Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

OPINIONSocietyMay 6, 2022

Mother’s Day email marketing is the worst

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

The occasion itself? Great. The steady stream of emails from random companies reminding me my mum is dead? Those I could do without, writes Sam Brooks.

Mother’s Day is wonderful. A day where mothers are treated with love, kindness and respect – even if we can all agree that they should be treated this way every day – is a day I wholeheartedly support. If you’re a mother or mother-adjacent figure whose family celebrates Mother’s Day, I imagine it’s a really lovely time, and I don’t want to take that away from anybody.

Like all holidays, though, there’s a flipside. One person’s celebration is another person’s reminder of something missing, a feeling that can frankly feel pretty close to grief. I’ve spent the last seven Christmases without family, but I have a gorgeous found family and a way to celebrate Christmas still. It’s harder to replace Mother’s Day with a friend-group celebration; for me, there’s only one mother figure.

Mother’s Day was never a big thing in the Brooks household. My mum’s birthday was – and that “was” is probably a good indication of why specifically I don’t celebrate the day at all  – April 30. Two celebrations within a week was considered too much, so her birthday ended up being a de facto Mother’s Day on top of a birthday.

I cannot even begin to describe how much it sucks to get Mother’s Day promo when your mother is dead. I imagine it also sucks if you have a difficult or estranged relationship with your mother. It sucks to get something targeted at you, right in your inbox, that not only doesn’t take into consideration your experience, but doesn’t even consider that you exist.

There’s an element of this that could read like over-sensitivity. I’m adult enough to know that the world does not revolve around me and although it’s great when the world meets my needs and preferences, I do not expect it to. But this isn’t like going to the supermarket and walking past the things that aren’t for you. This is like going to the supermarket and having someone cutting onions under your face while you’re trying to go about your grocery shopping.

In the past week alone, I’ve received the following emails to both my personal and work addresses:

“Celebrate every kind of mom! [small pink heart emojis my mother personally would have hated]

“These “MOM-umental gift ideas will spoil her rotten”

“Moms holding it down”

“Celebrate Mom with 20% off”

“Mags Mums love for any budget, 58% off”

“Make Her (Mother’s) Day!”

“Treat Mum on her special day”

“Mum’s the Word”

And so on and so forth.

The mother in question. (Photo: Sam Brooks)

It’s also a reminder that Mother’s Day isn’t just about celebration, it’s about business. If companies can profit off a made-up holiday – and newsflash, all holidays, like all words, were made up by somebody somewhere at some point in time – they will. An email to your subscribers – or anybody who forgot to untick the “do you want communications from us until the heat death of the universe” box – on the Thursday before Mother’s Day is all but guaranteed to rake in the sales.

Of course this is not unique to Mother’s Day. My heart goes out to the marketing people who in September have to replace the sales copy about spa packages, cocktail kits and magazine subscriptions with emails extolling the virtues of warm socks, BBQs and withholding affection. Miss me with that promo as well, please (and not just because it is wildly gendered and heteronormative).

And anyway, since when is the best way to show your mother you care by spending money on her? There’s nothing wrong with buying a gift for someone you love – I do it all the time –  but an even better way to show you care is to pay attention to her, listen to her and treat her like a human being in her own right the other 364 days of the year. If you do all that, then yeah, chuck a blender their way. But it shouldn’t be the primary way you show your love.

I don’t expect any of this to change anytime soon. I can imagine there are entire businesses making more profit on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year, and all power to them. It’s easier for me to ignore these emails than it is for a company to reconfigure their whole business model. But what I would love is the option to opt out – something which some brands are starting to do. Shoutout to Canva, a graphic design platform that emails me for some reason, for giving me the ability to opt out from these specific emails a few weeks ago. 

If I bought a scented candle from you a year ago, please don’t take that as an opening to remind me my mother is dead. That’s all I ask.

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