Marketing in the Moment

Smart marketers already know that moms are some of the best shoppers and most important target audiences to connect with for nearly every kind of product and service on the market. Even financial planning — long thought of as a conversation between brands and men — has become a focus for women. After all, 95% of women are involved in the financial decision making in their households, and a quarter of them are even the primary decision makers.

When it comes to financial planning, if these women are also moms, there’s even more incentive to reach out to them because they’re likely thinking about their children’s future and the best way to maximize every dollar.

Financial institutions can have great conversations with moms. It’s an important and noble thing for businesses and brands to inspire responsibility from today’s parents. It’s a message worth sharing…

Just not at story time.

Let me explain.

I am a mom with two very young children. This week I took them to story time at the local public library.

Story time, for those unfamiliar, is a 45-minute event where moms and their children attempt to sit quietly in a semi-circle while a teacher reads books aloud. It’s a slowly building chaos that begins with mostly seated, compliant toddlers (and strategically administered snacks), and ends with snotty-faced monsters running amuck with missing shoes, other people’s sippee cups and sweaty parents.

We do it because we want to get out of the house and take our children to mentally stimulating environments. We hate it because it’s never an easy activity. At best, it’s a carefully executed balance of feeding and bribing that’s flirting with nap time. At worst, it’s the epic meltdown you pray will never happen to you in public.

And that’s why it’s not the place for a financial institution to come and reach out to moms.

We were just wrapping up story time, when a woman and a man dressed in professional attire stepped into the room with armfuls of collateral. The teacher introduced them over the din of toddler prattle, and explained that they were there to help us understand the best ways for financially planning our children’s futures. I’m not sure everyone heard the announcement, but it didn’t matter because the suits began approaching moms one by one with their sales pitch.

The spiel kicked off with the woman unrolling a large poster featuring a picture of her child at a high-end culinary school — presumably to demonstrate how she successfully invested her money to afford such a school. The mom they were talking to had Goldfish crackers stuck to her shirt, ripped jeans, and a ponytail that looked like it went under a lawn mower. She was clearly feeling awkward trying to balance a “professional” conversation with keeping tabs on where her son was at the moment (he was breaking crayons in half at the coloring table).

As my son started showing signs of “time to go” (yelling, licking other children, mashing his peanut butter sandwich into the library books), I quickly wrangled my infant daughter into her car seat after she loudly refused to breastfeed, while she screamed and kicked her feet. Apparently this seemed to be the signal to the financial advisors that I was ready for the sales pitch. I was barely done buttoning up my shirt when they approached me with small talk. “You’ve got your hands full!” the woman said. “Have you thought about saving money for your children’s future?” the man asked.

“Have you thought about the negative impact this whole scene is making on your brand?” I thought to myself.

Marketing is not just about finding the right message — it’s about finding the right time to share that message.

Someone at this bank must have thought that story time was a great opportunity to reach out to a lot of moms at the same time with an important, impactful message. The truth is, it IS an important message and one that many moms — myself included — are open to hearing…

When we can actually hear!

Marketing in the moment is a bold move, and can be very effective. Here are three ways these financial advisors could have done it better.

1. Lose the suits.

Most of the moms at story time are coming in hot. We’ve been up since 5:00 a.m., have already run errands, we’re starving, and we have 100 things to do when we leave. We’re dressed in yoga pants, we’re wearing zero makeup and we probably have spit-up, boogers and drool on us. Approaching us in a suit and tie makes us feel disconnected from you.

2. Consider your WHOLE audience.

If moms are your target audience and you’re going to try reaching them at story time, then your new audience is moms and their children. Bringing a small toy for them with your brand on it would give the child a fun distraction while you fill us in on the best ways to save for college.

3. Scale back your success story.

Even with the most prudent financial behavior and best intentions, some parents won’t be able to send their children to Ivy League schools. Many people bring their children to story time because it’s a free (affordable) activity.

No matter who your audience is or where you happen to be when you’re marketing in the moment, the most important thing is to “read the room” and determine the most effective way to approach your audience. Doing so shows your consumers that you took the time to understand them and create a meaningful experience for them to learn about your brand.