BlogHer ’09 – How NOT to Market to Moms

Let me start this by saying almost every brand/advertiser/sponsor at BlogHer '09 did an outstanding job of connecting with the women at the conference.

But there was one brand that stumbled – Nikon. At their invitation only event, they turned away moms who brought their babies.   The reason was apparently that the restaurant where the event was being held had a 'No babies" policy.

This is a classic case of "the devil is in the details."

Mamapundit has a must read article about the event – Nikon's antisocial media relations at BlogHer '09.  

Nikon held an invitation-only, evening event to promote their brand to, and curry favor with high-influence MOMMYbloggers, but then the brand’s event planners literally disallowed women with babies from attending, even though the whole point of Nikon’s party was to make friends with the bloggers and encourage them to promote Nikon products. When planning their party, did Nikon maybe think that BlogHer was actually a conference for 62-year old male bloggers who mostly write about the stock market? Because to be sure, those guys wouldn’t likely have babies with them, or need/want to bring them to a party. But mombloggers? Women who blog about their babies for their readers who have babies? Uh, yeah. Some of these women are pretty likely to have babies on board. Duh.

It would have been ill-advised enough had Nikon simply suggested to invitees that they leave their babies behind (you know, maybe back at the hotel bar, tossing back a few cosmopolitans with the other babies whom Nikon shut out). But Nikon took it a step further and actually refused to let women into the limo and party if they showed up with a baby.

Go read the full article – it's very well written and thought out.   Read it now.  I'll wait.

I think momapundit sums it up nicely:

Let me be clear that I am not trying to paint Nikon as some sort of corporate bad guy. I’m not suggesting that anyone avoid their products or badmouth the brand, and I have no idea whether Nikon is or is not a company that in general does a good job supporting family-friendly events and promotions. However, I am saying that the single example of the brand’s social media outreach efforts that I’m criticizing was very badly planned and executed. Period. Maybe it was a one-off mistake -albeit a very public one – but if I ran Nikon’s PR efforts, I’d be asking some questions today.

My closing advice would be this – when you are marketing to women, pay attention to all the details.  She certainly is.


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13 Responses to BlogHer ’09 – How NOT to Market to Moms

  1. Holly Buchanan says:

    @TheBloggess had this insightful twitter post about the situation:
    First rule of PR: Never turn away a baby at a party. They drink much less than adults so you save on alcohol costs.

  2. Fed up says:

    This story is ridiculous. BlogHer is about female bloggers, not MOMMYbloggers specifically. It’s insulting to women bloggers to just assume that all women who blog MUST be talking about their babies (and they MUST have them in tow)! Many of them don’t even have kids, and there are plenty who do have kids but choose to blog about other things. Women are not defined by motherhood.
    Apparently these women were never taught good manners, or they would have known that an invitation specifies who is invited, and only those whose names are printed on the invitation are welcome. They should have called to inquire about bringing the baby (and, from what I’ve heard, many were smart enough to do just that). But the bottom line is that unless you are clearly named on the invite, you are not invited. Babies are no exception.
    What I took from this was not how stupid Nikon was for turning away babies, but how self-centered and entitled many mommies are. It gives the rest of us a bad name.

  3. I can see both sides to this coin. I have four children ranging in age from 12 to 20. Having been through all the stages of infant to toddler with them I can recall many meals that were upset because of their behavior, so I do understand how a restaurant would say No babies just for the peacefulness.
    However, I also recall those early stages when my babies were so young I would not leave them, or I was nursing and needed them close. During those stages restaurants that allowed babies were a necessity. Moms deserve a meal out too!
    Although not all female bloggers are mothers, all female bloggers are FEMALE, and the chances are that a majority of them WILL have children or babies. When a women’s convention, which caters to many mommy bloggers, puts on a luncheon it would be halfway expected for considerations to be made in advance to ensure that new moms would feel welcome to bring their little ones.

  4. Chinese Dude says:

    urgh, some forethought should have gone into that decision.

  5. Cara says:

    I have to agree with the second comment. While I was supportive of babies being at the conference and I thought the lactation lounge was awesome, I can’t believe that a mother would just assume that her baby was welcome at an evening cocktail event (not a baby-friendly event anyway) held outside of the conference. If I had brought an infant, I would have confirmed with every party I was planning to attend, since the women did have to RSVP, that it was okay to bring them beforehand. That’s just courtesy in my book.

  6. I think the problem I have with how you present this is that you say “the brand” stumbled. If your metric for gauging a brand’s success at this conference is a cocktail party then I think the discussion is just getting started.
    This private event was the beginning of a conversation for Nikon with part of the community of Blogher attendees and there was a glitch with the clarity of the invitations and the location. That is all. There is a difference in getting it wrong as a brand and getting wrong as an events planner.
    A conversation with a brand or their reps is a two way street and it does no good to blurt your end of the conversation into the twittosphere if one is committed to engaging in the dialogue that will further brand relationships with bloggers and mombloggers.
    I am likewise fed up with mommyblogger + influence = brands walking on eggshells. How is the #nikonhatesbabies hashtag and then not correcting misconceptions very different from the purported Crocs blackmail incident?
    Nikon was one of the first booths I visited not long after the Expo floor opened. I sought them out for conversation and information and came away impressed. This from someone who owns thousands in Nikon cameras and equipment and did NOT get an invite to this exclusive party.
    If we are going to judge event by event whether a brand got their blogger outreach right or wrong, then I surely think we have to hold ourselves to the same standards. At some point brands are going to fatigue at the onslaught of bloggers wanting something from them and giving nothing in return and at this unrealistic standard of perfection of always getting it right.

  7. Fed up says:

    Let me just clarify a point that I may not have made earlier – I’m not expecting mothers with newborns to abandon their babies in someone else’s care. I get that up until a certain age, a child really can’t be left without her mom. But the solution is not to insist that the babies be invited everywhere – the solution is that the MOM STAYS HOME. Does it suck that you have to miss an event? Sure. But no one forced you to have a baby. You made the choice, and you should have known that once you had a baby, there were certain things you couldn’t do anymore. If you didn’t realize that you might not be able to go anywhere/anytime you want with your kid, that’s your foolish mistake.

  8. Holly Buchanan says:

    Fascinating discussion. Really insightful. Thank you to all who are participating.
    Often, a brand is judged by everything it is associated with – fairly or unfairly.
    I can see all sides on this one. I think Nikon could have avoided or reduced the bad reaction by either – A – having the event at a baby friendly location, or B – turning the “no baby” part of the event into a positive by being clear about it up-front, and perhaps positioning the event as a “get-away” night where you got to leave the sippy-cups at home.
    I understand that for moms with younger babies, or moms with no sitter options, this might mean they can’t come. Which would still be a negative.
    But if this had been clearly spelled out in the party invite, they might have avoided the dissapointment of moms expecting to attend, and being turned away that night.
    Which brings me back to the original point of the post – plan ahead and cover all of the details. Know what the moms AND what the non moms want.
    what do you think?

  9. Linda says:

    I am late to this party, but I can’t refrain from adding my two cents. Nikon did NOTHING wrong. Any woman who assumes a cocktail party (that by definition will serve alcohol) is an appropriate place to bring her infant is just mistaken. It’s not Nikon’s responsibility to “clarify” their invitation. My guess is that a female PR person planned this event for Nikon and these negative comments just got her fired. I’m also predicting that next year companies will be less eager to court Mommy Bloggers; so you won’t have to worry about taking your kid to the cocktail party because there won’t be any.

  10. It was great reading this post.Thanks for sharing your views and opinions on the subject.

  11. Kirin says:

    Hmmm. You know… 11 the years of going to restaurants everywhere from Maui, Beverly Hills, Scottsdale and Vegas, I’ve NEVER once been refused to dine with my children – even when they were babies. It just never occured to me that it would even be a possibility. Grant it, there were a few places that didn’t have high chairs because it’s such a rarity that babies came to that particular establishment, but to actually be turned away? That’s a new one!

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  13. Turiko says:

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