Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"Shades of Otherhood"

A rising and increasingly confident chorus of childless/free voices has been asserting itself in the blogosphere and in the media over the last few years.

Now there's a new study that provides some hard data and insights about us as a group. "Shades of Otherhood: Marketing to women without children" was produced by DeVries Global Public Relations and inspired by the work of Melanie Notkin, founder of Savvy Auntie and author of the recently published book Otherhood (which I reviewed here

As many of us have long suspected, the study proves that we're a large, growing and formidable market segment that's been pretty much ignored -- until now.  But the tide is turning! 

The study starts by trotting out that old clichéd image of childless women = "Sex and the City" -- but goes on to acknowledge that "the Otherhood looks relatively little like the stereotypes that have reigned in popular culture,"  and adds that "Regardless of the reason (or reasons)[i.e., that women don't have children], marketers and brands—who have traditionally been more mom-focused—should be paying attention to this growing block of consumers... Our study revealed she is a with-it and wise woman who has enormous untapped potential as a consumer and influencer." (Wow, does it ever feel good to read that!!)
"Notkin refers to what she calls "a collective case of mom-opia – the myopia of seeing the world through mother-colored glasses, seeing motherhood as the only the only normal, natural way to be." From magazine covers featuring the next Hollywood baby bump to a vast number of advertising campaigns targeted to moms and families, other women are often left out. Now it’s time for the conversation to follow where the demographics are trending: women fall into more than the two narrow categories of wife and mother."
If we're not mothers, then who are we?
  1. We're savvy and well connected, with large social networks, both "real life" and online.
  2. We have "purse power" -- but we're not exactly Carrie Bradshaw. We spend more than moms do, and we spend more on ourselves, but we don't blow our money on shoes and restaurants -- we buy groceries, cook meals, clip coupons and look for bargains, just like moms do.
  3. We have more leisure time (and we appreciate that freedom). Travel is a passion for many of us, and we take longer vacations than moms do.
  4. Career and love are our top priorities. And it's not that we've chosen careers over love and family -- we just want to make sure we're well-established professionally before we bring husbands and/or children into the picture. "Having it all" doesn't just mean balancing a career and a family. For a childless woman, it might mean travel, more leisure time with friends, and volunteer work -- "a life that has meaning and purpose."
  5. Most of us love kids -- even those of us who don't necessarily want kids of our own. 80% of non-moms are actively involved with nieces, nephews and the children of friends.
  6. We're happy. "Women of the Otherhood are finding happiness, even if it looks different from the happiness they had expected for themselves or that society expects for them."
The study goes on to offer tips and suggestions for marketers who want to reach the Otherhood -- including this cautionary note:
"Brands and marketers... may mistakenly use the mom archetype as an aspirational model for non-moms, ignoring the reality that parenthood, either by choice or circumstance, isn’t a reality for many women these days. There’s an opening here to celebrate the many wonderful things in her life, even if those don’t include children of her own."
That's just a brief summary of the study's main points. I encourage you to read the whole thing. And then tell me -- what do you think? Do you agree with the findings and observations? Was there anything that surprised you?


  1. I still need to click over and read the study, but given what I know now none of this is surprising. However, I think this is a drastically different picture from the myth of the "childless woman," and that is LONG overdue. Thanks for the summary!

  2. This is a well timed blog as Mother's Day approaches. Thanks!

  3. Here's a cute, short little video produced by the PR company that highlights some of the stats uncovered by the survey: