5 Brands Successfully Marketing to Parents | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

5 Brands Successfully Marketing to Parents

By Joanna Fragopoulos

Parents are an important target audience for many brands, but the diversity within the segment can pose a challenge for even the savviest of marketers. Parenting comes in many forms: single parents, dual-income, heterosexual parents, LBGTQ+ parents, foster parents, just for starters. And yet, many companies only seem to market to one demographic and lump parents together as married mothers and fathers, even though this type of family is not necessarily as common as it once was.

Brands can help promote positive change, for instance, by offering more realistic and authentic portrayals of families, from their joys to their struggles. Parenting is hard, and it would help parents to see themselves represented so as not to feel alone in the journey; this year, Pew research found that 62 percent of parents felt "being a parent has been at least somewhat harder than they expected" (and specifically, 30 percent of moms feel this way and 20 percent of dads). In other words, a lot of people may be struggling behind the scenes or may want more support, but don't know how to ask for it. 

Pew's research echoes the challenges of parenting in the U.S., finding that "one-in-four U.S. parents say there have been times in the past year when they could not afford food their family needed or to pay their rent or mortgage" in 2022. Further, Pew found that parents are worried about their kids' mental health, with "four-in-ten U.S. parents with children younger than 18 say[ing] they are extremely or very worried that their children might struggle with anxiety or depression."

And what about single parents, for example? Statista reported that "there were about 15.78 million children living with a single mother in the United States, and about 3.44 million children living with a single father" in 2022. Pew also found that "52 percent of cohabiting mothers and 44 percent of unpartnered mothers say there have been times when they didn't have enough money for their rent or mortgage, compared with 19 percent of those who are married." 

In addition, Pew also reported that 16 percent of children are living in what the Census Bureau terms "blended families," which is a household with a stepparent, stepsibling, or half-sibling. Further, according to Family Equality, up to "3.7 million children under age 18 have an LGBTQ+ parent." Essentially, the U.S. family is varied and diverse, and doesn't fit neatly into a stereotype or "one size fits all" image.

Jenn Chen, president and CRO at Connatix, also stressed the need for marketers to leverage contextual advertising as a way to target more effectively and inclusively, stating that "contextual targeting helps advertisers figure out whether publishers produce content surrounding issues of high concern to communities that align with their core values. This insight is especially relevant for media formats like video, which have historically been hard to categorize thematically. Technology can help advertisers analyze content in real-time across formats, determine whether it speaks to diverse communities, and support that content. This granular contextual analysis will usher in more inclusive advertising."

Check out the brand campaigns below that are effectively marketing to diverse groups of parents and/or promoting positive sentiment and change. 

Eggo and Kellogg's

Eggo wanted to foster a positive relationship with parents and find ways to help them feed their kids during busy and stressful mornings. This idea led to the campaign, "L'Eggo with Eggo," which focused on finding actionable solutions for parents. Eggo found that "parents are 40 percent less positive about breakfast when it involves kids," so the company wanted to find a solution to a pain point. Thus, an easy morning breakfast routine was highlighted, along with inspiration or helpful content.

As the ANA case study explained, the company "released tips and coping mechanisms to help parents diffuse morning tension, like the Morning Toaster Dance challenge to do with their kids." The brand also shared uplifting and relatable user-generated content to help inspire parents. Further, 1 million Eggo waffles were given away for free over the duration of the campaign, illustrating a little help goes a long way.



The brand's "Cook Like a Mother" campaign sought to not only encourage brand affinity, but help people (especially busy people like parents) make quick and easy meals without compromising on taste. The campaign did a great job of invoking the feeling of family, and the care that a mother gives, and universalizing it in a way that extends beyond gender and family roles.

As the ANA case study aptly explained, the campaign illustrated "that the spirit of a 'mother' extends beyond genetics: Anyone can cook like a RAGÚ mother (such as men, women, and children). Family is chosen and is who you care about enough to feed. The line 'Cook Like a Mother' had to make the implication obvious, but without offending."


The Hershey Company

As a way to encourage families to bond together and find time for fun, Hershey launched its "Master Your Movie Night" campaign to sweeten family time during the winter when in-home viewing is more common. To create interest in getting families to buy treats for movie night, the company created digital ads with Josh Gad (who played Olaf in Frozen) who shared tips for using the brand's candy.

In addition, the brand partnered with Vudu which gave families access to films, including a promotion through which consumers could "buy one bag of chocolate or three bags of Twizzlers to get a VUDU promo code worth $5." Ultimately, the campaign was a success and helped bring families together through the love of film and candy, resulting in "more than 50,000 movie nights by giving away more than $250,000 worth of Vudu rentals."


Northwell Health

The organization's "Doesn't Kill to Ask" campaign focused on preventing gun violence and "urged parents to ask other parents whether they kept an unlocked gun in the house by comparing firearms to a pet tiger," as described in the ANA case study.

Through its own research, the organization discovered that less than a third of parents have asked the question, and yet 90 percent would want to know if there was an unlocked gun in another family's home, and 97 percent of parents would be fine answering the question. This campaign showed how asking a simple question could prevent unwanted accidents and deaths (considering guns were the leading cause of death for children in 2021).


Crayola's "Colors of the World" campaign and brand engagement program has been an integral focus for the company in recent years, with its mission to help "parents and educators to help raise creatively alive children." The crayon pack itself features 24 specially formulated colors representing over 40 global skin tones, enabling children to express themselves more authentically. Further, Crayola also provides schools and parents with educational resources.

Check out more awards here.

Joanna Fragopoulos is a director of editorial and content development at ANA.

The views and opinions expressed in Industry Insights are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.