Baby on board: how brands can bond with millennial parents

Millennials are becoming parents in their droves and they’re increasingly challenging the status quo around how parenting should be done. At the same time they themselves are facing challenges previous generations did not. So, how should brands talk to those who, in the era of connectivity, face a blizzard of messages about the ‘right’ way to be a mum or dad and experience constant pressure to Instagram the perfect life? We’ve used our 5Drivers model to reveal there are 2 primary emotions to which they should play. First, giving parents back #Control at a time when the new child tips their world into complete uncertainty. Second, helping them #Belong by offering ways to counter the isolation this life-stage can bring and feel that their fresh perspectives on parenting are being acknowledged.

Become a trusted advisor by offering #Control

The barrage of information on parenting from well-meaning friends and family, health professionals and social media means new parents value brands that cut through this noise and provide a voice of authority on the essentials. Retailers can become trusted favourites by offering unbeatable value, quick, convenient delivery options and practical advice. With these fundamentals in place the parent can feel more able to move on to the higher-order elements of nurturing their child, or to simply have a rest!

Amazon’s Family service has this down to a tee. The platform simplifies buying decisions through wish-lists and hard-to-resist discounts. Price comparisons and reviews boost the sense of #Control by making decisions feel informed and savvy. The Family Night Guide, developed in collaboration with parent bloggers, recognises the toll taken by sleepless nights and provides a wealth of tips — helping the brand connect on a more emotional level, rather than just through its products.

Meanwhile, Boots and John Lewis also generate the feeling they are ‘on the journey with you’. John Lewis’ Nursery Advice service guides users through those all-important first buying decisions, and Boots’ Parenting Club, cleverly taps into all key milestones (e.g. the start of weaning) with free gifts and vouchers — ensuring its communications feel timely and relevant.

Creating #Belonging via shared time and beliefs

Millennials don’t connect with brands in the same way as previous generations and this is especially true when it comes to new parents. They are adopting a more open-minded perspective on what modern family life looks like, and whilst some changes may still be minority pursuits there is a groundswell of feeling that retailers should be alive to the fragmentation of traditional norms.

One of the ways brands can do this is through linking up with influencers who are changing the conversation around child rearing. For example, Mother Pukka, which is passionate about improving flexible working for parents, connects her followers with the likes of M&S and Little Dish. New parents trust her opinions because her engaging, authentic posts tell the truth about juggling parenthood. Moreover, through associating themselves with Mother Pukka’s values around flexible working, brands feel a part of the conversation on issues that matter to new parents.

John Lewis has taken a strong stance on the parenting hot topic of gender neutrality. Its inclusion of genderless clothing has been welcomed by millennials keen to cultivate a strong sense of individuality amongst their children. For some, the fact that a long-standing, much-loved giant of UK retail has acknowledged their needs feels like a recognition of their beliefs — and cements the idea they are part of a broader societal movement.

Belonging is also being created by the rise of social apps such as Mush, Peanut and Mummy Social — helping to connect new ‘mum friends’ and build strong support networks. Being part of these communities not only reassures members they are ‘doing the right thing’, it offers an opportunity to share the pains and the joys and even rediscover the fact they are people not just parents! Brands are facilitating these connections in many ways. For example, Mamas and Papas runs pregnancy yoga sessions in its stores and Mothercare is working to turn its fortunes around via its ‘Welcome to the Club’ scheme. This connects new parents through in-store events, online forums and shared digital content — previous initiatives having included Q&A sessions with midwives and talks on maternity style by popular fashion bloggers.

In many ways, as the old song has it, ‘the fundamental things apply as time goes by’, but the wise retailers will respond to, sometimes subtle, but real changes in the way new families are evolving.

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