UK brands' apparent complacency in dealing with consumers may be costly in the long run, according to research by integrated marketing agency Joshua G2, which found that nearly 70% of mothers - arguably the country's key retail decision makers - are not satisfied with brand communications.
In this time of recession, and with major retail names declaring bankruptcy on a regular basis, consumer engagement has become an absolute priority, the company warned. Overall, mothers are so disillusioned that 73% said they increasingly rely on their peers for brand advice and recommendations.
The research found that the top four reasons why the majority of UK mothers are not satisfied with brand communication are:
- 31% claim that brands appear patronising and often perpetuate the "super mum" myth;
- 21% believe that brands are "too pushy";
- 13% consider brands to have unclear content or that they seem deliberately misleading about nutritional facts;
- 8% are disappointed by perceived overt and covert marketing to children.
The least satisfied group is middle-income mothers, who felt most manipulated by brand communication with children. Dissatisfaction also increases with the number of children in the family, with 61% of mothers with one child not being satisfied, compared to 71% of those with four or more children.
However, the three brands that British mothers felt were contributing the most to family life were Heinz, Tesco, and Kellogg's.
According to data analysis conducted for Joshua G2 by Forrester, the internet now plays a key role in mothers' lives, with 84% using the internet (and 69% having broadband access), and so-called 'word-of-web' (WoW) being common practice among mothers. For example:
- 84% share information on events and going out;
- 59% use the web to share travel tips;
- 50% use the web to share fashion tips;
- 40% discuss beauty tips online;
- 27% regularly visit social networking websites;
- 23% download or request free samples from the internet;
- 22% had researched groceries online in the previous 3 months;
- 20% use price comparison web sites on a regular basis.
The research also found that, when mothers do engage with brands, they are quite clear about what they want: less advice and more information. Child nutrition was deemed the most important topic, reflecting mothers' growing unease in this area, with 59% being most interested in receiving quick, simple and cheap recipe ideas from trusted brands.
According to Natasha Delliston, head of insight for Joshua G2, "We live in an era of extremely intensive parenting, and mothers are bombarded daily with conflicting information and advice on how to raise their children. What we're seeing is a significant proportion of mothers showing indifference toward mainstream conventional media and turning instead to a 'safe circle' of peers for advice. The challenge for brands is to earn entry to these circles and to find ways to conduct brand conversations with mothers more privately and personally."