OK this post could be about the impending mothers day (2 weeks this Sunday, Dads mark your calenders), it could even be a post about how great Mums are but it’s not: instead I want to highlight just how much Mums count as a factor for the toy industry now. On the 16th May ‘Mums Show Live’ will open its doors to a host of companies aiming to show their wares to the mothers community and now that the regular toy shows/fairs are out of the way many companies who are associated with providing family/child orientated products or services are preparing for this event (full list of companies here).
What I think this shows is that Mums are being recognised as a (if not the) major factor in how a family budget gets distributed. Companies are finally starting to recognise the need to pay attention to the parent’s expectations and wishes when trying to sell a product to children. I’ve heard from a number of sources (though I can’t find any statistic to back it up) that Mums make up the vast majority of bloggers and blog readers, and this I could believe. What is clear is that the online presence of mothers is both vast and organised and when a multitude gets organised they typically get powerful. One funny thing about this mum empowerment is the distinct lack of a Dads alternative and this isn’t the fault of mumsnet or any other mother-orientated community, in my experience as a dad it comes down to one thing: we just don’t typically befriend other men just because they are a dad.
Despite a clear common interest and shared experiences many Dads are reluctant to talk to each other, preferring to hang out with the same friends they’ve had for years, regardless of where those friends are in life (single friends, friends in couples with no kids etc.). Maybe we do it to keep in touch with the ‘rest of the world’ (you know non-parents) but I think there’s something deeper going on here. Whilst there are cultural niches set up for mothers to connect within (parenthood seems to act as membership to the exclusive club of Mums), being a dad isn’t as celebrated or inclusive. In some respects, in terms of one’s being seen as a father, it’s a rite of passage; other Dads will have a laugh about their situation and recognise in each other ‘proper men’ or ‘real men’. However, once the mutual respect is in place there isn’t a set-up in which to explore the kinship any further. Culturally it was once the case that Dads were expected to be at work and then at home and occasionally to go hang out with their friends/team/band/workmates etc. and to an extent not much seems to have changed.
I recently watched ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ and in it there’s a group of Dads that often meet in the park and talk about their lives. There’s an element of ‘fight club’ to this group (what passes between them is divulged to no one, especially their wives), which I don’t see working in real life as keeping secrets from your wife isn’t really on the list of advisable/healthy activities for a man. However, the general idea that Dads might hang out with other Dads purely on the basis of their shared status is great. Crieff has its own attempt at this with a Dad’s group where you bring your kids along on a Monday night (I can’t remember specifics about where it’s hosted or exact times, maybe someone could let me know in the comments). This is a fantastic idea and much needed but it has the issue of being a place where kids are probably more likely to mingle than the Dads, perhaps I’m wrong, not having attended yet I don’t really have a say in how the dynamic works out.
Anyway back to Mums, the recognition of Mummy power is on the rise within many different industries (just look at the exhibitor list I linked to earlier in this post) and one thing that is becoming clear is that Mums are definitely seen as the representatives of family households. Dare I say it, they seem to be steadily seen as something like the traditional ‘head of the household’. So I suppose there are two main points I want to try and get across in this post: i) The toy industry (and many others) are starting to take mothers very seriously ii) If anyone has a problem with a particular business tell the Mums, if the complaint reaches a significant number of Mums something will be sent that company’s way and by the sound of things, often, companies will listen to them.
I could harp and moan that Dads aren’t fairly represented but as I think I’ve made clear the kind of representation they get is fair because we Dads (as a group) are not anywhere near as unified under the banner of ‘parenthood’ as the Mums. If we want more representation we’ll just have to work for it, building the same kind of organised setting as groups like mumsnet to allow us to come together and discuss our issues as parents.
So the Mums are our representatives when it comes to family allegiance to providers of products and services. Typically they are the ones that advertisers aim at, they are the ones that companies are scared to anger. The message I suppose is that Mums are powerful, possibly more so than any other demographic group, thanks to their number, their ability to find kinship with other Mums (often solely through that common ground) and their ability, as a group, to disseminate both complaint and compliment. In terms of having a hand in the way many markets will turn Mums have the rest of us beaten hands down. (N.B please don’t take offence at the image on the left, motherhood is a choice that, were women not making it, would leave the human race in a bit of bother in around 75 years, I have no intention of looking anti-feminist by saying this, I simply intend to be realistic about where human beings come from)
I love to hear what people think about topics like this so please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom or on the Fun Junction facebook page. Perhaps people disagree with my depiction of the power of Mums, I’m sure as individuals many mothers have had very different experience to what I’m describing here. However, what I wanted to make clear is that, in terms of getting companies to pay attention, an individual Mum does not have to stand alone and that when Mums, as a group, get mad about something a lot of people not only will listen; they’ll want to listen. Again thanks for reading, feel free to comment to your heart’s content. Cheers, John