BlogHer '12: What Childless Women Want Brands to Know
My panel at BlogHer '12 went very well and as it should be, there were lessons for the audience and panel, too. The session was sweetly named,Table for One, and it focused on the challenges of women bloggers without children to attract brand attention and strategies to turn things around.
At just a year old, The NotMom.com was the youngest blog of the four speakers, including (left to right) Kim Trimble’s Live from the 205 (AL), Bringing Sexy Back Since 1979 by Robin Mills (NY) and Cari Bee’s Busy Bee Blogger (CA), and me, representing Cleveland, OH.
Stealing my attention away in bits, I counted at least 60 attendees. By a show of hands, at least a third of the room was comprised of ad agency reps and PR pros curious to learn more about an overlooked niche. There were only a couple of men. I was given a hand mic instead of one on a stationary podium, which gave my anxious hands something to play with. No need. Communication between stage and audience became interactive quickly, and it all began to flow.
Somewhere along the line, we were asked to share a personal pet peeve about media or brand behavior concerning women without kids. Sitting next to me, Cari’s voice broke as she began her answer. As you might imagine, the air in the room changed in an instant. She tried to talk about caring for her father who is recovering from a stroke, and decided against it when the tears came too fast and hard.
Another speaker started a different line of conversation. I handed Cari a Kleenex. After a bit, she decided to try again.
Cari recently moved her 60-something father into her house. She is his sole caregiver and only child. His meds, doctor appointments and other needs can be pressing, and he’s not always a cooperative patient.
Cari is a beautiful woman in her 30s, trying to maintain a career and a dating life, too. Her peeve is that too many of her Momfriends, and media at large, focus on the so-called “sandwich generation” — people raising children while caring for elderly parents – as if it were the only game in town. Cari has been told, “You don’t know what stress is until you add kids to the picture.” The statement dismisses her pain as unimportant, forgettable - a piece of cake.
With that, statistics became reality.
Hands were in the air and several women shared their own stories of feeling ignored or discounted by Madison Avenue and close contacts. Clearly, a good sized hunk of this generation’s “sandwich” is open-face, as NotMoms care for infirm parents. In another example, a woman was ticked that empty-nesters seem to be more positively promoted than women of similar age with neither kids nor grandkids. Is it so hard to categorize older Boomer women who aren’t parents? (um, just like that?)
I learned that many Mommybloggers hate the term. They see themselves as women who blog and happen to have children, or feel that topics around parenting deserve more respect. Nevertheless, the word is so pervasive that one agency exec said her male boss asked her to gather a focus group of “mostly Mommybloggers and a just a few Mommybloggers without kids.” Hello?
The concept of labels came up in various forms, particularly because advertisers need them to exist. When people don’t fit into an acronym, they turn into a problem that is simply ignored.
In other BlogHer settings, bloggers with children were openly shocked at the idea that brands would ignore the online voices of NotMoms. Not so in my panel’s room. The opposite was true: Everyone knew or suspected it to be true; some were guilty of the sin themselves. After being told by agents for a major sports drink that bloggers without children need not apply, Kim asked, “Do I have to have kids to be thirsty? Do my readers?”
We offered tips to attract attention by connecting to news headlines as well as buying trends and seasonal themes. At the end of the day, creativity rules. NotMom bloggers must show advertisers that their websites can generate word-of-mouth buzz as well as those with a Mom-to-Mom tie.
I believe our panel did a good job setting and maintaining ground rules that kept things on the high road. Any bashing that went on was aimed at lazy publicists, PR pitches for kids clothes…that kind of thing. Even though I was the only speaker who blogs specifically about women without children, anyone could quickly figure out that kids’ items are inappropriate on any of the panelists’ blogs. Hopefully, I also corrected assumptions that women who blog about not having kids must either dislike them, or deliberately chose not to have them. Neither is true in my case.
My assigned focus was stats, since the business plan research was fresh at hand: 1 of every 5 American women are childfree, with similar numbers in developing nations around the world. That's about 15 million women age 34-64 - employed, college-educated, coast-to-coast.
The image of Boomer NotMoms who’ll inherit from both parents and partner, statistically speaking, wasn’t difficult for this crowd to envision. But, there was a brand rep who stood and shook her head.
Woefully, but with a smile, she said she’s been telling her boss for months to pay more attention to the market of women without children...women just like her.
Karen Malone Wright - The NotMom.com