Companies letting customers opt out of Mother’s Day ads

As profitable as Mother’s Day is for some food and retail businesses, it can also be a painful time of year for a host of reasons ranging from grief over a lost relative to fertility struggles.

In an effort to balance these two facts, some brands are offering customers the choice to opt out of Mother’s Day — and Father’s Day — email advertising.

Companies familiar to many Canadians, such as Momofuku Goods, Kotn, Reformation, Fable Home and Etsy, are among those that have jumped on the trend in recent years.

“With Mother’s Day approaching, we understand that this can be a sensitive time. At Fable, we want to make sure that our emails bring you joy and comfort, nothing less,” reads a recent communication from dinnerware brand Fable Home.

“If you’d like to opt out of Mother’s Day emails from us, please click here … we just want to give you the option to skip the next few because we’re human too.”

Depending on how you look at it, University of Toronto communication and culture lecturer Daniel Tsai says it’s a show of cynical corporate marketing, an example of companies trying to treat consumers with empathy or something in between.

“From a marketing perspective, you want to be mindful of the interests and sensitivities of your audience or your customers, and a lot of people don’t come from stable families or have great relationships with their mothers and fathers,” Tsai told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Tuesday. “So a day like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day might be very triggering for some.”

On the other hand, Tsai said, the trend also points to the way some brands have mastered social sensitivity in the age of cancel culture.

“With social media, we’re much more politically correct and socially sensitive, and some may say this is part of a woke-type cultural phenomenon,” he said.

‘It is a trigger’

In one of the earlier examples of the trend, British online flower company Bloom & Wild earned a nod in the U.K. Parliament when it made the option available in 2019.

“It has given customers the opportunity to opt out of Mother’s Day emails as it recognizes that it can be a very sensitive time for some,” MP Matt Warman said. “If other companies were to follow suit, the dread — and I do mean dread — around this day might be mitigated for many people.”

He added that Father’s Day marketing should be handled with the same care.

Warman, who lost both of his parents when he was 27, was addressing Parliament about the government’s role in supporting bereaved Britons. It happened that his speech fell on the week of Mother’s Day.

“This week … mothers up and down the country will be appreciated through cards, breakfast in bed, and often questionable artwork from their children. For some, though — myself included — that day is a reminder of what we have lost. To use the modern jargon, it is a trigger.”

Culinary brand Momofuku Goods provided the option for the first time this year and has already seen 10,000 email subscribers opt out of Mother’s Day messaging, according to the company’s retention and lifecycle marketing manager Emma Hughes.

Although it’s a first for Momofuku, it’s a concept Hughes had previously introduced while working with other brands.

“I, like many people, have friends and family members who have lost parents (or) children, struggled with fertility issues, or have complicated relationships with parents that make Mother’s Day (and) Father’s Day a difficult time,” Hughes told CTVNews.ca in an email on Tuesday. “I think it’s important to remember that your email list is filled with many people who could be experiencing similar pain and sadness during these holidays.”

Fable Home introduced the option in 2021 and has had approximately 650 people in Canada and the U.S. opt out of Mother’s Day emails, and another 450 opt out of related texts. The company offers the same option for Father’s Day.

Fable senior marketing specialist Johanna Kuffner said the company — of which 70 per cent of the staff are women — received “overwhelmingly positive” feedback from its customers when it introduced the option.

“Many reached out to let us know that they appreciated the gesture, and we’ve continued to do it ever since,” Kuffner stated in an email to CTVNews.ca on Tuesday. 

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