Mother’s Day or How to Feel Guilty Yet Again...

Ben Reynolds

Anniversaries. We have lots of them now don’t we. Just this last week, we’ve had Cereal Day, Crown Roast of Pork Day, and Multiple Personality Day. But banalities aside, for many people across Europe this Sunday will mark Mother’s Day (or Mothering Sunday), a time to honour our mothers; take them out for a fancy lunch, send a bunch of flowers etc.

The problem is: everywhere I look from pub billboards to newsagents to supermarkets, I’m confronted with a sunken feeling that I’m never going to live up to the expectations of the hype that Mother’s Day has been built up to be. The 7-course degustation menu with matching wines and Prosecco is not going to happen. The gourmet handmade fondants from a boutique chocolatier is never going to be bought. The breakfast hot air balloon experience will have to be missed. It’s estimated that British consumers spent around £1.4 billion on Mother’s Day cards, gifts and services in 2017. Staggering isn’t it. This works out to be about £58 average spend per person (incidentally up to 3 times as much as we spend on Father’s Day).

As a marketer I feel genuinely conflicted. I know that there are significant commercial opportunities around events such as Mother’s Day, an opportunity to stock-pile revenue from flowers, restaurant bookings, gift purchases etc. But the spirit of the anniversary is to strengthen family bonds, and of course honour the motherly commitment to the next generation. It can be a difficult anniversary too. For those that have lost their mothers, or for those whose mothers for whatever reason were never a part of their lives, Mother’s Day is not such a happy occasion but rather an unhelpful distraction. That is why I think business needs to lift its game. Away from the crass, sentimentalised promotions that can deter people with lower incomes or different family situations to focus more on thought provoking, life affirming campaigns that are inclusive and accessible to a much broader audience.

How It’s Done (Campaigns to Inspire)

  1. Be creatively disruptive. Back in 2014, you may recall Mullen, parent company to American Greetings, ran the ‘World’s Toughest Job’ feature. They placed job ads online and in newspapers based on everything that mums do and then interviewed real people. The results? Apart from the 27 million views on YouTube and US-wide press coverage, the campaign was phenomenally successful for highlighting the incredible devotion of mothers – a campaign built to celebrate (and not commercially exploit) the mother-child bond.
  2. Do your bit for the social good. In 2015, Macy’s launched #MacysLovesMoms – a social media campaign encouraging followers to submit posts of memories with their mothers using the hashtag. Macy’s donated $3 to a charity improving women’s lives for every post submitted. This philanthropic act succeeded in keeping Macy’s social followers engaged with the brand – especially with social media reps continuing the conversation past the initial post.
  3. Dare to challenge conventional norms. We all know how stressful plane trips can be for mums with little ones. The feelings of helplessness can heighten when you have a baby that starts wailing every time the drink trolley wheels past, when you're worried about what other passengers might think. American airliner JetBlue played on this ‘nightmare’ scenario by filming a stunt with ad agency MullenLowe. On a flight from New York to Long Beach, California, JetBlue offered a 25% discount to all passengers every time a baby cried. So if four babies cried, that meant all passengers would receive a free round-trip ticket for their next flight. This heart-warming video went out to prove that JetBlue recognises the stress that mothers have to regularly endure on flights, and to challenge many people’s perception of flying with infants on-board to flip an obvious negative in to a positive scenario. 

What all of these campaigns have in common is striking the right emotive balance between not being too cheesy but still having an alternative, positive message to say about the joys (and tribulations) of motherhood.

So as this Mother’s Day approaches, what marketing campaigns have inspired you? What will you do to mark the occasion? We’d love to know! Drop us a line at [email protected], tweet us @tbt_marketing or message us on Facebook (

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