7 Ways to Better Marketing in 2016

Let’s start the new year right: out with the old and in with the fresh.

#1 Get off the training wheels articles

Dear content experts: We know that images are processed 60x more than text. We also know that tweets with images get tons more shares than those without. We get it. There are hundreds of articles on these basics. If you want more SEO, be less of a sheep and more of a leader. Got an interesting take on why Twitter sucks for certain businesses? Or an argument to do long-form blogging instead of 500 words? Bring it. Make us think, provoke us and push us further in our education, don’t give us the same-old.

#2 No more gobbling up junk food infographics

Ratios are important, including infographics. For instance, when the largest element of an infographic is the logo of the company that produced it, it’s a clear warning sign. Many infographics these days are filled with fluffy, contextless stats aimed at showcasing themselves for shares and/or hopping on popular culture (not very well). We have more innovative data visualization opportunities than ever. Let’s use this information to educate and inspire ideas, not dumb down readers.

#3 Overthrow the content monarchy drivel

…Is so 2013 (I’m guilty myself). No more using “content is king” or corollary: “content is queen” context, engagement or anything else that is sidekick to the King. (and why does the Queen always have the helping role?) These cliché terms are ubiquitous and mean nothing anymore. We’re way beyond this revelation (see #1). It’s time for the next level analysis when we write about content. Speaking of which…

#4 Doctor’s orders: marketing does not cure cancer

I do suggest one new monarchy term: “Content is the new court jester”. We’re a pretty humorless bunch. We do have the Condescending Corporate Facebook page, Clickhole, recaps of social media flubs, and the occasional catch-all. But more laughs and less self-importance is the prescription for what ails us. There are brands that get humor thankfully. Yes, meaty, relevant content is an essential ingredient for smart marketing strategy and contributes to revenue (fingers crossed), but let’s have some fun, people.

#5 A fresh litter is worth 10 copycats

A blog post compiling expert views is one thing, but regurgitating others’ ideas with few word changes has a centuries-old legal term: plagiarism. It’s spread online like rancid butter. If you have an opinion, state it and back up with well-thought ideas and research. While we’re at it, let’s do away with hijacking trending stories unless an authentic connection is there. The passage of time often reveals more interesting or thoughtful insights. Better yet, let the story ride out its 15 minutes and write about something original.

#6 Social media deserves a demotion

There, I said it. While social media continues its star billing, advertising (save for ethically ambigious “sponsored content”), events, and everything else in the marketing wheelhouse is relegated to the D-list. Social also gives  click-bait culture a huge boost. True, social media disrupted how we communicate with each other and brands, but ALL marketing is a part of the promotion landscape. Young marketers are taught to burrow heads into their screens 24/7 without understanding or caring about what they can learn by looking up and around. All pieces of the promotion pie are part of our rich legacy. (P.S. Apple does billboards, so you know it’s still cool).

#7 Time travel to forward-thinking content 

There are tons of articles about “next year…” this time of year, but what about visionary pieces that look at marketing five or 10 years down the road? The internet of things, mobility, and other technologies are reshaping the way we market. Let’s peek into future so we can plan for the Next Big Thing (or avoid a trending rat hole). Like: why virtual reality will change the way we shop or how robots are invading into journalism . Let’s learn about these futuristic ideas now and start planning for what’s to come . Even if these predictions never come true, it opens our minds to new possibilities and ways of thinking.

Here’s to a great marketing year in 2016….hold the filler.







What Becomes of Content in 2015?

cwordThe word “content” has supplanted itself as The Marketing Word in 2014, to the point that I’m hard-pressed to find a digital headline or article without it this past year. Then there are the white papers, conferences, books, and even the Content Marketing Institute (sounds very heady, doesn’t it?). You get the idea. But let’s get some perspective here: Content, in all its incarnations over the years, was simply called something else—be it copy, copywriting, promotion, website content, marketing blurbs, plain old writing, insert big etcetera here. With the rise of social media and other digital marketing to further a brand—whether posts or podcasts, vines or viral videos—this marketing expansion now sits under the same umbrella: Content. One and all. The blending of terms combined with the craving for sky high shares brought to the forefront big changes swirling around in advertising, journalism, and marketing the past several years. Some good, some not so good. I believe we reached a tipping point in 2014 and are venturing to the point of no return. Sure, there is plenty of smart, insightful, and creative content out there, but it is overshadowed by junky digital filler caused by “content mania” and insatiable need to feed the social media sharing beast. Let me explain.

Sponsored Content, aka Native Ads

This kind of promotion has been around for ages in other forms (corporate advertorial in trade magazine, anyone?) But online sponsored content is a bit more dangerous in such prolific quantities. Why? It’s more than a hoodwink; it confuses consumers expecting unbiased articles, whether they care or not.

Sponsored content has seen explosive growth in the past few years due to the expansion of digital publishers, coupled with news outlets desperately looking for a panacea to cover plummeting ad profits. Mission definitely accomplished, but the tricky (read: ethical) part is the barely-there line between “real articles” and those brought to us by our favorite and not-so-favorite brands. Even the bastion of buttoned-up news, the New York Times, got into the sponsored content business. You see, the lines have really (really) blurred, even for the Gray Lady. The FCC stepped in to help consumers identify sponsored content, but many readers eat it up if it’s “interesting” no matter how indigestible the thought of brand involvement might be. Studies show it decreases trust of content, but it doesn’t stop them from clicking.

Brand Journalism

Which leads us another trend from the content explosion—brand journalism—companies who deploy articles the way a news reporter might—factual information? Yes, but with words that supports the brand’s message, liifestyle, or agenda. This content fuels brands with a great resource for well-written blogs, C-level ghostwriters, and sponsored content, not to mention spawning new careers for jaded journalists, frustrated fiction writers, and corporate careerists looking for a fresh start.

Hootsuite’s CEO Ryan Holmes even nonchalantly dropped a reference to its corporate “newsrooms” at a conference earlier this year. A reach perhaps, but it appears to be the future of The Brand. Welcome to the new blurry world of the “news” where articles you read might not have a clear bias but the source of the materials will.

Attack of the Content Creators

Another way content has taken hold lately is the crazy-big growth of “content creators,” “content experts,” and other fill-in-the-blank content titles (full disclosure: I brand myself this way too). Hardly anyone is simply a “writer” anymore. Sure, including a white-hot industry in your title might make your keywords stand out more, but consider the downside: lots of competitors use this title too, making it a crowded field.

Digital publishing outfits like the Huffington Post, Gawker, and other media companies large and small often won’t pay or divvy out peanuts based on article shares. After all, if you won’t write for free, someone else more hungry for the lure of digital fame will. The more that writers that offer their services without compensation or laughably low pay, the more devalued the profession becomes. This cannot be undone (another disclosure: I have written for zero pay to get my name out there). I get why it happens—it’s called supply and demand—but there is collective power in writers holding out for what we deserve instead of giving in to this pressure.

On their own, none of these trends is necessarily catastrophic for content. But when you put them together it gives me great concern to think where content is going in 2015 with the jumbling of words, images, and audio breeding only as share fodder, the cocktail of news and brand agenda, coupled with the cheapening of writing as a craft, I wonder if we’ve lost some of our core quality standards and beliefs in what content is about. Like the “click-bait headlines” that trick us into thinking we’re getting one thing instead of another, we’re fooling no one but ourselves to say it doesn’t matter in the future.

Image: Velocity Partners

What Marketers Need to Know From Ad:Tech San Francisco

Early in my career as an advertising manager at a software company, we used a fax machine to place ad insertion orders. Guess what? Those are still in use at many companies, according to AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, who delivered the opening keynote last week at ad:techSF. It was just one of many inflection points for an industry that is rolling in dough but still playing catch-up with the pace of the world. And then there was the appearance of P.Diddy/Puff Daddy/whatever he’s calling himself today… (but we’ll save that for the end).

The Advertising Industry is Stronger Than Ever (But Still Inefficient) 

To begin with, the number of exhibitors at ad:techSF nearly doubled this year from 2013, a clear sign of growth in the digital ad space (worrisome though on how many companies had the words “spy” or “facial recognition” staring back at me from booth graphics).

eMarketer kicked off the event with some industry stats: Advertising is anticipated to be a $50B business in 2014—that’s a whole lotta media buys. And another huge growth spurt for the current media darling: native advertising: 73% of all publications have adopted some sort branded/sponsored content program. This popular method of advertising has ignited the flailing publishing industry with a model that looks here to stay (learn more about sponsored content here). Despite all the good news, manual inefficiencies still plague the industry (like the aforementioned faxed insertion orders), flying in the face of the digital world’s frenetic pace. Which leads to my next takeaway…

Advertising Needs Better Automation With the ‘Human Touch’

Convergence. Omni channel. Multi platforms. Cross screen. Second screen. Call it what you will, but they all mean basically the same thing—the all-on digital consumer viewing ads on multiple devices. Your potential customers might see an ad on TV and switch to a tablet, meanwhile someone else is viewing it on their phone. The problem is that media buys are transacted in silos so there are not accurate measures of ad performance. And purchasing inventory in separate buckets doesn’t allow for immediate insights into consumer buying  patterns either. Yes, there is real-time bidding but that doesn’t resolve the complex cycle to target, purchase, and analyze an ad campaign’s results in concert, and quickly. This has become a huge thorn in the ad industry’s side at a time of huge growth.

One solution is the potential of “one-stop shopping” for all of these cross-platform buys, but that too has a hitch: Armstrong argues that while there needs to be “programmatic advertising“, the best media buying decisions can only occur with “mechanization”—the human+machine working together. That means computing automation can go so far, but doesn’t have the human brainpower to soak in rich data and make smart decisions on the fly to test or purchase across platforms quickly, or even switch the ad plan altogether. No surprise: AOL will be launching a one-stop solution later this year, and I’m sure other media conglomerates and start ups alike will introduce new methods to attempt to conquer this issue. Either way, the ad industry is clearly thinking about the future and taking steps to resolve the issues.

The Sales Funnel is Disrupted by Digital and Mobile

With the all-on consumer, the traditional sales funnel has become more chaotic and unpredictable for brands and media buyers to navigate. Gone are the straightforward days of TV, print, and radio buys. Cross-platform viewing and buying continues to create disarray to the familiar consumer purchasing process. The Zero Moment of Truth when a person decides to pull the (sales) trigger can no longer be pinpointed in the classic linear path of awareness-interest-intention-purchase. To witness: People spend more time on their computing devices than watching traditional TV in their living rooms (right now the difference is about 2 minutes; in 2018, digital consumption is expected to surpass TV altogether). Add to that, mobile is poised to overtake desktop computers and exceed its usage by 2016. This also underscores the need to have an advertising “central command” to respond to buyers’ behavior quickly.

The Rise of Real-Time Marketing (and it’s Free)

Real-time bidding isn’t the only buzzword these days. Real-time social selling is all the rage too. One of ad:techSF’s smartest and most engaging keynoters was Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes, who shared “secrets” of his company’s success in social marketing (though it appeared he was gently coerced into changing the title of his presentation for effect). Holmes gave examples of how brands can get in on the story of the moment (for no investment) by taking a nimble approach to their content marketing, as when Hootsuite released its version of the Harlem Shake immediately after the original went viral. It included both office staff and the adorable Hootsuite owl mascot (“Be the show, not the commercial”). Holmes also pointed out how companies can amplify and piggy back on an existing campaign, like the JCPenny #tweetingwithmittens, which won the Superbowl ad race with its social media stunt and enabled other brands to get in on the action (ironic given JCPenney’s poor performance off the social media stage, but that’s another story). Holmes also called for company marketing departments to build up their “newsrooms” (yes, folks, this is part of the “branded journalism” movement, it’s a real thing). And if you’re going to tell that story, do it, in Holmes’ words, with “heart.”

The Final Lesson: P.Diddy’s “Keynote” and What Not To Do

This one is easy (unfortunately): 1-Don’t show up 30 minutes late. It’s rude and disrespectful to your audience. 2-It’s best to know what conference you’re attending and why you’re there (side note: might not to tell the audience that you’re unaware of both). 3-Even if you’re asked lame questions by the interviewer, try to respond with answers that might make sense to the audience instead of vague, unrelated statements. 4-Product placement is OK but drinking and mentioning your alcohol-infused “product” the entire time? Not OK. 5-Swearing every other word (even for me, who appreciates some good sailor talk) does not add to your credibility, likability, or intelligence quotient. If you want to get the full effect of the uncomfortable and perplexed vibe in the room, check out the live tweets. 

But back to the good news: the state of the advertising industry has never been stronger, despite the challenges of yesterday’s inefficiencies and today’s complex media buys. The rise of the digital, always-connected consumer leaves a wide open space for brands and media buyers to take advantage of new opportunities to reach and engage them where they are, all the time, and in creative ways. It also means the methods ad purchases are constructed, measured, and responded to will require more sophisticated, converging levels of automation—but also knowing where those human lines should intersect. How that happens, we might not know until next year’s ad:techSF, but undoubtedly a bevy of ad revenue will provide breadcrumbs along the path.

Image: Hotel Marketing Strategies

Sex, Religion, Politics (and a Hitler teapot): Controversial Billboards Revisited

hitler teapotJC Penney  can’t catch a break. First, their epic failure rebranding last year, and now they are in hot water after L.A. drivers found an uncanny likeness to Hitler in a designer teapot highway billboard. Some even claim that the ad copy spells out “Hitler”, (And by the by, there really is a Hitler teapot) Whether a poor joke by a wayward art director, or the vivid imaginings of a Rorschach inkblot, the controversy directed national attention to one of the oldest, tried-and-true methods of advertising: outdoor billboards.

I find it refreshing to see a blast of media coverage for this classic, humble marketing tactic, instead of some brand’s idiotic Tweet or digital campaign disaster. Billboards are a core part of America’s rich advertising history and larger than life on our city streets and highways. The Penney billboard ad also got me thinking about how these signs impact our daily driving lives, especially the ones that get our attention for better (or worse).

With that, ladies and gentlemen…here is my completely subjective list of some of the most controversial billboards as of late. Not surprisingly, the ones that raised the most eyebrows were focused on sex, religion, or politics. Less shocking is that most were taken down after driver complaints, some within 24 hours—but they did what they were supposed to do—get attention.

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Humor Me: Advertisers Go to Extremes to Break Through Web Clutter

prank_golf_1988When I temped at Sun Microsystems in 1988, I worked as a lowly records clerk in the same building as CEO Scott McNealy. April Fools’ Day was always a big holiday at Sun. In fact that year, McNealy’s and another executive’s office were transformed to a complete one-hole, par four golf course, replete with a tee area, sand traps, water hazard with cherub fountain, golf carts, ball washer and bench—but not too many people knew about it outside the company since it was before the explosion of the Internet. If that were today, you can bet there would be YouTube videos gone viral, social media shares, pic retweets, and Facebook “likes” and comments – now it’s remembered with a simple web page archives of Sun April Fools Day jokes.

Times have changed a lot since that day at Sun, but April Fools’ Day pranks are still a staple in many cultures. The difference now is that a worldwide online audience expects über-enterainment with a daily diet of  funny cat videos, humor web sites, and mini-mockumentaries. That’s why it was only a matter of time before brands took notice and started serving up funny on April Fools’ Day too.scope bacon

In fact, the past few years has seen an Olympic-size competition to see which brand can deliver the biggest-budget, cleverest, and over-the top internet joke—usually at their own expense or industry’s peril—and with that, a ton of unpaid publicity.

Now it seems that a growing number of companies are embracing this snarky humor as part of their general advertising strategy.  “Prankvertising”  as its known or “pranks on steroids” and branded entertainment, are now part of this trend: to be as funny as possible, get the most attention, and Internet buzz. Some prankvertising stunts have even provoked lawsuits from its victims.

So why did advertisers start spending so much time and effort poking fun at themselves, other brands, and even their customers and prospects?

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“Showrooming” Stumps Retailers Over the Holiday Season

showroomingWhile retailers put up holiday decorations and readied stores for post-Thanksgiving sales, something stealthy was lurking in the background destined to change brick-and-mortar shopping forever—and they never saw it coming. Talk about a deer caught in Christmas lights.

“Showrooming”, as it’s termed, has changed the face of shopping forever. Definition: When a consumer visits a physical store to scan a bar code with a mobile device, compare prices, and then orders the product online.

According to IDC Retail Insights Survey, this new shopping behavior has risen a whopping 134% in the past year. About 20%, or 48 million adults in the U.S.,will click their way to better deals while big box stores and other retailers are left holding the shopping bag. Turns out these stores were not well-prepared: A recent study revealed almost half of the retailers surveyed had no strategy in place to counter showrooming, and of the 12% that did, tactics included the desperate measure of blocking bar codes.

So how did this popular consumer trend sneak up on retailers? It’s actually plain to see why when you look at the perfect storm of factors that have been brewing over the past few years.

Black Friday Backlash

Black Friday, the traditional kickoff for holiday shopping season, has gotten a black eye for deployable customer and store behavior that seems to get worse each year. Arguably one of the most shameful manifestations of American consumerism, Black Friday has resulted in violence, even death; and less dangerous but no less offensive, post-Thanksgiving sales are now pushed back to Turkey Day itself. Ironically, studies also show that Black Friday sales don’t always add up to the best value for shoppers, especially when it comes to popular purchases like electronics and toys. Add the fine print on in-store availability and other “gotchas”, and Black Friday is more of a bad habit than a holiday sale nirvana.

Online Shopping Popularity

Showrooming has also quietly risen due to the increase of consumers shopping online during holidays. Cyber Monday (which sounds as passé as “I’m on the net”) was cooked up by Shop.org in 2005, declaring the Monday after Thanksgiving as both the day to shop online and an extension of Black Friday. And it worked. Back then, online shopping wasn’t as common due to privacy and trust concerns, but Cyber Monday has grown in double digits annually (save for the 2008-2009 recession), and now ranks as one of the busiest online shopping days of the year. So even though Black Friday and Cyber Monday have naturally promoted each other year over year, online now wins more sales due to price and ease of purchasing.

“Christmas Creep”

Stretching the season to its outer limit, “Christmas Creep,” or “OctoNovemCember”—the present-day holiday shopping time—created another opening for showrooming. Earlier and earlier in the season, advertisers take out their green and red, yuletide music, and other telltale signs that it’s time to start whipping out the credit card for holiday shopping ’til you drop. Even Cyber Monday has morphed into Cyber Week the past few years. This extension of the holiday shopping season gives consumers the green light to start buying gifts early, often, and for a longer time period.

The “5I Shopper”

According to a recent Pew Internet Report, nearly half of the adult American population owns a smartphone, also giving rise to the very connected consumer, otherwise known as the ” 5I shopper“. With smartphone in hand, they are: instrumented, interconnect, informed, in-place, and immediate. Armed with shopping apps, payment options, and a browser, purchases are now made at the speed of clicks. Add to that marketers have gotten savvier about ensuring customers are reminded of what they bought last year, receive customized savings, and other tactics to make it easier for them to buy, buy, buy whenever and wherever they are.

For all these reasons, many retailers were unprepared for showrooming this holiday season. I predict next year this time there will already be strategies to deal with this trend head-on, especially as losses mount on bigger-ticket items. Blocking the ability to scan bar codes, for instance, is not a long-term plan and will only serve to irritate customers.

Retailers can leverage showrooming if they give shoppers what they want: Great customer service, exclusive offers, and most importantly, the lowest or competitive price. Some stores may adopt the Progressive Insurance approach of proactively offering competitive information. Other tactics might include real-time price matching, offers triggered by scanning bar codes, or redirects to a retailer’s online site with instant discounts. (Walmart already has an app that “flips” from the physical to online store when desired to keep you in the store one way or the other).  It will also be critical to ensure that store employees are trained to deal with showroomers and engage with them rather than lose a sale to a smartphone price search.

Of course, if holiday shopping itself gives you a headache altogether, there is the alternative that has become more popular over the years: The art of regifting. In fact 32% of shoppers say it’s OK compared to 25% last year, Not to mention that regifting doesn’t require a smartphone, crowds or spending money. In fact the only place you’ll be “showrooming” is in your unwanted  gift closet.

I am Mommy Blogger: Hear Me Sell

“No pink for my child!” said my sister Sondra before her baby shower. “OK OK” I said. And this was just the beginning of motherhood consumerism angst for her beautiful daughter and my niece. Sondra, fulfilling her lifetime dream of having a  child, was knee-deep into the new world of “Mommy Marketing” a whole universe to her and Auntie Janice too.

Before Barbaraciela—or BC as we fondly call her—was born, I had also heard the term “Mommy Blogger” once or twice, but just as my aunty radar was becoming finely tuned and interest in blogging was growing, I encountered the perfect storm of mommy bloggers at a chance meeting at Blog World in Los Angeles last year. A male friend and I attended a speaker panel about monetizing blogs and were confronted by an all-female, all-mother panel. Both of us were shocked and perplexed: Where were all the other bloggers that were making money? Could my friend be a “Daddy Blogger” someday? What did this all mean? One thing for sure I knew, that Mommy bloggers were a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Admittedly, the term “Mommy Blogger”, even if I were a mother, is not exactly a lofty description (though I recently saw the term “Mompreneur” which should be stricken altogether). I realize the mommy-lingo trend started a while ago with “mommy track,” “mommy wars” and even “mommy porn”, but somehow when discussing parenting, it takes on an infantilized, dare I say demeaning sense. Why not “Motherhood blog” or “Mom blogs” as the prevailing term? Something more…grown up? Not as catchy I suppose.

In any case, their blogging power is backed up: a recent Mommy Blogger infographic reveals some interesting stats on this exploding niche:

  • There are almost 4 million mommy blogs in the U.S — that’s a lotta mammas writing
  • Of those, about 500 have some real pull and marketing power
  • The average age is 37
  • Most active mommy blogs are populated in just six metro regions

The most eye-popping stat in The Digital Lives of American Moms Infographic revealed that a whopping one out of every three bloggers is a “Mommy”. Add to that there are conferences geared just for mommy bloggers (replete with the companies that court them).

I asked my sister about the Mommy blogger trend and her take as a new mother.

Why do you think Mommy Blogger culture has grown so much?

Mommy blogging has taken off crazily as more stay-at-home-moms, or SAHM as they’re called, either work from home or are not working outside the home. Blogging gives them an opportunity to express themselves on an easy-access platform and it has also attracted companies to them to push their products. The blog itself reaffirms these ‘mommies’ as “working” although they may or may not be receiving a paycheck at the end of the day. They might also receive products in return for a good review or a paid sponsorship.

Yes, but marketers have used mothers for decades to push products in advertising. What makes it different with mommy blogs?

Now women themselves are directly marketing and soliciting advice to other women and are sponsored by companies, get paid or get free products for reviews, and even give away products to their readers. It costs the advertisers a fraction of what they’d normally pay to do advertising and they get much more reach and buzz. The marketing starts even before your child is even born since a lot of expert sites link to company web sites, which in turn click to Mommy blogs and create instant-future-worry about everything with your child and preying on insecurity and fear of the new mother. A lot of these sites are focused on the home and safety and how dirt and danger lurk behind every corner of your home. These bloggers take stabs at politics, broken marriages, and sex, but many discuss make-up, clothes, and dolls. In fact, they often appeal to an old-fashioned sensibility reminiscent of the 1950’s and earlier times that praised the cult of domestic femininity.

What do you mean by “cult of domestic femininity”?

If you look at various mommy blogs, they range from stories with self-degrading humor to pompous cries for mommyhood. Yet underlying these blogs are unwritten scripts that embellish the home as a safe and good place that follows current medical advice and corporate marketing themes, especially for warding off germs with cleaning products, baby-proofing the house, promoting the safety industry, nutrition for food products and toy products. Reading all of these blogs, there is no way that any parent can keep up with the sanitation requirements and needs to buy products, so you always feel somehow inadequate. Some of the assertions are backed by “research” and others just give subjective opinions, many of them impassioned and often written in folksy ways to appeal to their readership and to create a community of avid mommy subscribers—that is—anyone who identifies crucially, as, “mommy”.  As for me, being a mother isn’t my only identity. I once scanned “thinking mom” blogs and some were pretty scary—imagine having to distinguish yourself as ‘thinking’—what does that say about how they regard motherhood itself or themselves as women? I especially dislike the blogs on “Me Time.” Who is the “Me” here?

What do you think these mommy blogs are missing?

Few to any mommy bloggers discuss real problems pertaining to the politics of motherhood or to issues surrounding modern-day parenting. They add illusions rather than deal with the social issues like child poverty or women sinking into poverty upon becoming mothers and on-the-job inequalities of working moms. And what of families with two fathers, other-mothers  (aunts, close neighbors, nannies, etc..) and grandparents? Parenting is solely that of “mommy” and no one else.

So essentially these blogs end up serving as a mouthpiece for motherhood and marketers?

Yes, and they are also a lightning rod for all the “Disneyfication” of products and consumerism seen in these blogs through cross-promotion. For instance, my daughter needed a Band-aid and the only one available at the time was one with a Sesame Street character. Disneyfication starts so young, gets settled in with TV and other advertising and is reinforced with blogs directly or indirectly pushing products. It also feeds in to the “pester power”–kids see something somewhere and want to have it, like Dora the Explorer on a box of cereal or seeing Winnie the Pooh toothbrush on BC’s first dentist visit. It’s instantly fun and memorable for them and of course they want it. It’s hard to avoid since it’s pretty much everywhere you look and go.

So how do these blogs end up affecting you as a parent?

The principal focus of most of these blogs is to be the “perfect mommy”:  This means being the best consumer of kids’ products, having expertise on child development, and being the child’s first teacher of every imaginable thing from play date etiquette, hygienic practices, and pre-school know-how as well as self-control in handling kiddo’s tantrum—all with a smile and a sense of humor. Between the blogs and the pushing of products everywhere I look, I see a world where marketers want my daughter to grow up as quickly as possible so they can sell her the next stage of her life. It feeds into that sexualization of childrens’ clothing, particularly girls, with faux fur, “sexy bikinis” and the like. Think: pester power planning for young women.

So what can a parent do on an individual basis to avoid the mommy marketing trap?

Well for starters, we don’t have a TV—although I do watch it sometimes on my computer—so BC is not blatantly exposed to even more product marketing. We find the alternative industry is big enough that you can find practically anything. We buy her clothes and toys in our neighborhood second-hand stores where there is a lot of variety—and from different decades—and not just TV and movie characters and logos. We also trade clothes with family and friends. We buy our food principally from our neighborhood co-op and our local farmer’s market so we have a say on what we want to see there and support local growers. We also have a small p-patch where we grow vegetables so BC can see where they come from. She is well-aware that she has many important caregivers in her life—it’s not me alone who is raising her. We aren’t trying to be perfect (hyper) parents but we are trying to be critical consumers and join organizations and read up, when we can and have the time, to be a part of a growing movement of people who don’t want multi-national corporations raising children. Our biggest hope and goal is that our daughter is happy without thinking she needs certain things.

More about Mommy Blogging and Marketing:

Why Brands Love Mommy Bloggers

Much Ado About Mommy Bloggers, Mobile Apps, And Paid Posts

The Mighty Mom Bloggers

Mom Bloggers and Brands: What They Want, What You Need

Why I hate Mommy Blogs and Hate Even More the Daddy Blogs That Don’t Exist        

 Why Mommy Bloggers Are Great For Product Marketing (be sure to read the comments)

Photo credits: Bruce Sallan, Our Busy Homeschool, Z Magazine