Sunday is Mother’s Day. Not surprising. It comes every year. But this year, the holiday comes with significantly more meaning for myself and for my family.

My mother died less than two weeks ago, succumbing to a long battle with breast cancer. She would have turned 70 this Sunday, Mother’s Day of all days.

I will turn a ‘landmark’ age of 40 the following day.

Throughout my life, my mother and I shared our birthdays the same way we shared an incredible bond. A bond that now I can only learn from to be a better mother, a better person.

With the passing of my mother and my own milestone both falling so closely to Mother’s Day, the constant email marketing messages and reminders of the holiday hurt my heart a little more than usual. But they’ve also made me think.

What impression are retailers sending people about the meaning of Mother’s Day and other holidays? Is it the right message, or is it the Hallmark mentality coming through once again?

Don’t get me wrong, I get the importance of a memorable birthday celebration. I like giving gifts that are meaningful and inspiring to friends and family. But I also know it doesn’t have to revolve around what we purchase. I know, despite best efforts, I will never receive a gift on par with the trips I take with my family or friends, the flowers we plant in the gardens for our son to pick for me at a whim, or those indulgent dinners I cooked with my mother that I now make a point to cook with my loved ones.

I also know I am a bit odd. My parents were not religious, and not American. I feel guilty lying about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, but I do it for the kids and for my husband. When it comes down to what holidays mean to me it’s about:

  • Connecting with those you love.
  • Creating memories.
  • Expressing love and appreciation.

I wish I saw more messaging about relevant topics.  I wish there were less generic suggestions and gifts and more focus on the things we really want. Or, maybe even more fitting, the things we really need.

What Do Moms Want For Mother’s Day?

I think I speak for many moms when I say I don’t need a gift suggestion, a coupon code or free gift wrapping. I need more reminders about the tremendous gift I have in all the memories I have with my mother- and all those I am now creating with my kids.

What should brands focus on?

  • Actually honor your customers who are mothers. If you’re using your data to market effectively, you already have this information. Use it. If you don’t, start collecting it so you don’t miss this opportunity again next year. How can you honor customers in simple, authentic ways? Send them something. A gift card, a simple letter, flower seeds, a gift. Something thoughtful. Something that is all about them and not about you.
  • Take off your “I’m A Serious Brand” hat and sit on your floor and become a storyteller. Reflect on the mothers who are in some way connected to your company. Who is your CEO’s mom? What do moms mean to your company? To your employees? What great moms are on your team? How do you honor moms every day? Use the holiday as a reason to be more transparent and open with your audience. Show them more of who you are and why you do what you do.
  • Open your doors up to the mothers in your community by holding in-store events and inviting moms to show up with their children. Or maybe an event where they don’t have to show up with their children and bring a girlfriend instead. 😉 Create an experience that will celebrate them and everything they contribute to our world.
  • Get out of your own bubble. What strategic partnerships can you create to offer interesting and exclusive experiences for moms and their families? Maybe it’s a discount at a local spa. Or a free photo day. Or products they can enjoy with their families. Find a way for local vendors to work together to support your whole community.
  • Offer something in recognition of those mom’s who are no longer with us, because it’s about them too. And we miss them even more on days like this.

An example of a brand that truly gets Mother’s Day? Zulily.

This is the message they sent me:

 

You know what that message isn’t? It’s not sterile. It’s not generic. It’s personal and it’s warm.  And it’s what Mother’s Day is about.

Take the example.

Don’t get me wrong – I get it, retail marketer. I really do. I am, after all, a marketer. But instead of basing your marketing around generic flowers, chocolate and nothingness, why not do something more personal? Something that inspires a real connection. Something different from the 40-50 other emails I received.

To all of you- Happy Mother’s day to your moms (and to you if you are a mom!). I hope you get to give them a hug, make them smile, laugh and remember that’s what absolutely matters most.