Why more brands should embrace smart grief this Mother’s Day and every day

Jesse Moss

Posted 29 minutes ago. About 5 minutes to read.

Image: Valina

Brand provided

Sometimes Mother’s Day — and a number of other marketing holidays celebrating relationships — can hurt. When brands go beyond the sales pitch to show their humanity on these occasions, they can stand out and create the most authentic connections that customers are looking for.

This month – amid onslaught of adverts for flowers, jewelry and more Mothers’ Day gifts – an unexpected e-mail may also arrive in your inbox: an offer to withdraw.

This may seem like counterintuitive marketing around holidays that involve over $28 billion in consumer spending. Yet he is part of a young but growing Thoughtful Marketing Movementlaunched in 2019 by a UK-based florist Flowering & Wild. The company noticed something that’s all too obvious to millions: Sometimes Mother’s Day — and a number of other marketing holidays celebrating relationships — can hurt.

While corporate promotions are carefully crafted and beta-tested to evoke a strong feeling, for many people that emotion is the sucker of grief. When you’ve experienced the death of someone in your life, ads like these can catch you off guard and painfully remind you of how much you’ve lost:

“Give mom the love she gave you!” (I can’t, because she’s dead.)

“Your partner will love these Valentine’s Day gifts!” (I’m sure she would, but we’re divorced.)

“The perfect Father’s Day gifts to say thank you!” (It’s too late now, isn’t it?)

Just checking your social feed or opening your email can trigger a flood of unwanted feelings. In an age of empathy, this kind of corporate communication ignores the experience of millions of bereaved families — something that seems particularly tone-deaf when countless people are still reeling from the losses of the pandemic.

These ads can make vulnerable and grieving people feel alone, marginalized by the culture around them. It is quite difficult for an adult; but consider that one in five children has experienced the death of someone significant in their life and 5.6 million have experienced the death of a parent or sibling. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day land differently for them, every day.

“Their experience is not just a personal tragedy,” said Brie Overtonbereavement expert and clinical director at Experience camps — a nonprofit that advocates for the nation’s grieving children. “Research shows that unresolved grief is an urgent public health issue, which can have significant long-term implications for mental health and physical well-being. Bereaved children are much more likely to be at risk for mental health issues, academic decline, substance abuse, and even premature death.

This is a complex issue, which deserves more attention and funding. Still, allowing people to opt out of certain marketing messages is a small but significant step companies can take to help.

It’s actually quite simple. Companies can send an email or post a link on social media allowing users to unsubscribe from certain holiday communications. This simple and powerful action can show that a business really cares about its customers, not just their wallet.

Forward-thinking retailers, including A way, Etsy, milk bar and
pandora have already asked people to unsubscribe from advertisements with messages for Mother’s Day. Above all, this does not mean that the marketing stops. Opt-outs still receive brand communications; these messages are just a little more personalized since they omit the reference to a painful holiday.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. These leading brands have garnered customer love, broad organic social media amplification, and glowing media coverage. Even people who don’t want to opt out appreciate the humanity of brands. And, while this trend may be amplified by the pandemic, its impact goes far beyond those who have experienced a death. People can find vacations difficult for a variety of reasons: infertility, difficult relationships, difficult memories. The list continues.

Hopefully, we’ll soon see unsubscribes for Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, even pet-related communications — with the ability to come back if someone’s feelings or life circumstances change. Holidays and celebrations give brands a special chance to make a connection bigger than the product they’re trying to sell – and the idea is catching on.

So far, more than 150 companies have already joined the Thoughtful Marketing Movement, and for good reason. Today, customers expect companies to know them and treat them as a whole person. By offering them a way to engage that also sees their grief, businesses can stand out and create the more authentic connections they seek.

This type of brand leadership can have ripple effects. It got more people talking about grief and even sparked a discussion in the British Parliament: MP Mark Warman shared his experiences with bereavement, in remarks that may be unusually personal for most parliamentary debates, but exemplify the kind of honest leadership we need now.

We need more leadership like this. The action of 150 brands is a good start, but it is not enough. Now we’re taking action on what we’ve heard over 520,000 hours from grieving youth and calling on businesses to
#OfferOptOut. This is a real opportunity for authentic brands to shed light on grief and make millions of grieving people feel seen and supported.

We applaud those who have already stepped up to accelerate this positive trend. We also look forward to hearing from even more companies lending their voices to shed light on the issue of bereavement, adopt smarter bereavement practices, and show millions of people that they are not alone.