It’s not about us!

If you are a woman with children, then you are in the majority of U.S. females — but not by much. It turns out that according to the most recent U.S. Census fertility data, nearly 45.1 percent of all single and married women in the United States under the age of 44 are childless, either by choice or by circumstance. Most of these women still connect to other people’s children in some manner or another. That is a huge number and reasonably surprising. But not nearly as surprising as the fact that media and marketers largely ignore the needs and emotions of these women. Forget about the moral right or wrong of exclusion or even the stigma some of these women feel from society about being childless. Plain and simple, businesses that sell products are missing a giant market opportunity and foregoing vast amounts of potential revenue.

Big companies like Hasbro, Disney and Tropicana are beginning to take notice and action with this hidden demographic thanks to Melanie Notkin, founder of Inc. Notkin is a 41-year-old woman who is childless and very much in tune with the pain of her constituency. In fact, she so clearly identified the pain of this undiscovered group that she created and has built a growing social community of tens of thousands of women previously ignored.

To those of us with children, we may not realize how much the mom culture dominates print, TV and even the Web. Most of the child-oriented marketing considers the pain, needs and concerns of the mother or couple with child, with no thought for the nearly 1 in 2 childless women who are buying for their niece, nephew or child of a friend. And buy they do. Labeled PANKs by Notkin, which stands for Professional Aunt No Kids, many of these women have plenty of disposable income and are more than willing to spend it on other people’s young children with whom they have connected. They are forced to get their product information from media that not only makes them feel excluded but constantly reminds them why. So why are their needs missed by the marketers so anxious to increase revenue?

Simply put, we tend to market with our heads more than our hearts and rarely look outside the scope of our own experience. In the search for marketing efficiency, we work to identify our core group and focus our message to connect in an empathetic manner with their pain. We segregate the market into those who need our product and those we assume don’t. These decisions are often based upon how we perceive our own view of traditional life. This is why extensive market research can contradict initial assumptions made. Smaller companies should take note that even some anecdotal research can be valuable to bring objective perspectives resulting in new market opportunities. Just because you don’t have a budget for a big research study doesn’t mean you can’t find new pockets of business.

But with all of these professional, childless women, some obviously in marketing, the question bears asking why they didn’t recognize their own needs? Institutionally, even many PANKs see society through a “traditional values” lens and not surprisingly suffer some emotional discourse for not having a child no matter how comfortable they are with the decision or circumstance. Many companies focus on the obvious features of their product and the obvious customers, which for child and women products all leads back to motherhood. Consideration for child-oriented products is given to current moms or even grandmothers as the primary target group. All other women are considered to be wannabe moms and not sufficiently motivated to purchase product. Messaging is focused on the primary group of buyers and all others are eliminated from the thought process. That is, unless they are identified as a viable market by someone else. This is why Notkin is gaining attention. With a strong digital marketing and communications background developed through working for L’Oréal, the New York Times and American Express, Notkin has harnessed her entrepreneurial energy since 2008 and is quickly aggregating this nontraditional group of child product buyers, creating an easy access point for marketers.

[See video of Kevin Daum visiting Melanie Notkin]

Notkin now serves as a consultant to big companies looking to reach her PANK constituents and is a self-titled social influencer for the PANK community. She speaks to and for her sisterhood on TV, radio, in print and primarily through social media. She has a faithful Twitter following of nearly 15,000 and an even larger Web presence. She continuously connects with her PANK sisters sometimes 20 times a day whether she is advising them on the latest hot toy or letting them know which company has just become PANK-friendly. Notkin is not the first to identify and consolidate a previously unidentified market segment and with the increase in social media she certainly won’t be the last.

Consider these questions to find ways to identify and show empathy to your silent constituency:

  • What are the societal assumptions you are making about your product or service?
  • How can you survey people outside your customer base to see what you are missing
  • What problems can your product or service solve if used unconventionally?
  • Who in the company feels isolated or disconnected from your marketing? Why?
  • How can you easily connect with other market segments for your company?

Of course, most of us can’t and shouldn’t market our products and services to anyone and everyone, as that would be expensive, cumbersome and eliminate the efficiency benefits of marketing. But, for many, there are silent segments that can add to top-line revenue and differentiate our approach in the marketplace. We just need to open our eyes, hearts and perspectives and, like Melanie Notkin, be a little more savvy.

KEVIN DAUM is the principal of TAE International and the best-selling author of several books, including “ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle.” He is a regular speaker and consultant on marketing and book development. Reach him at [email protected]. Check out Kevin’s Quest for the Jewish Super Bowl Ring at