The Gender Stereotypes
Of course, when you’re advertising gifts for women and trying to recommend products you think moms will want, it’s easy to fall into stereotypes. With store displays where you have a limited amount of space, it’s especially hard to think outside the box. The Mother’s Day tables at the local Barnes and Noble and Sam’s Club were filled with fairly banal crap. Chick lit, self-help/inspirational books, cookbooks, craft books, stationary sets, and at Sam’s Club, a large assortment of children’s books. (To be fair, B&N also had a display of kids’ books about moms but at least they were in the children’s section.) Having helped set up these sorts of displays when I worked at a bookstore I really do get that there isn’t much room for creativity or duplication of what’s already on bestseller tables, but some variety would be nice. The web offerings aren’t much better. Barnes and Noble was at one point advertising the Cooking edition of Scrabble as a gift for mom; why not just regular Scrabble? While Amazon’s full list of gift books for Mom has a few more interesting suggestions, the home page links are pretty blah. I’m not trying to say that moms can’t like these books, hell, I like some of these categories, but after a while it starts to seem like any mom who has different interests is somehow weird. I’ve also seen plenty of ads for perfume and shoes, but since those were pretty much just from stores that specialize in those products, they’ll get a pass for now.
Then there are the stereotypes that just go too far. That table at Sam’s Club also had half a dozen different dieting books. If someone gave that to me as a Mother’s Day gift, they would be on my shit list for a long time. In the emails I’ve gotten over the last couple weeks, Amazon has also informed me of holiday discounts on epilators and vacuum cleaners. While I do need a new electric razor and think those Dyson vacuums and bladeless fans are pretty sweet, no mom wants their kids or significant other to give them gifts that call into question their personal hygiene or housekeeping. Vicious side-eye. Also, the Verizon ad where the mom is sobbing because her daughter is moving all of 15 miles away is just fucking obnoxious. Happy Mother’s Day; we think you’re all overly emotional and vaguely ridiculous! Buy our phone; it comes in purple!
The No Fucks to Give
I think these are some of my favorites because they don’t try too hard to browbeat you into buying what they think your mom or significant other will like. The Discovery Channel Store simply sent me a code (MOMROCKS) for $25 off any purchase of $100 or more. Sure, when you click the link the first few items are pink and/or related to cupcakes, but if your mom is more into Mythbusters, American Choppers, or Planet Earth, you get still the same discount. (Resisting urge to buy stuff for myself…) Several other companies also sent out coupon codes that work on anything in the store, or offered bonus gift cards if you spent a certain amount. I like the no-pressure approach!
I admit, I do feel bad for the people in marketing who feel like they have to tie random promos to whatever holiday is going on. I got a hell of a laugh when this showed up in my inbox earlier with “Hooray for Moms!” in the subject line:
What better way to show mom you care than by saving $1.00 on cereal? I’m not saying I wouldn’t use the coupon, but it doesn’t really make me feel loved, you know?
The Pretty Damn Awesome
A few companies really got it right, though. Audible.com went with simple ads that said “This Mother’s Day, thank your first narrator,” and “She’s the best narrator you’ve ever had.” A wee bit schmaltzy, perhaps, but it made perfect sense for a company that sells audiobooks. Charity and nonprofit ads also seem to do really well with their messaging. Kiva’s ad in support of their microlending program is simple but powerful.
The Bad Mental Images!
Of course, it’s completely legitimate to advertise gifts for someone to give to the mother of their child rather than their own mother. But for the love of FSM, please be careful how you word those ads! When I see an email titled “Treat Your Mom to Something Special This Mother’s Day” or “Amazing Savings on Mother’s Day Gifts,” I’m really not expecting to open it up to find lingerie or vibrators, respectively. No, I am not buying La Perla for my mother and I hope like hell my kid would never buy that for me. Admittedly, once you opened it, the Eden’s Fantasy email was pretty obviously aimed at couples, but the damage was already done, especially since the promo codes all used MAMA. Ew, no.