With the current rise of mumpreneurs and the increasing number of women having children at the age of 40, modern motherhood is a completely different ballgame and brands need to reassess the way they speak to mums to avoid losing them all together, writes Hayley Peters, account director at Weber Shandwick Manchester.

Last week saw the first ever Mumstock conference (who said a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle ends when you have kids) – an event organised by Mumsnet for marketeers to learn how to engage effectively with modern mums.

The big take-out message was that many brands are failing to connect with mums because they see them as just mums – not as women who happen to have children. Research revealed at Mumstock showed that there were five truths when it comes to communicating with this audience…

mumsnet1.       Motherhood does not define a person

2.       Mothers are not desperately seeking perfection

3.       Mothers are not prudes

4.       Motherhood is not drudgery

5.       Don’t forget the fathers

Many brands today recognise the power of mums. They know who makes most of the key purchasing decisions in the household and treat the art of reaching her effectively almost as the holy grail. However, there are others that just don’t get the modern mum and what makes her tick.

They forget that women today have an identity beyond being a mum. I know myself – I work full-time in a busy PR agency, I enjoy going out with my friends, I go to the gym – and I am a mum to Winston who is four. Yet defining me as ‘a mum’ would not be a true reflection of who I am as a whole. I also don’t do it alone; my husband is a key player in our parenting unit.

So how can brands better engage this modern mum? Here are five suggestions:

1.       Recognise Modern Motherhood. Today’s new mums were raised at the centre of their family’s universe – they grew up with the notion of ‘girl power’. They were told they could do anything they wanted and be whatever they wanted to be.  Now this ‘all about self’ group have become parents themselves and see the world to a degree, still revolving around them. This doesn’t mean they care less about their children, however it does highlight how parenting has changed and what we need to understand if we are to engage this new style of parent.

2.       Be Authentic. This audience are bombarded by conflicting messages every which way they turn. And particularly for first time mums who seek reassurance and brands they can trust, it places them under a great deal of pressure. New mums today are also one of those most connected and digitally savvy audiences – for a brand to be truly valued and cut through the fluff, they can’t simply talk a great game, they actually need to deliver. This means a brand having deep values that are part of the organisations’ DNA rather than empty mission statements. This means keeping things simple and demonstrating real value to mums not adding to the confusion with overcomplicated messages and inflated, empty brand promises.

3.       Don’t finger wag or patronise. For too long brands have packaged up this perfect, rose tinted view of motherhood – all sweet smelling babies, cooked-from-scratch meals and an immaculate house. If you just use this product you’ll be a perfect mum. Life just isn’t like that – it’s too much pressure. Mums don’t need a brand selling her the myth of perfection. They KNOW that it’s outdated and a load of rubbish. Yes, our ‘girl power’ mums don’t just want to have it all – they expect to. But ‘having it all’ these days isn’t necessarily about the cleanest carpets, the whitest white laundry and home-baked bread. Having it all means still being the person you were before you became a mum, still seeing your friends, still being interested in the things you were before, still having a job you enjoy, with the same passions and sense of humour.

4.       Don’t underestimate the power of peer to peer endorsement. Mums have always talked, of course they have. But the conversation just keeps getting bigger. They talk on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and forums. You only have to look on Tots100 index of British Mummy and Daddy bloggers to see the sheer number (2,500) of influential parents who blog. Some of these mums and dads are now effectively treated like journalists, and their reviews are widely read to the extent that they are seen by many as ‘the voice of the mum’. They talk about brands they use, like or don’t like – and other mums are listening to them.

5.       Recognise the Role of Dad. Dads don’t just do the occasional ‘playing’ and ‘fun’. Parenthood is a partnership for many. Couples both work in and out of the home – they share day to day responsibilities and the roles of mum and dad are far less rigid. If brands can normalise men as ‘dads’, rather than poke fun at them being another kid in the household for mum to care for,  this will not only win over dad but also appeals to mum – she will recognise you as a brand that gets her family.

Hayley Peters is an account director at Weber Shandwick Manchester. She has more than 10 year’s experience in this area, with clients including Aldi Mamia, Cussons Mum & Me and My Little Soup.