25 February 2014

Mum's the word

With Mother's Day in the UK looming at the end of March, it can only be a question of a few short weeks before we're hit by wall to wall mum-related advertising. Every florist, chocolatier, card shop and beauty brand will by vying to get us spending to prove just how much we love our mums. But it's not only in March that mums feature in advertising - from banks to cars, and toiletries to technology, brands from almost any sector happily turn to mummies to get their message across.

Every week there's another campaign milking the deep-seated emotional associations that go along with images of parents and children. Brands want to reach out, to connect to that universal experience. But is it always credible? Or sometimes just a cheap trick, tugging at heart strings with stock clichés and formulaic images?

P&G have gone all out during the Sochi Olympics - thanking mums everywhere (especially those who have the patience and winter wardrobe to freeze for hours at snow board/ice skate/ski practice) 'for teaching us falling only makes us stronger.' It's stirring stuff, climactic music, beautifully shot stories of children growing up to achieve the highest levels of sporting success.

Then there's Natwest, with their #littlethankyous campaign, appealing to us to nominate our mums to receive a thank you for the everyday heroics they perform.

The first is uplifting, positive and rooted in real life stories of Olympians around the world, and it's an easy jump to see the connection of the 'mum story' to P&G's products. On the other hand the second seems slightly umimaginative and forced, a wide feel good net to scoop up social media traffic. There is much less of an obvious match to what Natwest offers.

It's a fine line, and one easily crossed into mawkish sentimentality. Perhaps worse, peddling the well worn 'mum story' brands can risk looking like they endorse out of date and out of fashion gender stereo types (incompetent bungling dad? Check. Perennially cheerful stay at home mum obsessed with clean surfaces? Check). But, done well, authentically, and with a thoughtful match to a brand and its messages, most of us are still happy to have our heart strings tugged, and even shed a surreptitious tear as that P&G skier crests the final hill to victory...

P&G link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57e4t-fhXDs

Natwest link https://twitter.com/NatWest_Help/status/431004306888589312/photo/1