Thanks to factors such as a drop in teen birth rates and the rise of older women having babies for the first time, the age of new mothers in the U.S. has been steadily climbing since the government first began tracking this statistic in 1970.
Back then, new mothers were, on average, 21 years old. Fast forward to 2014 and that average has risen to an all-time high of over 26, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As women have their first child increasingly later in life -- in 2014, there was a 3 percent increase in births for women ages 30 to 39, and a 2 percent increase in those ages 40 to 44 -- how should brands recalibrate how they market to first-time mothers?
For Bonnie Ulman, a communications executive and the author of Trillion-Dollar Moms: Marketing to a New Generation of Mothers, effective strategies highlight the messy reality of motherhood, humor and the fact that moms have a life outside their children.
“Particularly for older moms, we were women first,” Ulman says. As more women delay having a child until they are in their 30s or 40s, brands should recognize that while being a mom is an “important role, it’s not the only piece of our identity.”
When Ulman become a first-time mom at age 34 in 1997, she found herself connecting with the campaigns that didn’t shy away from less-than-savory aspects of parenthood.
“The ads that tend to not do well are the ones that depict perfection in life that's really not accurate -- a picture where everyone is super happy and there’s not a spot on the floor,” she says.
In general, she thinks ads aimed at moms have grown less idealized in the past couple of decades. Yes, there are still glowing depictions of new motherhood: think Gerber commercials that, while adorable, don’t hint at the messier aspects of infant care. But there are also ads -- such as the 2013 spot for Seventh Generation diapers, in which a mom pursues her diaperless baby as he streaks through a public park, and a recent American Express commercial, in which Tina Fey confidently shops for groceries with yogurt in her hair -- that reference the funnier and more authentic aspects of raising a young kid.
The American Express commercial may be doubly effective as most consumers are more familiar with Tina Fey’s public persona as a writer/actress/showrunner than they are with her role as a parent to a toddler.
Whenever brands can successfully allude to a mother’s identity beyond that of a caregiver -- such as a recent Campbell spot in which a frazzled mother shopping with her kids at the grocery store grabs a bottle of red wine on her way out -- it's a win, says Ulman.