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Ogilvy study reveals the diversity of modern Chinese mothers

31 March, 2010

Misreading the cultural tensions surrounding this demographic can have real consequences for brands

— There are an estimated 320 million working mothers in China, more than the entire population of the United States. They are the driving force of the economy and the wheels of industry. They form the bedrock of new markets, pillars of growth and drive
domestic consumption.

And while this vital and influential demographic represents a tantalizing opportunity for those
marketers that can offer something relevant, practical and meaningful to them, it is presumptuous to assume that Chinese mothers are similar to each other, and will therefore respond to marketing messages in the same way. This is the argument made in “Mum’s the Word,” the latest study by Ogilvy & Mather Greater China’s consumer insights and trends group, Discovery.

"Brands should help mothers solve real life problems," said Shenan Chuang, chief executive of Ogilvy & Mather Group China. “Selling becomes easier and more effective when that happens first. So we set out to gain an insight into Chinese mothers’ perceptions of the world around them and their place in it.”
“What we found was that many mothers in China feel marginalized by their representation in
society and the marketing discourse,” added Chuang, highlighting that many brands are falling short of connecting with them.

“The superwoman stereotype of one that ‘perfectly balances a career while raising a child is an oversimplification of the diversity in mothers’ lifestyles, aspirations and ambitions for themselves and their children,” said Kunal Sinha, Executive Director – Discovery, at Ogilvy & Mather Greater China. “At the same time, Chinese moms aren’t ‘helpless’ either and are certainly not in need of being rescued by brands – despite how they might be represented in contemporary advertising.”

“Fundamentally, Chinese mothers see themselves as being in control of the product; she is the hero, not the brand. That’s the key insight that can make the difference for our clients and brands that are looking to reach this coveted consumer group,” Sinha added.

Notably, the study finds that: 

All mums are not the same. The lives and ambitions of 320 million individuals vary
dramatically from that of each other, as well as from their parents’ generation. Within the
hubbub, three broad categories of mothers were identified - based on their personal goals,
financial independence, self-image, beliefs and expectations of their children:

1. Go-getting mums (29.4%)
– These mums look to prove themselves within what remains a male dominated
professional environment, and subsequently have to balance their careers with the
responsibility of being a mother. They rely on outside help, such as ayis or housekeepers.
A recurrent theme amongst such mothers was the desire for acknowledgement of their
endeavors from their husbands, in-laws and the wider society.

2. Easygoing mums (34.9%)
– They have adopted a naturalistic approach to their child’s development, with the primary
focus being health and happiness. Expenditure is diverted primarily towards their child’s
personal welfare, from which they too derive happiness.

3. Dedicated mums (35.7%)
– Of the three categories of mothers, it is the Dedicated Mum that we see most often in the
marketing discourse. This group places the child at the centre of all their endeavors.
Subsequently, they feel that they are judged by their child’s successes or failures. They
instill strict routines for their children in an effort to assume control over their fate. The
only parts of their lives where children were given any freedom were in choosing their
own clothes and food, when eating out.

For more information download the press release PDF.

About “Mum’s the Word”
This study an in-depth qualitative and quantitative exploration into the current mindset of the
modern mother in China; to work out what has changed for her, how she sees herself and the
world around her and what makes her tick. From June to September 2009, we conducted field
research in seven Tier 1 and 2 cities across the length and breadth of China (Shenyang, Wuhan, Chongqing, Xi’an, Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen), visiting 165 homes. We spoke with mothers about their hopes and aspirations; we combed through their photo albums; met their children; went shopping with them and asked 15 mothers to keep diaries of their daily routines for a week. Unsurprisingly, some of these took the form of blogs.

With CTR Research, an associate WPP company, we completed a quantitative study among 1,569 mothers with children between the ages of 0-15 ; probing them on their attitudes towards family, life, children, success, education, finance, the media, entertainment, health, cosmetics and key personal observations.

About Ogilvy & Mather Group China
Ogilvy & Mather Group China (  is the largest marketing communications network in China. It offers the full range of marketing communication disciplines including advertising, direct marketing, interactive media, database management, public relations, graphic design and related marketing disciplines.

As Brand Stewards, the agency works to leverage the brands of its clients by combining local
know-how with a worldwide network, creating powerful campaigns that address local market
needs while reinforcing the universal brand identity. The hallmark of the agency’s brand-building capabilities is 360 Degree Brand Stewardship®, a holistic approach to communications, using what is necessary from each discipline to build a brand.

Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide ( a subsidiary of WPP (NASDAQ: WPPGY), is one of the largest marketing communications networks in the world, with 495 offices in 120 countries, specializing in advertising, relationship and interactive marketing, public relations, sales promotion and related services.

For more information or photos, please contact:
Sarah Guldin
Senior Manager, Corporate Communications
Ogilvy & Mather China
o: +86 10 8520 6552

Acrobat Document ogilvy_pressrelease_mothers_mar10_guid3445df8a5de2.pdf

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