SimpsonScarborough discussed with Teri Thompson, Vice President for Marketing and Media at Purdue University, her newly released book “Tuning into Mom:Understanding America’s Most Powerful Consumer“, which will be available September 15th.
Q. What motivated you to write “Tuning into Mom?”
A. Frustration. Inspiration. Challenge. Due to my work with the moms segment while at State Farm, I knew there was a marketing story that had not been told about how to segment the moms market differently across a range of categories. I am amazed– and frustrated– at the revenue lost because of missed marketing opportunities and the lack of understanding of decision drivers. I was also inspired by the work of others, like Marti Barletta, whose books helped illuminate the importance of marketing to women. Probably most of all, I love a good challenge and I love sharing what I know, so capturing these insights in a book seemed like an obvious undertaking, especially when my talented friend Michal Clements agreed to co-author.
Q. Why should marketers pay attention to moms?
A. Marketers should pay attention to moms because they are the chief procurement officer of most households. They wield considerable purchasing influence and purchasing power, often passing along brand preferences to their children. There’s an old joke that says “Women don’t gossip, they advertise!” This is particularly applicable to moms, who often share product preferences and customer service experiences (both positive and negative) with their peer groups. So, not only are they controlling more than 85% of household budgets, their influence is impacting the purchase behavior of their children and their friends.
Q. How do moms influence the college selection process?
A. Mom is the most trusted advisor for teens and young adults when it comes to big life decisions (like college). Most moms are very involved in their child’s college selection process, often helping with the research process, taking the child on college visits, and in many cases, recommending their alma mater. As we conclude in the book, mom’s recommendation can be a significant influence on a child’s decision. One story in the book illustrates this, “My mom was extremely involved (in the college selection process), did all of the research, and showed me a list. She would set up the visits with the admissions office… I was completely happy, she did and amazing job, went above and beyond. During high school she kept me focused….” This story was told by a college freshman, whose mother largely controlled the college research process for both her and her brother. So mom helps tactically (research, visits, etc.) but more importantly, she helps strategically, shaping the agenda and the thinking through her communication with her child.
Q. What can colleges do to market to moms more effectively?
A. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Help mom and her child discover whether your college is likely to be a good ‘fit’ for her child. Help her make the visit a success with tips (e.g., hang back on the tour, where to stop for a bite to eat that the child will get a feel for the campus life etc). If you get her name, thank mom for the visit (her child probably won’t). Research and seek to understand. NOTHING is more important than understanding one’s target, one’s audience, and this is especially critical when it’s mom. There also may be opportunities to celebrate moms who have completed their education while being a mom, helping her be a role model for her children and reinforcing her educational values.
Q. How has the book influenced your work in marketing at Purdue?
A. Well, it certainly extended my working hours! In all seriousness, the book-coupled with my marketing philosophy (what I fondly refer to as the A,B,C’s of marketing: about the customer, build the brand, combine art and science), compelled me to focus on parent communications and the parental experience during college visits, orientations, and transitions, as well as to keep mom in mind as a consumer of all institutional messaging.
“Tuning into Mom: Understanding America’s Most Powerful Consumer“, will be available September 15.