When shoppers are scouring the malls or the Web searching for the perfect gift for mom for Mother's Day, their purchasing decisions are often very emotionally driven. But advertisers and retailers often fail to tap into this crucial aspect of marketing for Mother's Day, instead treating it like any other run-of-the-mill holiday.
"An awful lot of Mother's Day advertising is too much 'Your Holiday Here'-type advertising," says Atlanta-based copywriter and marketing strategist Linda Morse. Retailers merely drop "Mother's Day" into ads that would normally say, for example, "Christmas" or "Halloween." Many ads simply remind shoppers that "Mother's Day is May 8." No appeal to the emotions; just the facts.
The reason advertisers often fail to strike an emotional chord with Mother's Day ads, Morse believes, is because it can be difficult to pull off. "Instead they will just sell the mall: 'Don't forget it's Mother's Day, and all the stores at the mall are open with wonderful gifts for your mom.'"
But from the consumer's standpoint, Morse says, many people think, "What could I possibly do that would begin to thank her?" This leaves customers feeling that their choice of Mother's Day gift is inadequate.
Mother's Day Is Big Business
Consumers were expected to spend $16.3 billion on Mother's Day in 2011, with the average expenditure projected at $140.73 on gifts, up from $126.90 last year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Of the 83.1 percent of consumers celebrating Mother's Day in 2011, most will shop for their mom (59.9%), while others will buy gifts for their wife (19.6%), daughter (9.6%), grandmother (8.0%), sister (8.4%), friend (7.3%) or godmother (1.8%).
What kinds of gifts do customers buy? Jewelry accounted for a total of $3 billion in 2011. The number of people buying electronics (13.3%) rose 48 percent from 2010 (9.0%) - and they're spending more, too. Those buying electronics spent $94.91 on smartphones, cameras and even tablet devices, up 8 percent from $87.70 in 2010.
Shopping for Number One
Most people, says Atlanta-based psychologist Mary Gresham, "select one primary attachment figure in the first year of life, and that is the person to whom they make their deepest bond." In our culture, she explains, that figure is typically the mother. "So even though dads are important, the attachment figure is the one you want to go to when you're sick, when you feel threatened or upset." And often, she adds, mothers are the ones we behave the most badly toward when in our adolescence.
Talk about powerful emotions: A strong early bond mixed liberally with guilt. How can advertisers tap into this?
Morse suggests ads and promotions that "remind people that it's not the size of the gift; it's about a heart-to-heart connection. Make the gift symbolic of the connection between you and your mom."
Morse suggests some ad copy that would tap into the emotional connection. Imagine a retailer was having a big Mother's Day sale and used signage that read "Who taught you to save in the first place?" This theme could be carried throughout the store so that, in perfumes, the signs would read "Why do you think her fragrance is still with you 30 years later?" Or in soaps and lotions: "Remember who taught you what cleanliness was closest to?"
When it comes to Mother's Day, Morse advises, advertisers should give consumers permission to be sentimental. "If ever you were going to be mushy with your mom, today is the day."
Multi award-winning Carol Carter has been a business journalist since 1978, when she was among the founding staff of Atlanta Business Chronicle, for which she served as editor, managing editor, reporter, and columnist. She covered retail news for the Chronicle for five years, wrote a column about retail stores for Southline newspaper in Atlanta, and was the consumer reporter for NBC-affiliate WXIA-TV's Noonday show.