Saturday, June 11, 2011

Start-Up Watch COD: Mamalode knows Mom Jeans (and Everything Mom) Are Cool

Companies take many different roads in their journeys to success. We imagine that the path from idea in a garage to IPO is a smooth set of steps from Angel Funding to A, then B, and then filing. But the more I dig into the histories of start-ups the more I am convinced that every company has its own unique story.

And here’s a really interesting one. Mamalode, a start-up based in Missoula, MT, is a combined online/offline publication geared to meeting the needs of today’s Mom. The key to Mamalode, it appears, is the idea that it offers a unique form of respect and admiration for the power and wonder of Motherhood.

Mamalode began as a local print publication geared to serving the needs of the local Missoula community. But clearly their content and editorial voice are quite powerful; they soon had paid subscribers in 45 states and several countries around the world.

And how is that editorial voice different? Well, a lot of ways. First, there is a decidedly first person emphasis – one of Moms talking to other Moms about the everyday events in their lives in a style that oozes empathy and alliance. While the writing is often excellent, and professionally driven, its subject matter is right down in there washing out the sippy cups. Further, reader voices aren’t simply given a forum, they are celebrated and highlighted in major ways across the site.

Often in marketing there seems to be a conventional wisdom that the way to connect with Moms is to milquetoast the content, video kids making chaos in a kitchen, and have pictures of frazzled Moms trying to cope.

It’s fundamentally condescension to the people who, more than any other group, control the purse strings of society. And far from being dowdy marms that ubercool adbiz types prefer to look at with either disdain or pity, they are among the strongest, most progressive thinkers and consumers.

I’ve spent many years targeting Moms in my advertising career, and the lessons I have learned boil down to four things:

Moms control pretty much every purchase in a household. Maybe not motor oil brand choice. But other than that…

Even more than information, Moms seek connection – to one another, to their families, and to things and ideas that make life better.

Moms prefer real. Not stereotyped idyllic imagery, and not stereotyped over the top

Mama Chaos. They want to understand how something fits into their routines and makes being a Mom more rewarding.

Moms WANT TO KNOW ABOUT PRODUCTS that can help them. They don’t view marketer messages as an intrusion if they deliver real information and value.

Founder Elke Govertsen is clearly a driving force behind the unique perspective and very rich editorial style of this pub. Here’s how she describes the business imperative of talking to Moms in a way that is meaningful.

When you look at the online presence, the first thing you may notice is that it ISN’T packed with 23 ways to… stories, or how to. They’ve wisely realized that there are more than enough sources for that from the legacy Mommy sites. Not to say that you don’t learn things on the site. For indeed it is impossible not to. But it’s the way you learn – as if you were having a conversation with a real person and sharing give and take, that makes the site so rich and compelling.

From a marketing perspective, the company really embraces marketers, partly out of pragmatism but also because connecting Moms with products that make life better is a key part of their offering. I’d liken it to Oprah’s Favorite Things, in that the team clearly understands that Moms are perfectly happy to learn about and use products that address real needs. That product based solutions aren’t disdained but rather welcomes with open arms.

The Mamalode infrastructure is designed to serve multiple communities, enabling a combination of both regionally driven and national content. Hey, I know that there are lots of local pubs out there, but I wanted to intro you to this property because I really think they are on to something. With an editorial voice that offers lower costs through a combination of professional and UGC content, their more affordable way to do local, and the really compelling and addictive voice of the site, I expect that they will create a significant national media presence – perhaps market by market? – in the months and years ahead. And it didn't get its start at Stanford, or through an A round. But rather through a belief in celebrating the most important people in our families - and our economy.

Thanks to ad:tech for publishing this first.

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