Katherine Wintsch Transcript

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Mark: Welcome to Family First: The Wild World of Marketing to Parents. My name is Mark Giovino, CEO and founder at the Allionce Group

I’d like to welcome Katherine Wintsch to this episode of Family First. Katherine is the founder and CEO of The Mom Complex, where she helps some of the largest companies in the world, such as Walmart, Johnson and Johnson, Pinterest and Chobani develop better products and services for mothers.  She is also author of the popular book, Slay Like A Mother, which Parade Magazine named one of the top 10 life-changing self-help books of the year.

Katherine’s sought after research on women and mothers has been featured by the Today Show, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Working Mother Magazine. However, don’t let all the accolades fool you. She’s also been through years of therapy, decades of self-doubt and more than her fair share of tequila.

Thankfully, she tamed her dragon of self-doubt and now she’s helping other women do the same. Katherine, thank you so much for joining me!

Katherine: Thanks for having me Mark!

“Some may be surprised to hear that 45% of new parents are Gen Z.”

Mark: Let’s start with family. First, tell us a little bit about your own family, your kids ages, and any interests.

Katherine: Sure. I am married to an amazing man, Richard. He was born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland. So he brings interesting perspective and we have two children, a 15 year old daughter and a 13 year old son.

Mark: Tell us more about what inspired you to write Slay Like a Mother.

Katherine: For 20 years of my life I lived with what I refer to as this dragon of self-doubt. So from age 15 to 35, never really felt good enough despite achieving some success in marketing and advertising, but just never really felt good enough. And so eventually, long story short, I went through lots of therapy. I learned to heal myself. I learned to love myself from the inside so that I could I no longer required it from the outside and it was so life changing that I felt selfish keeping some of these trade secrets to myself. So the things that I changed in my life really changed my life and I felt very called to share them. And I felt like a book would be a way to have a broad reach to really get this message out because there’s a lot of women that are filled with self-doubt and need help.

Mark: When you talk about dragon of self-doubt, what do you mean by that? And what has life felt like without it?

Katherine: The dragon of self-doubt is that negative voice that’s saying you’re not thin enough, nice enough, tough enough, mom enough, wife enough, daughter enough, and just pushes you into overdrive as a it turns you into a people plea pleasing, perfectionist, and you have no time for yourself. And believe me, I’ve been there. I’m very familiar and it feels like you’re on a hamster wheel. And I have slayed my dragon of self-doubt after lots of therapy, Oprah episodes, red wine, self-help books. And I would say life without the Dragon there’s still chaos in my life,  and there always will be, but dealing with the chaos around me has become a lot easier because I’m not dealing with the chaos inside of me at the same time. So I’m only kinda fighting on one front, and that feels like a win. 

Mark: Where do these dragons come from?

Katherine: According to my research for women in particular, 75% of the time a woman’s self-doubt is born during or before adolescence. And so it’s very likely that in middle school or earlier the dragon of self-doubt was born. And it’s just that moment when your self-esteem takes a sideline you really get something somebody says or does, or an experience that hurts you and changes your perception of yourself and forces you to prove yourself a little bit more, try harder, et cetera.

And dragons of self-doubt can be born from trauma with a capital T. Abuse, neglect, sexual assault. Obviously horrific situations can occur where dragons are born, but they can also be born from trauma with a little t and that might be somebody called you fat or somebody said you were stupid or somebody made you feel a certain way. And it might feel like a small slight, but something changed that day of beginning. questioning and doubting yourself.

Mark: I’ve often heard you talk about struggle without suffering. Can you tell us more what you mean by that?

Katherine: Yeah. So in my book, Slay Like a Mother, I talk about the difference between struggling and suffering. So struggles are brought on by external circumstances in your life. Making dinner every night, trying to lose 10 pounds, dealing with a cancer diagnosis, raising teenagers, running the business, lots of struggles. But then we turned our struggles into suffering when we beat ourselves up for having these struggles in the first place, or for not handling them better.

Come on, Katherine, you suck as a mom because you don’t make healthy homemade meals every night. And that voice, again, that’s saying you’re not good enough. And what I want women to know and parents is that the goal is to struggle. So if you’re struggling and you’re having a hard time, like welcome to life, like you win, that’s you’re gonna struggle every day until you die.

But you don’t have to suffer because you suffer your own hand. And so in the book, there’s lots of ways to change your behavior so you’re not causing that suffering.

“We are just doing a big study right now on Hispanic moms and it’s really interesting how they use social. They’re such connected human beings”

Mark: And is it fair to say that perhaps one of the most important exercises is to recognize just that, and not necessarily label it, but decouple what oftentimes is this combination of things that are happening. Is that fair to say that might be the right starting point?

Katherine: Awareness seems so simple, but it is a big part of the game. And being aware of the way that you speak to yourself is really important, and if anybody goes to you, go to Slay Like a Mother.com, there’s this amazing video of women saying out loud, the last terrible thing they said to themselves with that negative self-talk. And it’s really powerful and we can’t change that voice. We can’t quiet that voice if we’re not even hearing it, so I went through 20 years of my life to not even realizing that I was yelling at myself that just a lot of negative self.  That was exhausting.

Mark: What can men do to help support that understanding that, number one, it’s not to add to that struggle or suffering, but even to help their moms, their wives, their children, their daughters colleagues along that path?  What can men do to support?

Katherine: Yeah, I think it’s about just having open communication of pain points.  Maybe it’s literally just sitting down and saying, what are the top three pain points for you right now, like in life. And I think as couples, as families, we often have difficulty talking about difficult situations and it’s uncomfortable to bring things up and you don’t wanna upset anyone, but you wanna be helpful.

And so sometimes just being very direct about three pain points. That you’re going through right now and being able to just foster that conversation. Because I always say that these dragons of self-doubt, they thrive in silence and darkness and avoidance. It’s like when we don’t talk about our struggles sometimes it can turn them into suffering because we’re hiding it, we’re embarrassed. We have shame around it. But that’s really one of the keys is just saying some of this shit out loud. Like just getting it out.

Mark: Where can I find and others listening find a copy or buy a copy of Slay Like a Mother?

Katherine: Amazon is the best place if you wanna have a physical copy or for your kind that it’s available too, but it’s also available on Audible if you’re more of a audio book kind of person. And and it’s my narration throughout the book, so that was a wild experience to record that. But I can read you your, like bedtime stories about dragons if you get the audible version.

Mark: Shifting gears a bit, can you tell us more about the mom complex and what inspired you to start The Mom Complex and some of the work you’re doing there?

Katherine: Sure. So The Mom Complex, we are a consulting company and we partner with Fortune 500, Fortune 100 companies. Many of them you mentioned we’re also working with Lowe’s and Sephora and Walmart. It’s just amazing. But we help companies develop better products and services for their mom customers. So create better shopping experiences, better experiences with products. Product development,etc.  And it’s just a joy.

And it was born out of a pain point of mine. So I grew up in the marketing and advertising industry, and when I became a mom it was so overwhelming. I was either crying or drinking myself to sleep every night and when I watched the marketing to Moms, it was so perfect and polished, and it was Kelly Rippa dancing around in high heels folding laundry and making cupcakes.

And I thought, these companies must just not know that it’s this hard because they would not want this much of a gap between reality and perception. I’m not saying to put reality on tv, but this is ridiculous. Nobody wants to see that, and and so it was a pain point and I thought I know what it’s like to be a mother.

I know what it’s like to study consumers. That’s what I did for a living. So I wanted to focus all my time and energy on studying mothers, but I wanted it to be further upstream than advertising. It’s now product development and services and experiences and shopping experiences. And so it just has more of an impact than just the bottom of the funnel, which is important, the marketing but we wanted to really, the offering as well.

Mark: And how much of this a byproduct of either the marketers not taking the time to really understand that consumer, that mom consumer, or how much of it is this social pressure to show this pure self, which may not be reality as you indicated? Is it a balance or is it one more than the other?

Katherine: Yeah, the kink in the system is that it’s not the time or the money. Companies put time into studying mothers. They know mothers are important parents. They put time in, they spend millions of dollars. These big companies have millions of dollars in research budget. The problem is the research itself, moms in traditional research setting, for example, are gonna show up and lie in a focus group and they’re gonna say their partner’s really helpful.

And their kids eat vegetables, three meals a day, and it’s so artificial. And so at The Mom Complex we created a couple of just more unique situations. Like we don’t do focus groups, we do opinion parties. And the moms are all already acquainted with each other or they’re all already friends.

And so you get past all the artificial pretense and the posturing and you really get to better substance and more of the truth, and and so we we have an app, a passion and pain app where parents can submit high points in low points with products, with experiences.

And there’s no posturing, there’s no reason for that not to feel, do a video. And it’s real and it’s raw and it’s really how you feel about. Shopping at Sam’s Club or whatever, but it’s just unfiltered. And so that’s really, so then you do have the money, you do have the attention, but now you have the truth that it’s hard.

Mark: Are there any other examples? I think you just gave one. Are there any other examples what that looks like for some of the brands you’ve worked with?  And then the insights, the research, the primary research, the insights and how you leverage those insights to then signal or advise your clients for what to do with it.  Can you give us any examples that might bring that to life?

Katherine: Yeah, definitely.  We’ve worked with a major yogurt manufacturer in the US to come up with a new kids line of yogurt, and so we consulted parents throughout the whole time. Is it in a pouch, is it in a a carton? Do you want a spoon with it? Does it have sprinkles? Are there topping is it a replacement for ice cream or is it breakfast? How much you wanna pay for it? So that was really fun to be able to capture those insights of okay, yogurt on the go is a pain in the butt. It doesn’t really work.

So how can we make that work better? And and really solving that problem. That was really interesting. I thing we found out in the UK actually with shopping was for Asda, which is the Walmart in UK. And is that when parents were shopping with an infant car carrier from the car taking it to the shopping is that you couldn’t see where you’re, you can’t see where you’re going because the it’s, your line of sight is completely staring at like a.

Bottom, and this was a big pain point for shoppers when we really investigated and they were telling us this in the app. It’s a terrible shopping experience. I can’t see where I’m going.  And so as I started offering a handful of lower and wider shopping carts for parents, grandparents, anybody who was had an infant car carrier, and and it would be a better shopping experience for them.

So stuff like that is really fun where it’s not insights for insights sake where it’s like pain points. It’s what is not working? Or what could be better? Or if you were the CEO of Sam’s Club, like what would you do? And it’s really empowering to give parents just access to cuz these companies really do make changes. It’s really fascinating. They really care.

Mark: And it sounds like transformative insights that are based on real world real time real mom challenges. Coming back to the real mom perspective.

Katherine: Yeah. And it’s fun cuz when we go directly to the parents when we’re telling them what these, or asking them what these companies should do they don’t hold anything back. It’s hilarious. They were like if I was running Sam’s Club, here’s what I would do. And these companies love it. Like they’re, it’s like there’s something that the one silver lining in Covid is the use of Zoom and really allowing these companies to feel very up close and personal with the people that buy their brands or shop in their stores. And hearing those consumers or members tell them what they need to do better. It’s just really cool. Like it’s new in terms of impact and connection between two different.

Mark: Let’s talk for a minute about consumer segmentation, or maybe because of the topic at hand mom segmentation. Some may be surprised to hear that 45% of new parents are Gen Z. Can you share more about the unique differences between Millennial Moms and gen GenZ Moms, or are there major differences between the two Millennial Mom groups or GenZ?

Katherine: Yeah, we studied that question in terms of shopping a lot, how those those groups kind of shop differently. And one thing that’s interesting with Gen Z is they really communicate via pictures where millennials were texts and just like short texture pictures or emojis was where this is like.

Full pictures, like they have entire conversations through Snapchat just with photos. And so it’s really making sure they also say that Gen Z, that they’re the attention span of a goldfish. It’s six seconds is their attention span. And yeah, that becomes interesting for marketing is making sure visually or Gen Z as an example for shopping is more likely to search via Instagram and TikTok over Google when they’re looking for almost anything they’re searching TikTok and Instagram before Google, which is a very different behavior and compared to millennials. So it’s fun to look at the nuances, but also we advise a lot of our clients, don’t split too many hairs of thinking how different they are. What are the collective group of millennials and Gen Z have in common? Because you can’t split your marketing budget, but so much to go across or your product development. So we always try to look at the similarities between the two generations.

Mark: And would the same hold true for other segments within the mom consumer, like Hispanic moms or other ethnographic research?

Katherine: Yeah.  We are just doing a big study right now on Hispanic moms and it’s really interesting how they use social. They’re so connected, they’re such connected human beings, Hispanic moms with human beings in the real world, and they’ve really carry that through on social online, which is interesting.

So I do think there’s nuances with different groups or segments or sub-segments that really need to be understood because specifically with the Hispanic market. It’s just not something that you can phone in the connection on either as a brand, like you genuinely care or you don’t. And and it you can’t fake it till you make it people can see through that. So it has to be genuine. So I think certainly different audiences are important to study as well. 

Mark: Are there any universal mom truths that companies should keep in mind to help ground their strategy and their planning?

Katherine: Our favorite one at The Mom Complex is the fact that nine outta 10 mothers in the United States have a sense of self-doubt of feeling that they’re not good enough. And it was actually the universal insight that we uncovered when I started the mom complex. We did a big global study, 17 countries around the world, and uncovered that the number one emotion that all those mothers had in common is self-doubt. And this relentless feeling of not being good enough. And and so yeah, that was really a driving force.

Mark: And is it, to take it a step further, does that offer companies or brands an opportunity to help support the mom with messaging and perspective to lift them up a bit? Or maybe another way to think about it, and I don’t know if this does correlate, but one of the things we talk about at Allionce is parents often put themselves last. So brands that find a way to put them first will win. And I think there’s some nuance here, but is that right?

Katherine: Yes, I think that the back to the point about doubt if you know that this kind of universal condition is living inside of mothers and particularly. Then what is she doubting in your category? So if you’re in the vitamin category, like there might be doubt of am I even taking the right supplements? Am I doing the right thing? Because the vitamin aisle is just trash. It is so overwhelming from a consumer standpoint. It’s like somebody’s got to overhaul that, but that doubt, it’s okay, now I need to have something customized online to teach her how to do this.

Or you start to figure out like, what are they doubting? Relates to your category or choices, and then how can you alleviate that doubt with better packaging, with better products better marketing.

Mark: For any company or brand that understands the value of marketing to moms, including the spending power. I think it’s over $3 trillion and how much influence  they really do wield on household purchases. What are some of the first steps that a company should take who want to prioritize and continue to communicate with moms?

Katherine: What I would start doing right away is what we’ve started doing with our clients, we host what we call fireside chats with their customers. You can do this yourself. You can hire the mom complex to do it. You can hire anybody to do it. You can do it yourself, but it’s getting six of your customers together. in a Zoom chat with a moderator where in 60 minutes take on three different topics of 20 minutes each to get really honest feedback, connection, hear from your consumer how are they using your product, when are they using it, what would they improve about it?

It’s just so eye-opening and it’s so inexpensive to do. And if you do prioritize this group, you need to hear from them directly. And doing these fireside chats is so inexpensive and so accessible and so easy. And you can have somebody from Texas and somebody from Florida and somebody you know, from Dallas, whatever and so you get across section and and they’re really eager to share ideas. They live and breathe these brands and these retailers. I would say just start doing that and some companies have them on a regular cadence, even quarterly at a minimum. But it’s a way to have a deep connection and build empathy for the audience here trying to, wow.

Mark: I’m curious to know whether it’s the fireside chats you’ve led on the behalf of some of your clients or other research you’ve done. How much, if at all, does it come up in discussion that when engaging with moms, it’s important to recognize that being a mom is just one aspect of who they are that maybe thinking of them as individuals, that they have their own interests, they have their own passions and activities that they enjoy as individuals outside of being a mom. Has that come up at all? Has that been shared from others?

Katherine: Yes, definitely. I, there’s definitely a huge spectrum of how women how mom forward they are in their identity or connected to that as an identity. And so, that’s another way to think about segmentation sometimes is on the spectrum of kind of that identity of being a mother.

How strong is it overall for you is it 95% of your identity, or is it 5% of your identity because you’re an empty nester. And then specifically within a different category, there’s some categories that are used by mothers in the mother role as an example.

And that can be a time to be stronger with that messaging. But there’s even myself, like my goodness, 80% of my life is not being a mother. There’s a lot of other interests and hobbies and things and to be a well-rounded person. But that’s not true for everyone. So I think having a little bit of a spectrum is important.

Mark: I wonder too if sometimes it gets lost and if you think. Sometimes consumers may not know what they need the most, and perhaps if, depending on the brand, depending on the company, that if they can encourage or fan the flames of what what maybe the parent needs more, a alone time or to respark or rekindle their own passions.  That alone might go pretty far in terms of engendering that brand loyalty in some respect.

Katherine: Yes, definitely. I think opening the aperture in general like parenting is not just mom it’s mom and dad. It’s not just always mom and dad. It might be mom and mom, dad and dad, and I think having a broader lens and look on family and parenting is for Gen Z is very important. And a lot of. Big brands in the parenting space. It was like few brands and they were really big and they owned all the stuff. But now there’s lots of smaller brands. But yeah, gen Z is pretty particular about dealing with good companies and brands.

Mark: And I think it’s the purpose led brands, right? What is it, nine out of 10 consumers I think I’ve seen the research that we’ve all seen at some point, support or more likely to support a brand that focuses on a social or environmental cause?  So it’s less about sustainability or DEI initiative to say you’re doing it, it’s gotta be built into the DNA. It’s not about the communication strategy. It’s about are you really for those specific things.

Katherine: Yeah, like there’s an example back to the, we’re talking about the Hispanic segment where they, Wells Fargo did this amazing like ad about Hispanic heritage and seemed really in touch it was, it seemed A good move, but then like when you search for it online, it’s two stories down.

It’s like discrimination suit against Wells Fargo from Hispanic workers and was settled for 190 million. And you’re like, oh God, yeah. And then so then it’s, yeah, that’s the difference between communication and actions and behavior.

Mark: Let’s end as we started with your family what are some activities or experiences you and your family enjoy?

Katherine: My family’s pretty athletic, so my son is a goalkeeper at a really high level for soccer team. My daughter’s a elite swimmer and family skiing, snow skiing is one thing that we do every Christmas together. Usually out west in Colorado. And we love it. We like the adventure.

Mark: I encourage anyone to go to Amazon, check out Slay like a Mother. It’s very clear that given your own career path and the success you’ve had, unless you shared this story to your point earlier, no one would know because of the success, because of how articulate you are, because of how empathetic and what you’ve built.  So I certainly encourage anyone to perhaps like most things, you gotta reach a little bit below the surface. And I wanna thank you for your work and what you’re doing to help others and in essence pay it forward. And thank you for joining me today on this episode.

Katherine: Awesome. Thanks for having me Mark! 

Mark: And thank you for listening in to  this episode of Family First, The Wild World of Marketing to Parents.



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