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Study: Diversity Of Modern Chinese Mothers And The Inaccurate Depictions Of Them

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.

This vital and influential demographic represents a tantalizing opportunity for those marketers who can offer something relevant, practical and meaningful to them. But not all mothers are the same.

This fact is revealed in "Mum's the Word," an in-depth 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.

"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."

A key finding the study highlights is that many brands are falling short of connecting with today's Chinese Mother. This is because even among such a large consumer group, they have different needs depending on their stages of motherhood, where they live in China and whether they are working moms or stay-at-home moms.

"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 are not '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.


Ogilvy Discovery conducted in-depth qualitative and quantitative exploration into the current mindset of the modern mother in China; to examine 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.
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