Friday, May 7, 2010

Marketing Moms

Moms are amazing. They bring us into this world, feed us, help us when we take our first steps, buy us stuff, put plastic covers on our school books (and write our names on them), cook delicious food, help us make posters for class, scold us, hug us, and as we grow older; they step on the sides (in most cases!) and watch us survive on our own in the real world (using many of the things we've learnt from them).

Can we ever really repay our moms for all that they do for us? Well, not really. Moms don't want repayment (again, this might not apply to all moms). Their love for us is unconditional and they are the only beings in the world who are capable of loving this way. That, of course, does not mean that we should not show our appreciation for all that they do. And to help us heap lots of appreciation on our mom we have, very conveniently, 'Mother's Day'.

An American lady called Anna Jarvis, in the memory of her own beloved mother, endeavored to make Mother's Day a recognized holiday, which she succeeded in doing in 1914. But by the 1920s, she was soured by the 'commercialization' of it. Embittered by the way this day was celebrated she said, ' A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother - and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment'. (source: Wikipedia).

I think Ms. Jarvis was upset because she never got a box of candy for her mom or maybe she did and her mom didn't let her eat the candy! Jokes aside, Mother's Day is one of the best things to have happened for most brands. Although our brands caught up a little late (but then, we had our own set of problems during the 1920s in the subcontinent and brands didn't feature in our lives much back then), they have done well and now Mother's Day features BIG in their marketing calendars.

One of the brands which is most related with mothers in Pakistan is Dalda. 'Jahan mamta, wahan Dalda' is a phrase we have practically grown up with. It's a very strong positioning and one that is recognized, and most importantly, understood by its consumers. Dalda cooking oil is one of the oldest brands of Pakistan and it has always talked about 'mamta' (motherhood). In doing so it has associated itself with one of the most important relationship in the life of its consumers. Over the years, the mothers in their ads have undergone changes but the essence remains the same - mothers and their love for their children which is manifested in (among other things) providing the very best food cooked in, of course, Dalda cooking oil.

Dalda's association with Mother's Day has emerged strongly in the past few years and they have incorporated it very well with their overall brand identity. Their big event, to celebrate this day, is the 'Dalda Expert Mom Award'. The interesting thing about these awards is that it is the children who nominate their moms by sending in a story to Dalda about them (Sheer brilliance, don't you think? Children are not the influencers nor the decision-makers when it comes to buy cooking oil brands. But they will one day. And Dalda is training the kids well for that day). After screening of these stories and a rigorous process of interviews conducted by Dalda experts, moms are shortlisted as nominees for one of six award categories (for details

So what does this do for the brand? It gets to refresh its brand message through a brand extension (Expert Mom Award) which is very interactive. The entire household becomes involved in the process; kids sending the application, mothers going for interview with the Dalda experts and fathers/husbands keeping the morale high (while hoping, in some cases, for a monetary reward also besides the plaque). Interacting with the brand in such a manner leads to the development of a very strong bond with the brand. And what better way to celebrate Mother's Day then to tell the whole of Pakistan that 'my mom is the best in the whole country and she has this award from Dalda to prove it'. Another generation of kids getting ready to become future Dalda consumers!

Of course, then there are so many other brands who want to join the Mother's Day band(brand)wagon. Nido, a powdered milk brand of Nestlé, has come up with a new advertising campaign to pay homage to mothers. This campaign, unlike Dalda, is mostly limited to out door hoardings and print ads (there might be a TV ad also which I haven't seen as yet) with the message - ' Thank you mom, for helping me get up!'. Nido associates strongly with mothers and its positioning also revolves around the mother-child relationship. It has its own brand based show, Nido Ye Taare Hamaray- The Nido Young Stars Show which celebrates Nido's heritage of nurturing and good parenting (

No brand, though, has such a big ownership of motherhood and, now, of Mother's Day as Dalda Cooking Oil has. You might ask that there are many other brands which feature mother-child relationships in their ads; Surf Excel, Dettol soap, Safeguard, Lifebuoy, and Nestlé Milkpak but they don't celebrate Mother's Day in a big way. Primarily, these brands do not position themselves on the motherhood platform. Surf Excel has a simple message of 'Dirt is clean' which is rooted in the philosophy of modern parenting/child upbringing. Safeguard, Dettol and Lifebuoy are anti-bacterial soaps, primarily, which use the concept of family health and protection from germs in their positioning (generally speaking). Similarly, Nestlé Milkpak speaks about 'Mazboot Gharana' (strong household) which includes both parents. Their focus is not on the mother alone and therefore, Mother's Day is not a priority.

It is brands and television channels (especially morning shows) which have created greater awareness among the consumers (read: YOU) about Mother's Day. It doesn't matter whether you are users or non-users of that particular brand, you join the cycle of purchases which leads you towards buying a host of other brands. Greeting cards, flowers, cakes and candies are all part of the celebrations which make up this day. We are compelled to celebrate this day lest our moms feel left out. All the mothers of the world are being made to feel special so why should our mom not be?

So, is Mother's day commercialized, much to Ms. Jarvis's disgust? Yes, it is. But then, so is everything else in our lives. We have fallen into the brand trap; hook, line and sinker, whether we like it or not. Thus, you might find yourself ordering a special Mother's Day cake from Pie in the Sky, flowers from your nearby flower vendor (which may include fancy imported flowers), Hallmark greeting cards, special chocolate goodie baskets from LAL's or Butler's Chocolate, a brunch at your exclusive club (or maybe dinner at some fancy restaurant) and maybe even book a very exclusive treat for mom, a manicure/pedicure session at a good parlour (I think Bina Khan Salon had a special offer on Mother's Day last year). Happy (branded) Mother's Day!

But whether you cook your food in Dalda cooking oil, wash your hands with Safeguard or clean your dirty clothes with Surf Excel; you need to tell your mom she's special, and don't limit yourself to one day of the year only, no matter what the brands say.