Traditional media has long been rooted in the assumption that audiences can be messaged to as if they were living their lives in conveniently-formed buckets of similar interests. But with the proliferation of personalization in media, it may just be time to accept that marketing to a demographic profile just doesn't cut it anymore. Take the example of the growing interest in marketing to moms. It's becoming clearer that while moms have many things in common, it's their individual needs and identities that marketers must address in order to earn their brand loyalties.
In a recent chat with iMedia, the president of NBC Universal's Women & Lifestyle Entertainment Network offered a woman's perspective on the changing roles of moms, media, and marketing to the each person's unique mind.
iMedia Connection: As the female head of a television network division that focuses on the female demographic, you must have some keen insight on marketing to women. How would you say the marketing strategy differs (or should differ) compared with the more traditional male-centric audience model?
Zalaznick: Women & Lifestyle Entertainment Networks is just that -- a portfolio of brands that serves content to an incredibly complex set of audience sectors, of which women are key drivers but not the exclusive target. The bottom line is that marketers cannot afford to miss the fact that the notion of the "demo" no longer serves advertisers or consumers in terms of messaging to them. Not "all women," and certainly not "all 18-49s," are created equal. The key is knowing who these powerful consumers are, what life stages they are in, and how they behave, and then communicating with them in extraordinary ways.
iMedia: Marketing to moms has become a strong centerpoint in digital marketing over the past few years. But is "mommy" a real demographic, or is it a construct of marketers' efforts to create segments that they can "own" in their positioning statements?
Zalaznick: It is a very real demographic, but "mom" should not be cast in one big stereotype. This demographic is more multifaceted than ever -- there is no single category that she fits into. Today's first-time mom can be in her 20s, 30s, or 40s. She can be single, have a career or, especially since the recession, be the primary breadwinner. Look no further than some of the most active iVillage community forums; moms are connecting with each other on topics such as step-parenting, co-parenting after a divorce, raising multiples and parents. If marketers ignore the changing dimensions of being a mom, then they miss the mark completely. My favorite statistic that I recently heard is that something like 25 percent of all moms under 30 have a tattoo! Will these moms drive a mini-van like theirs did? We need to find out what their goals and aspirations are, and then find the stories to tell them, to connect with them.
iMedia: Can a mom demo be sustained, or does its characteristics simply represent the needs and interests of all modern women, mom or not?
Zalaznick: Well, it's a given that "moms" are here to stay, but it's the newer concept of "mommy market" driving massive consumer purchase segments outside of the grocery aisle. It is one of the most lucrative consumer segments in the marketplace and brings in an estimated $90 billion a year. It's not a surprise that 85 percent of women say having a baby changed their purchasing habits, but it's important to note that 73 percent say it changed their purchasing criteria and 62 percent say it changed the brands on their radar. That's a big set of opportunities.
iMedia: How reliable would you say the existing profile is on the "mommy" demo, based on your insight into their viewing patterns and choices? What are the biggest misconceptions that marketers hold about this group? Any surprising revelations about their needs and interests that you can share?
Zalaznick: Today's women and moms are much more active purchase decision makers, and this is true even in traditionally male categories like automobiles, financial planning, and consumer electronics. Women are adding roles without giving anything up. They've been comfortable taking on the "chief household officer" role in the past, as we've seen them run the house, manage the budget, and be the gatekeeper. But, more and more, they're adding to that "chief financial officer" -- a recent iVillage study revealed that 61 percent of moms primarily manage their household finance. They are taking on the roles of chief breadwinner, investor, and household head of IT. Marketers often overlook this. It's mom who is buying the new computer, shopping for cars, and talking to the accountant.
iMedia: Another big digital trend right now that you might be able to relate to is the integration of TV content with web-based entertainment. In your opinion, what are marketers getting right so far in their efforts to blur the lines between entertainment platforms and create more engaging brand opportunities?
Zalaznick: Marketers who are doing it right partner with the best creative teams out there to co-create and often underwrite experiences where the communication about a brand needs to be interactive and social. Entertainment or brand experiences that allow consumers to communicate directly with the brands -- just as fans do via the Bravo Talk Bubble and Oxygen Live -- in real time, as well as share their ideas through social activation -- like the iVillage message boards and of course Twitter and Facebook -- are the most successful.
iMedia: What tips would you offer for successful integrated campaigns?
Zalaznick: Know your target consumer, his or her habits, likes, dislikes, needs and desires. Be everywhere she is, be authentic, be a leader not a follower. With today's fragmented media landscape, and the onset of DVRs, marketers need custom, creative campaigns. They need to engage viewers with interactive digital elements, and tap into a media company's ability to use viewers' favorite talent to deliver an ad message.
iMedia: Obviously, TV and other media needs to continue its evolution to better serve to the new media audience. So how has digital media itself played a role in transforming that television audience?
Zalaznick: We can't underestimate the growing power of digital media and how it can truly fuel traditional media's success. We've seen that with the launch of something like the Bravo Talk Bubble or Oxygen Live, serving fans with ways to immediately impact content can be an organic, explosive, DVR-buster that creates an instant nationwide watercooler conversation. It's not just about websites alone, or cool apps. It's about the alchemy of rabid consumers, great content, and a powerful marketplace.
iMedia: I know a few NBC shows have done a really nice job of leveraging TV fans through digital content -- "The Office" ongoing webisode series is one that comes to mind; and Bravo has had some great social media results for the "Real Housewives" series. Can you share another example of a well-integrated cross-platform campaign?
Zalaznick: The best example is our success with Oxylive.com and the "Bad Girls Club" series. We had an enormous ratings increase (70 percent increase) with the launch of this real-time online conversation with the gals from "Bad Girls Club" talking/ texting/ responding to questions during the actual show. And with this current season, we've taken that conversation and brought it onto the actual television screen -- where the live feed from your social media pages is actually queued up on the lower third of the screen, in real time. The engagement, ratings, and web/new media stats are enormous.
iMedia: You'll be presenting the opening keynote at ad:tech N.Y. in November. What can attendees expect to hear from you?
Zalaznick: Technological innovations are driving change in all quadrants of media, from content creation to advertising to distribution, enabling numerous new ways to engage audiences and consumers. Key to success, however, is making sure that your focus is always on consumers and their needs, rather than on technology as an end in and of itself. Innovation doesn't happen exclusively in the domain of Silicon Valley start-ups. I will be talking about this subject in more detail, sharing my own experience about successfully creating an innovative, consumer-driven digital mindset inside a "Big Media" company.
Jodi Harris is senior editor at iMedia Connection.