New Milk and Honey Mother
Blurb: The parent-child relationship in India today
is going through profound changes and an exciting new
concept of motherhood is beginning to emerge.
The New Indian Woman has been
emerging since the early nineties. She has come to symbolize
a new awareness, independence, and confidence. Much
has been written about her but it is in her role as
mother that we’ve seen new and interesting patterns
There appear to be three broad
typologies of mother across most of the research we
have done. The first one is the traditional, authoritarian
model that does not seem to go away. She is demanding,
possessive and increasingly anxious as traditional ideas
of child rearing are clearly not working any more. Like
all mothers she desires the best for her child, but
is unwilling to make too many concessions or risk the
implications of change. She seems to have a strong desire
to mould the child and is torn by conflict as she realizes
that she’s unequal to the task.
Typically she develops the
life-script of a victim or martyr who does things for
the child unthinkingly and more out of a sense of obligation.
This is the lady who will adopt the traditional “safe”
brand in most categories. She will respond more favorably
to portrayals depicting the precocious Indian child
as doing well academically, getting ahead in the rat
race. The rampant materialism and consumerism of today
has transformed this sort of motherly love into one
that is conditional. This is a contradiction in terms,
as a mother’s love is at its very essence one
that is expected to be unconditional and therefore creates
its own stress and conflict within her.
The second typology is that
of the lazy, eager-to-please mother. Again she tends
to be risk-averse but not quite in control because she
tends to brush conflicts under the rug, instead of confronting
them. She can be easy going and carefree and readily
accedes to her child’s demands. Again like all
mothers, she wants the world for her child but is reluctant
however to involve herself completely in operationalising
that dream. Typically she will give in and end up buying
the chocolate flavoured product, despite knowing that
her kids already eat too much chocolate. She will also
respond to communication which is trendy and keeps her
abreast of the latest fads. For instance, she will express
all the “politically correct” views in regard
to health and may well be aware of all the latest trends.
But she would be reluctant to make any extra effort
on account of her family’s health.
And then there is the third
type of woman. She appears with unfailing regularity
on average as the one woman in a focus group of about
eight women who is thoughtful, relaxed, in control and
altogether impressive. Slowly as the focus group progresses,
the other women inevitably turn to her more and more
to lead them in the discussion.
This is the New Indian Woman
in her role as mother. She inevitably would have had
a happy childhood and normally positive relationships
with her own parents, especially her father. She is
confident, articulate, progressive, and highly assertive.
Her life-script is summarized by the idea that she can
make life better for herself and others around her.
She is wise, discerning and empathetic and her role
model is the powerful Tulsi.
Her relationship with her child
is characterized by mutual respect. She is an intuitive
child psychologist who first of all, believes that her
child is an individual in her own right and is different
from herself. And her focus is to above all nurture
and develop her child to her full potential. Interestingly,
coming first in class by trampling over all the others
is not really her idea of success. She wants her child
to be healthy, bright-eyed, curious about many things
and able to bounce back from life’s many disappointments.
Above all, she wants her to develop the capacity to
savour and enjoy life to the fullest.
She constantly dialogues with
her child using a mix of reason and persuasion. She
is not above a few white lies and some gentle manipulation
and occasionally, if and only if absolutely necessary,
a bit of force.
She tends to be well-read and
extremely innovative for instance in making healthy
food more interesting and appetizing. She is skeptical
of brands on the whole and not so easy to persuade.
However, she is a powerful opinion leader and can be
a extremely credible advocate for a proper product with
an authentic proposition.
When it comes to advertising,
she resents patronizing, stereotypical, portrayals of
women and responded very warmly for instance when we
did a strategy for Ariel a few years ago ending up in
a portrayal of a young Indian husband washing the clothes!
Above all, she creates quality
time with her child and is effectively what the great
psychoanalyst Erich Fromm brilliantly defined in his
work as the “milk and honey mother”. According
to him, “milk is the symbol of the first aspect
of love, that of care and affirmation. Honey symbolizes
the sweetness of life, the love for it and the happiness
in being alive. Most mothers are capable of giving ‘milk’,
but only a minority of giving ‘honey’ too.
In order to be able to give honey, a mother must not
only be a ‘good mother’, but a happy person-
and this aim is not achieved by many.”
We have used this insight
with much success for several brands recently because
we find it resonates very powerfully with mothers in
India today. Is there therefore a serious business-case
now for marketing strategies that are based on this
new, yet age-old idea of perfect motherhood?