Being a marketer means keeping aware of the trends and happenings in the greater marketing world. These considerations include seasonal ones as well. As holidays – both the traditional ones and the more “Hallmark-invented” sort – approach, it is smart brand-building to spend some time and energy creating content based around those ideas. Think about the Christmas season – promotions and sales have become such a major part of the cultural conversation that they have spawned an entirely new holiday called Black Friday.
Mother’s Day is no exception. Because of its heavy emotional component, it offers companies an opportunity to sell you on more than a product. Advertisers want to create campaigns that make consumers feel comfortable letting a brand into a wholesome – and personal – side of their everyday lives. Attempting to do so without careful consideration can lead to tacky, cloying campaigns that alienate viewers instead of endearing them to your brand. When done well, though, they can be the perfect mix of personalized brand engagement, topical marketing, and effective storytelling.
Now – this doesn’t necessarily mean that Mother’s Day marketing has to be a Kleenex-fest, either. Dealing with emotional subject matter doesn’t preempt a campaigns ability to show off a decent sense of humor. In fact, effective use of humor can be the perfect way to make the viewer comfortable with engaging with you on this type of subject matter, it humanizes your brand and makes it a friendlier source of content with which to engage. Others, however, go the full-on tearjerker route. The strategy that works best for your brand in particular will depend on the product you sell and maintaining consistency with previous branding.
Here are some recent examples of companies who understood exactly how to best market their brand for Mother’s Day.
Hallmark’s #PutYourHeartToPaper Campaign (2015)
Speaking of Hallmark, their own marketing campaigns always pay particularly close attention to upcoming holidays, for obvious reasons. This year, they’ve decided to go full schmaltz. The video above is an example of a campaign displaying the importance of telling Mom how much she means to you as often as possible. It’s pretty heavy stuff. Many of the chosen participants had particularly tough upbringings that helped forge intense mom-child bonds and make for particularly heartwarming video.
For Hallmark, going with heavy, emotional content over humor makes sense. Their brand relies on positioning themselves as part of your holiday routine: the family connection, the gift giving, and reminding the people around you how much they mean to you. These are emotional elements of life, so it makes sense for Hallmark to address them as such. It does, though, mean that the content they create has the added pressure of feeling sincere. If a joke falls flat, it’s not the end of the world for the brand whose commercial aired it, it’s just a missed opportunity. For the heavy stuff that Hallmark is dealing with, any moments that feel forced, thin, or sales-y, will derail any momentum the campaign had in the first place. Consumers tend not to tolerate that kind of thing.
Luckily, Hallmark did an excellent job of creating a natural atmosphere for their participants to open up, and then also of curating the material for the best and most diverse expressions of motherly love. The videos here not only feel sincere, but there’s inherent dramatic tension added by not letting the participants know that their mothers are actually present and watching until after they have given their responses.
Ultimately, the sap is a lot to take in, but for a company whose brand is built on consistently well done sap across multiple platforms, that’s A-Okay.
(Grab a box of tissues and check out the rest of the #PutYourHeartToPaper videos here.)
The Body Shop’s Royal Family Spot (2015)
Here, in a spot by the ad agency Mr. President for British skincare company Body Shop, we have the other end of the spectrum.
The commercial parodies what the morning of Mother’s Day might look like in the halls and bedrooms of Buckingham Palace. Using Doppelgangers as actors and actresses, the scene is presented as a humorous take on what that morning’s scene might look like. Instead of presenting the goings-on as stodgy and up-tight, we see a bit of recklessness from Prince Charles and Camilla. Toast gets burnt, the dog gets a hilariously messy bath (though Prince Charles insists on keeping his dress coat on the entire time) and Prince Harry comes home, still awake from the night before, holding a bottle of champagne (a funny but inoffensive take on his omnipresence in the British tabloids.)
This commercial is positioned in stark contrast to the sappiness of the Hallmark commercial, but is not necessarily any less effective. Britain is known for dry senses of humor and this would be considered relatively mild. Also, British admiration for the Royal Family has always made room for a certain degree of poking fun. The trappings of royalty have a pomposity that almost invites a certain degree of mild mockery.
Body Shop does a great job here of positioning themselves and their brand as smart, hilarious, and topical (the topical nature of the commercial is even more noteworthy because of the recent royal baby!).
Pandora’s Unique Connection Ads (2015)
This recent example from jewelry company Pandora finds the perfect mix between sappy and lighthearted. The children in the video are blindfolded and spun around while their mothers are lined up in an order they can’t see. One by one, the children go down the line blindly, feeling their faces and hands until they find their mom.
There is a slight tension as the first couple children go down the line, you can see in the mothers’ eyes the concern over whether the connection will be made right away. It’s not an off-putting tension, it just accentuates the love between them and their children and how deeply their desire to feel that connection is.
The moment of truth provides the perfect payoff every time. As each child correctly identifies the feeling of their mother’s face, the moment of embrace can’t help but make you smile. The commercial works so well because the emotional sweetness of the moment aligns conceptually with the product. The ads are specifically promoting a new line of personalized Mother’s Day jewelry, harkening back to the ‘unique connection’ that would enable a blind toddler to pick his mother out of a lineup based on the feeling of her face in his hands alone.
The National Basketball Association Co-opting Kevin Durant’s MVP Speech (2014)
Mother’s Day tends to fall smack dab in the middle of the National Basketball Association’s playoffs, which also happens to be when the league’s regular season Most Valuable Player is announced. Last year, Kevin Durant was awarded the title (after years of playing second fiddle to his friend and rival, Lebron James). So, when the time came for him to give his acceptance speech, he was understandably emotional. This manifested itself in a truly heartwarming tribute to his mother, who guided him through a tough childhood and propelled him to the success on and off the court that he is known for today.
Seeing the NBA co-opt this speech for their own marketing ends may rub some people the wrong way, but for the most part it is extremely effective advertising. It does a great job of showcasing that the product they are selling – which is of course, the experience of watching the upcoming playoff games – aren’t just representative of millionaires dribbling a ball up and down a court. These players have gone through intense hardship and decades of hard work to get to where they are today.
Seeing one of the biggest stars in the world reflect on that journey with sincere humility and gratefulness to his mother lends the experience of watching him play an added dramatic narrative. Even if you are rooting for another team to win, after watching that commercial it’d be hard not to at least find his story compelling enough to tune in the next time you see his team playing.
Mother’s Day ad campaigns are a great way to position your brand as relevant and topical in the constantly changing ad-cycle. Because of the nature of the holiday, they tend to be more on the emotional side. However, there are a wide range of approaches to emotional subject matter. Humor can be ignored or highlighted; focus can be placed on the mothers themselves or on the children expressing their love and gratitude. These types of decisions are made based on the product being sold and the brand’s history, but one thing remains clear no matter what. Sincerity is king. If you can create a Mother’s Day campaign that feels genuinely sincere, you’ll be strengthening your consumers’ connection with your brand in a fresh and topical way.