5 Cultural Tensions Brands Should Understand to Win with Asian Moms

03 Sep 2014|ahluwaliad

The emerging middle class continues to grow in Asia and marketing to moms here requires brands to navigate the path between deeply embedded cultural norms and emerging attitudes and behaviours.  Successfully identifying these tensions helps brands play a broader role in moms’ lives and also drives relevant product innovation and line extension.  Here are 5 key cultural tensions that moms in Asia face, as they seek to master multiple skills like an Olympic triathlete and some examples of how brands have helped them get there.

1. Fast track vs. Natural

IllumaNo pressure?  46%  of Hong Kong parents spent more than 6 months preparing their children for a kindergarten interview including mock interview training.  Children, as young as 3, in China will take additional English lessons, piano, violin and much more.  Parents start early and go to extraordinary lengths to help their kids stand out.

Some Asian moms are questioning the tiger mom ethos just as UNICEF’s ‘Reclaim childhood’ campaign touts the benefits of children getting free play time. Illuma, an infant milk formula helps moms strive for a balance between the extremes. It launched a ‘Children Personality Assessment’ as a useful guide for moms to design their own nurturing strategy for their children, unleashing their potential naturally without pushing the children too hard unnecessarily.

2. Triathlete tensions: Family, work and me

HuggiesTraditionally in Asia a ‘good mom’ sacrificed her personal ambitions and goals for her children.  While attitudes have evolved we still see 43% of qualified women with children leave their career or put it on hold.  Why? The usual suspects: Long working hours, lack of established childcare facilities and inflexible working arrangements.  This has given rise to Mompreneuers  – who seek success as moms and as professionals.  Huggies tapped into this tension with its ‘MomInspired’ campaign.  It arranged professional classes and funded 12 moms with US$15,000 each to actualize their ‘unique baby product idea’ targeting an unmet parenting need.  This campaign leveraged moms’ expertise to create a slew of great Huggies branded products and empowered their key target (moms) to overcome the family/work/me tension and win triathlon gold.

3. The buck still stops here

Asia Mum storiesWorld over, and no different in Asia, moms continue to shoulder the overwhelming majority of household duties, particularly after they have had children.  In S. Korea alone mothers with young children spend nearly five times as long looking after their family and home as fathers do.  Despite that, moms still suffer ‘mother’s guilt’ – always feeling like they are coming up short and not doing enough.

Both types of moms have different desires: Working moms feel guilt and stress because of the divided attention between work and home.  Full-time moms want to be recognized for their effort to the family. P&G tapped into this emotion with its beautiful ‘Thank You Mom’ campaign applauding and thanking moms everywhere for being brilliant at “the toughest job in the world”.

4. First vs. Second mom

Kowloon diaryIn Singapore, 1 in 6 families employed stay-at-home helpers take care of children 24/7.  Hong Kong is similar with 1 in 8 families employing helpers. Moms are faced with a dilemma.  On the one hand wanting their kids to be loved, nurtured and taken care of well while on the other feeling jealous, insecure and at times threatened about her position in her child’s life.

Kowloon Dairy, tapped into this deepest fear in their TVC – where the helper took care of the child while mom worked.  However mom’s reassurance turned to a feeling of displacement when she saw the close and loving relationship between child and helper.  With a humorous touch, Kowloon Dairy offered its fresh milk to moms as a way to gain back their kid’s heart.

Hallmark launched recordable storybooks to enable working mothers to feel more connected to their kids.   Moms record their voice to read to their children through the recordable storybooks no matter where they are.

5. Love of my life vs. Mother of my child

MaeilPregnancy often changes the dynamics in relationships.  Much of the focus previously reserved for each other shifts entirely to the baby.  In Hong Kong, 70% of couples reduced the time spent with their spouses by more than half, post baby.   In many parts of Asia spouses even begin to call each other as Mom or Dad instead of using their first names.

Maeil in Korea, organized an event called ‘Absolute babymoon’, invited couples to enjoy 2 days in a luxurious hotel and participate in yoga and networking sessions with other couples. This event aimed to help the expecting moms and dads out of their busy lifestyles and preparation for the newborn to relax and enjoy being a couple again – person moments.

Brands may not have “solutions” to resolve these cultural tensions, but acknowledging them is a good start.  Acknowledgement is a strong platform for building broader relevance in a mom’s life as a partner, an enabler and ultimately forging a deeper more emotional relationship with her.


Image credits: Thinkstock, Illuma, Huggies, P&G, Hallmark, Kowloon Dairy & Maeil


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