Sharon Vinderine, founder of Parent Tested Parent Approved, is passionate about authenticity, fending off "award washing" and rating products with reviews from real people.
Here's a look at the takeaways.
Traditional marketing is taking a hit and there's room for new models. Vinderine said traditional marketing has taken a hit because it is usually "about a brand yelling at you that we're the best and amazing."
"The reality is that when we're going out to buy something we are inevitably calling one of our friends or asking one of our peers 'hey what did you use? Was it effective and did it do what it said it was going to do?' We're typically buying based on those types of recommendations," she said.
The disruption. PTPA is focused on building a seal of approval so when you walk into the store you know it was peer endorsed. "If it was peer endorsed it's much more valuable than a brand telling you to buy their product," said Vinderine. "Right now, people are looking for authenticity. Consumers in general are much savvier than they were so fake reviews and influencer-based advertising doesn't work anymore."
"It's a trusted friend that's more important."
The inflection points. Vinderine, as leader of a wireless internet company, used to spend a lot of time on rooftops adjusting antennas. When she was pregnant there was an opportunity to sell the company.
"I became a new mom, and I was buying anything and everything for this perfect child. I was going to spend anything because you know what's more important than your child?" recalled Vinderine, who added she'd buy based on price and packaging. “I would bring products home and they did not live up to expectations. They looked great but they actually didn't perform."
It became clear that Vinderine's friends had the best recommendations. "I wanted to find a way to sift through those piles of products especially at the stage where moms were doing the most research--pregnant and having first children," she explained.
A company was born. Success wasn't instant. Parents bought in, but brands didn't buy into programs. It took time, notably TV time, to build credibility. "What was beautiful was that community came about," said Vinderine. "One mom talked to another mom and then told the next one."
Challenges. Vinderine said "award washing" is a challenge in the industry. She said:
"This award-washing business kind of drives me nuts so I'm thrilled to have a platform to talk about it. These days it looks like everything is this top pick and top rated and a must have. There is a new award every single day. A lot of these other awards are either popularity contests or editorial focused. It's pay for play."
PTPA's model. Vinderine said brands pay for the opportunity to have their brand tested and researched, but if it doesn't earn PTPA's seal of approval they get a refund. "We are the only organization in North America that does that," she said. "In order to earn our seal, the product is shipped to members of our community for in-hand product testing. Families complete a detailed survey about their experience. Did it do what it promised to, and did it live up to expectations?"
"I encourage people to really research what kind of awards they are trusting and make sure there's actually a backbone behind them," said Vinderine.
Advice for CMOs and founders. "You need to start with a good product. If an entrepreneur is in it to make a quick buck it doesn't happen anymore because it's going to take about a minute and a half before somebody figures out you have a lousy product and it spreads like wildfire across social media," said Vinderine.
Simply put, a good product is the focus. Once a product is established "the way you market it needs to be different." "It's not an influencer world anymore. I want to hear from real authentic people that I can relate to," she said. "Instagram is a great medium but you will see me talking about a product not looking all glam but looking like a mom. I want to be relatable."
You will trust people in that same life stage as you and are relatable, she said.
CMOs need to keep in mind that building a business also means building an emotional connection with a consumer. Once that connection is built, consumers are "buying your product because they believe in you and your organization and what you stand behind," added Vanderine.
Venderine's advice is critical for PTPA. The community grows via word of mouth. "We haven't spent money on building our community. It has been word of mouth and television appearances," she said. "We try to act in the most authentic way possible because word of mouth is going to be how we continue to grow the community."