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More companies letting customers opt out of Mother’s Day ads

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(NEW YORK) — Although it’s been over 20 years since Marisa Bardach Ramel’s mom Sally died in 2002, the Colorado-based author said she’s caught by surprise every year when Mother’s Day rolls around.

“Each year, I think I’m far enough away from it where it’s not going to bother me, and each year, it bothers me,” Bardach Ramel said of the holiday’s impact on her grief journey.

Early on, Bardach Ramel said she couldn’t walk into a drugstore this time of year without being bombarded with Mother’s Day reminders and messages. The ubiquitous marketing has since shifted online, but in 2019, she also noticed something new: A U.K. based florist started to let customers opt out of Mother’s Day emails — and other companies began to follow suit.

“I’m part of a lot of motherless daughters groups through Facebook, and there was a lot of hubbub in those groups of all of us motherless daughters being like, ‘Oh my gosh, people see us, people know that we exist. People know that this isn’t a happy holiday for some of us,"” Bardach Ramel told ABC News’ Good Morning America.

For Bardach Ramel, the Mother’s Day marketing emails don’t bother her as much as social media posts and tributes, but as she pointed out, grief doesn’t look the same for everyone, and it can change over time.

“It depends on where you are in your personal journey with your grief. But I think overall, it’s nice to have options,” the mom of two said.

Ron Hill, the Dean’s Professor of Marketing and Public Policy at American University in Washington, D.C., said the onslaught of marketing emails can trigger potential emotional reactions for some people.

“Holidays like this can be overwhelming for people … What happens if we’re not a mother? What happens if a mother [is no longer living]? There are lots of reasons why we might want to give people an opportunity not to have to listen to these messages, because they don’t fit,” Hill said.

“Since we get so many of these messages, the ability to not get some of them that aren’t targeted properly to us really can make a difference, because it reduces the clutter,” Hill added.

Some of the companies offering the option to opt out include beverage retailer Boisson, the graphic design platform Canva and the delivery service company DoorDash, which told GMA it’s had more than 80,000 consumers opt out of Mother’s Day marketing this year since emails started getting sent out at the end of April.

Fenot Tekle is the global head of communications at Canva and told GMA the Australian company started sending out opt-out emails to subscribers last year, and repeated the strategy again this year.

“Our core values are about being a force for good, and we, in this instance, prioritize being a good human and showing sensitivity to our community,” Tekle said. “Mother’s Day seemed like one that really does have a lot of emotions around it, and so we started with that holiday, but have expanded into other areas as well.”

The trend has caught on and doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

Bardach Ramel said she noticed “with COVID in 2020, that’s when a lot of companies really joined in on that effort to be sensitive.”

“Because there was just so much loss, I think every company, when they went to send any kind of communication, whether it was through email or social media, just took that extra step of sensitivity because loss was affecting so many people. Loss became so much more universal,” she said.

Hill agreed, telling GMA, “My guess [is] it will continue. I think this is a recent attempt to try to connect with consumers in a way that shows a positive emotional response to the person.”

Tekle said Canva is planning to roll out similar marketing efforts seasonally and with other holidays too, such as Father’s Day and Christmas, as part of a larger push to be more inclusive.

“There’s a recognition that we’re really acting in an empathy-first way in our marketing efforts, and at the end of the day, I think that resonates with people and gives them a good sense of who we are as a company and what we stand for,” Tekle said.

“I think more and more companies are thinking about how to be more inclusive in the way they market to their audiences,” Tekle added. “It’s no longer sort of a ‘nice-to-have’ to be inclusive in the work that you’re doing. It’s table stakes. And this belief is an extension of that effort.”

For customers, Hill explained that opting out can be an empowering move and restore a semblance of control for people.

“We tend to feel that we’re inundated by marketers and these kinds of promotions and communications,” Hill said. “By marketers giving us some agency, they actually allow us to feel more empowered and then we can remove some of those things that we really aren’t very interested in.”

Bardach Ramel also pointed out that as much as it can be healthy to opt out, there’s also a case to be made about facing one’s grief triggers when time has passed.

“The truth is, we can never opt out of Mother’s Day fully,” she said.

She added, “I don’t think we should avoid all the triggers. Because we have a lot of emotions, and grief especially has a lot of emotions. And we need to feel them at some point. It’s important to feel them. Otherwise we just keep shoving them down.”

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