Email marketing for Mother’s Day is the worst
The opportunity itself? Awesome. The constant stream of emails from random companies reminding me that my mother is dead? The ones I could do without, writes Sam Brooks.
Mother’s Day is wonderful. A day when mothers are treated with love, kindness and respect – even though we can all agree that they should be treated that way every day – is a day that I wholeheartedly support. If you’re a mother or mother-adjacent figure whose family celebrates Mother’s Day, I imagine it’s a really nice time, and I don’t want to take that away from anyone.
Like all holidays, however, there is a downside. One person’s celebration is another person’s reminder of something missing, a feeling that can frankly border on grief. I’ve spent the last seven Christmases without a family, but I’ve found a wonderful family and a way to celebrate Christmas again. It’s harder to replace Mother’s Day with a party with friends; for me, there is only one mother figure.
Mother’s Day was never a big thing in the Brooks household. My mom’s birthday was – and that “was” is probably a good indication of why I don’t celebrate that day at all – April 30th. Two celebrations in one week were considered too many, so her birthday ended up being a de facto Mother’s Day in addition to a birthday.
I can’t even begin to describe how much it sucks to have a Mother’s Day promo when your mom is dead. I imagine it also sucks if you have a difficult or distant relationship with your mother. It sucks to have something aimed at you, straight into your inbox, that not only doesn’t consider your experience, but doesn’t even consider you exist.
There is an element of this that could read as hypersensitivity. I’m mature enough to know that the world doesn’t revolve around me and while it’s great when the world caters to my needs and preferences, I don’t expect it. But it’s not like going to the supermarket and walking past things that aren’t for you. It’s like going to the supermarket and having someone cut onions in your face while you’re trying to get groceries.
In the past week alone, I have received the following emails to my home and work addresses:
“Celebrate all types of mom! [small pink heart emojis my mother personally would have hated]”
“These “MOM-umental gift ideas will spoil her rotten”
“Moms Hold It Back”
“Celebrate Mom with 20% off”
“Mags Mums love for all budgets, 58% off”
“Make her (Mother’s) Day!”
“Treat Mom on Her Special Day”
“Mom is the Word”
And so on.
It’s also a reminder that Mother’s Day isn’t just a celebration, it’s about business. If companies can take advantage of made-up holidays — and newsflash, all holidays, like all words, were invented by someone somewhere at some point — they will. An email to your subscribers – or anyone who forgot to uncheck “Do you want communications from us until the universe dies?”
Of course, this isn’t unique to Mother’s Day. My heart goes out to the marketing folks who in September have to replace sales copy about spa packages, cocktail kits and magazine subscriptions with emails extolling the virtues of Hot socks, barbecues and retention of affection. I also miss myself with this promo, please (and not just because it’s extremely gendered and heteronormative).
And anyway, since when is the best way to show your mother that you care about her is to spend money on her? There’s nothing wrong with buying a gift for someone you love – I do it all the time – but a better way to show her you care is to pay attention to her, listen and treat her like a full human being. 364 other days of the year. If you do all of that, then yes, throw a blender their way. But that shouldn’t be the main way to show your love.
I don’t expect any of that to change any time soon. I can imagine there are entire businesses making more profit on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year, and all the power to them. It’s easier for me to ignore these emails than for a company to reconfigure their entire business model. But what I would like is the ability to opt out – something some brands are starting to do. Kudos to Canva, a graphic design platform that emails me for some reason, for giving me the option to unsubscribe from those specific emails a few weeks ago.
If I bought you a scented candle a year ago, please don’t take that as an overture to remind me that my mother died. That’s all I ask.