Tell me a story

“Oh, I thought you’d forgotten!”

“How can I, mom? I just got 20 per cent off of bread on Mother’s Day sale.”

My mother thought I’d forgotten about Mother’s Day because I didn’t wish her on Sunday. It came up when I mentioned it, with the flyaway tone it deserves, in a conversation two days later.

Every street corner has a flyer or a billboard reminding us about this celebratory day. Everywhere I look, there’re roses and pinkish red ribbons cajoling people to splurge, guilting them into buying things their mothers may never even enjoy.

But that’s just the tradition of Mother’s Day. Each year during this time, storefronts and in-stores promote maternity, maternal thankfulness, love, and forever gratitude.

What a story, huh?

Storytelling is now an unmistakeable chapter in marketing books. Almost every marketer I know understands its value, speaks about it, and in public forums vouches for it. But this “trend” came about only in the last three to five years. Before that, no one spoke as much about the great tactic that’s storytelling and its role in marketing and sales.

And yet, for years, we’ve been falling prey to some of the most wonderful storytelling the retail industry has ever divulged.

Yes, I’m saying Mother’s Day is a story. And a well-said one too.

In most of Asia, children live with their parents until they get married or go off to work in a different city. However, in most of the western world, children move out of their parents’ far sooner—sometimes as early as fifteen years. That is an excellent market for the Mother’s Day story. You know how it goes: the child takes one day off from their personal life to meet with their mother, praise her, thank her, and show her how much they love her. It’s the perfect story—with the right blend of care- and guilt-inducing narrative, the story can survive generations, as we see it has. The best part? As the Asian culture adapted to westernisation, more Asian children experience it too.

In a sense, the grand narrative of being there for your mother, at least one day of the year, has become such a relatable matter for so many of us that we give in to without second thoughts.

With today’s tech growth, we don’t need one day of the year to bond with our mother. Heck, I moved to Australia a month ago, and I still call my mom twice every day. I don’t always want to—when you’re talking to your mom that often, you run out of things to talk about much sooner than you’d imagine—but I still make time to call her. She would freak out otherwise, but it’s also a nice way to acknowledge her and what she means to me.

I’m not the only one either. A lot of people I know have regular interactions with their parents. But even they follow Mother’s Day ritual because it’s just so baked into our minds, and—gosh what would people think about them if they don’t?

That’s how compelling this story is. It’s so haunting that you can’t get away from it without going through with it. And like a vicious cycle, as people fuelled the tradition every year, we’ve ended up with a generation of mothers who’re accustomed to expecting the $100 wine bottle (which they know was on sale for $89.95) as proof of their children’s love.

As a marketer, I appreciate the mastery of the storytelling. But as a child, it just makes me a monster who’s so obsessed with work that she couldn’t even send her mother a card on Mother’s Day.

Oh, well.

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