Saturday, May 9, 2009

Dear Madison Avenue, Please Don't Wish Me a Happy Mother's Day

Dear Readers,

Last May, before I launched, I wrote a blog post about childless women and Mother's Day. It's been one of my most popular posts to-date and so I thought this year, I would simply update the data and re-post.

(First published on May 2, 2008. Data has been updated for 2009)

Dear Madison Avenue,

Please don't wish me a Happy Mother's Day.

It's not that I don't appreciate the wishes. And I don't mean to be the "Ebenezer Scrooge" of Mother's Day. It's a perfectly lovely holiday.

But I am not a mother.

And it's not that I don't want to be. I personally do. But for now, I am not a mother.

So when I walk into your store, or open your e-newsletter, or receive your direct mail, please don't wish me a Happy Mother's Day.

Don't get me wrong. I love mothers. I admire the work and energy it takes to be a mother.
In fact, some of my best friends are mothers. But some are not. In fact, some of your girlfriends are probably not mothers either. Stop. Look around. Chances are about 50% of the women you know are not mothers. Especially since you live in a big city like New York.

Madison, or Ms Avenue if you prefer, just look at the US census report on fertility. In 2006 (the latest report) 45.1% of women up to the age of 44 were counted as "childless." (The number of women over the age of 44 who are non-moms is not recorded.) That's up from 44.6% in 2004. And 43% in 2001. So the numbers are growing. Year after year. After year.

For every Mom out there, there is a Non-Mom. Some by choice. Some yet to be. Some who just can't. None of these women want your Happy Mother's Day wishes. In fact, you are probably hurting some feelings along the way.

But Madison, you're a smart marketer. You can step away from the decades-old idea that moms are the most powerful spenders in the US. Perhaps at education and kids' necessities like diapers and milk they are. Sure. But women in general are the most lucrative consumers for marketers. And we've come a long way, baby. 85% of women make or influence the purchasing decisions in their household. The household, by the way, may be a family of four, or a single abode for one. For the first time, more women than men are buying cars, consumer electronics, homes and doing home renovations. And you might be surprised to hear that 50% of single women own their own homes.

Since the 1960's, when women were finally opening bank accounts in their own names, you have been focusing your marketing strategies on Mom since that is how you have traditionally identified "Woman." But it's 2009 and times have changed. Today, non-moms actually have greater purchasing power because they are not supporting children, because a greater portion of non-moms than moms are still in the workforce, and because they have more time for leisure and travel.

Which doesn't mean that non-moms don't love children. Non-moms have nieces and nephews, by relation or by choice, and other children in their lives that they love and embrace (and spoil!).

Madison, since you are a woman who works in advertising and marketing, you may have heard that I call this segment of women: PANKs (Professional Aunts, No Kids.) PANK is the New PINK. We are the fastest growing segment of affluent women in America - the women you should be focusing some really smart attention on.

So don't turn us off. Don't keep assuming all women are moms. Do better targeting and segmenting. Find the women who spend their discretionary income and time on the kids in their lives - and on themselves. We're here. We're listening. And we're ready to buy.

In the meantime, go ahead with your Mother's Day plans. I too wish all moms a beautiful day full of all the love and joy that motherhood brings.

But please, don't wish the rest of us a Happy Mother's Day.

Because the thing is, we're not moms.

Auntie Melanie Notkin


  1. Nice post - I agree on the better targeting. I forgot that my kids had a special Aunt when they were younger. My neighbor in NJ loved to send gifts for the boys when they were younger and she did the Mother's Day card to me from them.

    We parted ways when she supported my ex in his quest for non supervised visits. It was just vocal to me but something I could not get past and best to end the friendship.

  2. Finally! As an aunt to over 30+ nieces and nephews and a woman who tried desperately to get pregnant and couldn't, I've learned over the yrs to limit my public outings on Mother's Day to avoid the ackward, "Happy Mother's Day," well-wishes that just make me feel weird, sad and annoyed.


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