For Mother’s Day, Mom Really Wants Better Marketing

As a daughter, I’ve shopped for Mother’s Day gifts for my incomparable mom, Kim, for as long as I can remember. Today, I’m a mom to the cutest two-year-old this side of the Mississippi (maybe both sides), and I’ve gained a whole new perspective on what Mother’s Day and Mother’s Day gifts are all about. And then, as an advertising industry professional, the business of Mother’s Day is nothing short of fascinating. In this edition of Plain Talk, we’ll talk about dispelling mom myths and how better communication from marketers can lead to the perfect (hint-free) Mother’s Day gift.

A little context

Mom’s big day is just around the corner, and the marketing and advertising for the holiday are in full swing. In the United States, Mother’s Day has become one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending (1). In 2021, the National Retail Federation stated that shoppers planned to spend $220.48 on average for Mother’s Day (2), with approximately 152 million Mother’s Day cards being sent (3). In what we consider “holidays,” Mother’s Day is second only to THE holidays (i.e., Christmas) for spending, and it’s been trending upward steadily for years.

Planned total expenditure on Mother's Day in the United States from 2007 to 2021 (billion U.S. dollars)

As marketers, we spend a lot of time discussing and dispelling stereotypes when it comes to gender and race. Similarly, we must dispel the stereotypes associated with moms – the helicopter mom, the hot-mess mom, the sports mom, the health-nut mom – we’ve all heard about these ladies, but what does it really mean to be a mom in 2022? Who is she? And what the hell should I buy her for Mother’s Day?

Who is mom?

She is a working mom – and whether she’s laying concrete or running the board room, she’s usually the hardest worker on the job. She’s a single mom. She’s a grandma and a stay-at-home mom. At home, she’s a chef, teacher, chauffeur, multi-tasker, CFO, wet nurse, laundry service – and that’s just before 10 a.m. In the book “Fair Play” by Eve Rodsky, “78% of moms say they are so busy maintaining family stability by being constantly available, mentally and physically, to deal with every detail of home life, that they aren’t taking care of themselves.”

According to Motherly’s State of Motherhood survey, 93% of American mothers report feeling burned out in some way. Long and short – moms do it all. Mom’s to-do list should never include “pick out my own Mother’s Day gift.” Moms don’t want to be forced to drop hints about what they deserve – please don’t make them. To avoid this, we must effectively reach those Mother’s Day shoppers and position all those wonderful brands as appropriate Mother’s Day gift solutions.

As marketers, we must pay attention to what mom needs and then place our brand within that context. If you are lucky enough to represent a brand that has the potential to make mom’s life a little easier, shout it from the rooftops leading up to Mother’s Day. Or, if you manage a brand whose premium quality is a match for the premium effort all those moms are putting in, lead with that. More importantly, ensure your communications are undeniably clear on the “mom-benefit” for all those shoppers searching for the perfect gift that embraces mom and recognizes her achievements. Shoppers understand even better than advertisers that mom wants to be seen and comforted on her one day per year – so help that poor shopper out while simultaneously making mom feel good.

Don’t sell, help

What does a real Mother’s Day travesty look like? Imagine a Target store full of shoppers that wander aimlessly, feeling they cannot find a single item that will be enough for mom – we’ve all been there. Then, from the camping aisle, a shopper calls mom and asks her if she would like a new canteen. In this scenario, you, as an advertiser, have failed to help both the shopper and the mom. You failed during the pre-shop period by not reaching the shopper and educating them on your brand’s Mother’s Day story, thus sending them into the store without a clear mission. And you failed again at retail by not merchandising in such a way that the consumer clearly sees your brand as perhaps the only SKU in the entire store that will ensure mom feels loved today. As seen in National Retail Federation (NRF)’s Annual 2021 Mother’s Day Spending Survey, consumers are searching for gifts that are unique and create memories for mom, with far less concern over convenience and even cost.

NRF’s Annual 2021 Mother’s Day Spending Survey also shows that shoppers are predominately shopping for a mother or a stepmother, but they are also shopping for wives, daughters, grandmothers, sisters, friends, godmothers and other relatives. As advertisers, we’d be hard-pressed to be handed a brand that cannot connect emotionally with one of these Mother’s Day gift recipients. As is almost always the best strategy, start with the insight first – what does the Mother’s Day shopper want and what does the mom need – then build your Mother’s Day program around that truth. Walk away from the Mother’s Day stereotypes and modernize this fabulous holiday for those millions of modern women who’ve earned a gift that goes beyond a potted petunia.

NRF - Who do you plan to buy a Mother's Day gift for this year?

NRF - What is important to consumers when picking out a Mother's Day gift?

Here is a brief look at some examples of Mother’s Day advertising that gets at the core of what moms mean to those who love them.

Google Nest Hub


If you need help tackling next year’s Mother’s Day or any other holiday, drop us a note or give us a call at 502-499-4209.