen Digital Studios - Hollywood star and ‘mom’ Kristen Bell, uses her parent creds to engage an audience around the funny, brutal and often rude bits of being a parent. As she says herself in the opening titles: "Parenting is hard AF. But I do know moms can learn from each other. And I want to share what I know."
The digital series, co-produced by multi-vitamin brand Olly Nutrition, utilises star power, and real mums to engage the audience. Nothing new there. But this series is downright honest, real and even rude. Don’t miss episode 1 in which Kristen demonstrates birth with a hairband and watermelon. Yeesh.
By ‘keeping it real’ and making it funny and shareable, this content can cross over from advertising, to ‘stars, they’re just like us’ entertainment, and it gives it a chance in the sharing economy of social. It demonstrates that, it’s not what you do, but how you do it, that counts.
So this is a challenge to brands and publishers, take risks and show parenthood like it is. Parenting IS hard AF. The perfection represented by TVCs and packaging is less relevant, when parents control the conversation, so get down to our level, waaaay down onto the floor amongst the Lego™, suspicious smears, and strange smells, and let’s get real.