The Intriguing New World of Millennial Parents

Every generation of parents has a shared perspective to define the experience of its age group. The Greatest Generation had sense of duty and self-sacrifice surrounding the depression and WWII; boomers had post-war optimism and opportunity; Gen X-ers share their value for education, social change, and media-savviness. We’re comfortable with these groups. We’re familiar with their tendencies. We market to them with confidence and aplomb.  And then we have Millennials….

It’s no secret that parents (and humans) of all stripes love being on social network sites, but Generation Y is the first generation of parents that has begun the road of parenthood fully immersed in the internet.  From the first baby bump, through month-to-month belly updates, to full coverage of their children’s early years, sharing (lots and lots of) photos is just the beginning for Millennial moms, and marketers would be wise to study and understand the behaviors of this landmark group – nascent though they may be.

The Village Square, Redefined

While moms may not be consulting one another in the same physical places of generations past, Millennial parents, loosely defined as people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, have shown no lack of interest in the opinion of their peers, not only using social network sites for entertainment purposes, but heavily relying on them to seek advice from their virtual community. Rather than moms conferring over coffee, at the park, or on long phone chats with their friends, when a question arises, they habitually direct the inquiries to their Facebook feed as a first line of inquiry. With Millennial moms spending an average of 17.4 hours per week on their social networks, it only makes sense. An interesting side-effect is that this focus on an ‘always on’ community is skewing trends toward an increased reliance in general on other mothers – even offline. Data shows the gap is widening between Gen X mom behaviors when it comes to consulting the community. Questions may range from the mundane such as the going rate for a babysitter, to more urgent questions like how to get marker off the wall (Purell, duh!) And it doesn’t stop there: Millennial parents also use crowd-sourced homeopathic remedies for things like ear infections or colic. Cod liver oil to help too much earwax? You’ve got it vetted by millions of moms before you even head to the pharmacy.

Millennial Moms spend an average of 17.4 hours per week with their social networks.

Moving beyond medical remedies and parenting advice, parents also acquire the where-to-go and what-to-do information from Facebook pages and groups. Stuff like information about the newest and trendiest indoor playgrounds, family restaurants and ‘mommy & me’ yoga. This has supported the increase in popularity of local parenting groups like Red Tricycle and Jen’s List – popular tools offering insight into different local spots to help child development and give mom a much-needed few hours where kids can entertain themselves.

This new norm of asking for advice online has also spread to the rise of alternative sources for news, education, and self-help for parents. Why buy an academic book at Barnes & Noble when instead you can read 37 posts in your Facebook feed on things that validate your tactics, teach you to be a better person, and help you forgive yourself for your imperfections?  Blog posts like “10 Signs you’re a Type A mom”, “How to raise a powerful girl”, “10 Things I’ve taught my son” and “Guides to Private Schools and how-tos for applying to public magnets” offer parenting advice that are up-to-date and easy-to-follow guidelines.

There is also a wide range of online tools for parent management. Millennial moms use Evites to generate paperless posts for birthday party invites and thank-you letters. Millennial parents also turn to blogs like mommy and daddy blogs for crafts to receive advice on how to build the best Legos ever or how to melt broken used crayons into shapes with cookie molds. Because decorating kids’ rooms with a niche character in a movie is no longer cool, moms actively utilize Pinterest or Google image search so that they could make their toddlers room as a fairy forest.

A Very Data-Generous Culture

While marketers may not still fully understand the behaviors of Millennial parents, it isn’t from a shortage of data. Beyond their opinions and stories, Millennial moms regularly share their locations by checking in at places like indoor playgrounds, parks and frozen yogurt shops - exposing their family lives to the watchful eyes of marketers at an unprecedented rate.  But it’s not just over-sharing, it’s an intrinsic difference relating to Millennials’ view on sharing and privacy – on one hand, politically motivated to protect their online privacy, while on the other, a true desire to make their most minute movements and thoughts known.

The result is, as more and more parents rely on online resources, targeted ads replace telemarketers. With today’s data, advertisers are able to track what parents are looking at online, what they say they like, and how their movements confirm or deny that story. With razor-sharp focus, they can produce, test, and execute ads for their exact targeted interest groups, and market products in an ever-more-efficient way.  And as for moms? Well, they’re being catered to in a way that fits their interests – only a few more years will tell whether the big data being gathered surrounding them will yield a massive payoff compared to previous generations.  But we do know one thing – we’ll definitely be well aware of how moms feel about it.

BabyCenter 21st Century Mom® Insights Series,

2014 Millennial Mom Report

Weber Shandwick, Digital Women Influencers: Millennial Moms, 2013

interpret - New Media Measure - Q4 2013