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Marketing to a Country in Crisis: What Do Moms Want to Hear from Brands Right Now?

BY Diane di Costanzo and Dan Rubin

Meredith surveys moms about what they love—and do not love—about branded messaging during the pandemic.

As a media company, Meredith has always had deep insights into the attitudes, behaviors, hearts and minds of the American parent. Across our 40+ brands, we have nearly 210 million social followers, who tell us exactly what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling—especially now, during this time of great upheaval and uncertainty.  

On April 9, Meredith activated its Real Women Talking community, which is comprised of   customizable groups of women who respond candidly to surveys and other research studies. For a new survey called “Communicating in COVID Times1,” we wanted to see how women’s attitudes have changed toward marketing and advertising messages from brands.

Topline findings: Moms are busier than ever. Since mid-March, the vast majority of moms (and all parents) have been confined to their homes, serving as teachers, chefs and peacemakers, as well as performing their WFH jobs, in many cases. Social media and other digital content are lifelines for them—now more than ever. They are aware of branded messaging. And they have opinions about what’s helpful and appreciated and what seems false and disingenuous.

Here, a summary of verbatims from the survey—real women, real responses—with examples of corresponding brand activations.

The Insight: “What they are doing to make things better? Are you stopping making dresses and making masks? Good, tell us about it.”

The Brand: Zappos

The Activation: The online shoe retailer has long earned kudos for its above-and-beyond customer service. In April, it launched its new Customer Service for Anything hotline to help people deal with the pandemic. The company reports providing callers with whatever-you-need solutions, ranging from recommending a new Netflix show to being a good listener during a bout of loneliness. And, for a doctor at Mount Sinai Health System, a source for a supply of pulse oximeters, a medical device used to measure oxygen levels in blood. (Want to give it a try? Call 1-800-927-7671 and press 3.)

The Insight: “Think about what your company can offer to help alleviate the situation. Focus on solutions to current Issues.”

The Organization: Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)

The Activation: Pharmaceutical companies and medical centers have a special obligation to communicate how they are using their resources—especially if those resources could be mobilized to manufacture tests or find a vaccine. Foundry 360 has worked with MGH for 15 years, producing the award-winning Proto content hub to showcase the hospital’s work. Proto’s relevant and rapid-response content has included articles explaining the research around “Why Do Young, Healthy People Die From COVID-19?” and a respected doctor’s views on “When Will We Get a COVID-19 Vaccine?

The Insight: “Care for your employees well. That message gets out and makes me more likely to support your brand.”

The Organization: Johnson & Johnson  

The Activation: Moms know “J&J” as a baby company. But the massive multinational corporation employs chemists, medical researchers and doctors who are considered “essential” during the COVID quarantine. To each of these employees worldwide, J&J gave an award of $1,000. And as part of the company’s COVID-19 Medical Personnel Leave Policy, any medically trained J&J employee was offered a paid leave for up to 14 weeks to work elsewhere and provide medical services during the pandemic.

The Insight“Companies need to convey how they can contribute to and improve our ‘lives on lockdown.’” 

The Brand: Sainte Michelle Wine Estates  

The Activation: On a lighter note, 14 Hands Winery (a Sainte Michelle Wine Estates brand) partnered with HelloGiggles for “What to Drink on #WineWednesdays, According to How Your Day Went.” The social-first activation playfully helps women order up the perfect glass, no wine bar needed.

[1] Source: Meredith Real Women Talking Community, April 9, 2020; Women Age 25-64

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