I have rarely received so many email sales messages about Father’s Day. Perversely this is because traders have taken it upon themselves to check if I am going to be triggered by messages about Father’s Day.

It many ways this is admirable. In a year when so many have experienced the unexpected death of elderly relatives it is advisable to tread lightly. Naturally that’s complicated somewhat by asking the question in the first instance. Would it have been better perhaps to just avoid the F word in your seasonal marketing plan, rather than ask whether we mind you mentioning something which involves you mentioning it?

I suspect that asking once is better than then sending out repetitive emails on the subject. I didn’t read any of them deeply enough to know if it would prevent companies ever mentioning it again or if they’ll have forgotten about it by next year. That’s a whole separate issue. My concern is whether people recognise that a brand has put in the effort to avoid offending them, whether it enhances their brand reputation.

Our attention is assailed by thousands of marketing and other messages every day, it’s unlikely that we will recall that nice company who tried to protect our feelings – but some might. We should recognise that doing the right thing is a great sign of integrity, a demonstration that you know the correct ‘behaviour’ even if it may hurt your bottom line.


Sensitive Marketing and Father's Day
Don’t mention the D word. Images by Tim Mossholder via Unsplash.

I did not leave any lists this time around, I appreciated the effort if not the execution. My father has been dead for over a decade and I take this opportunity to reflect how difficult he was to buy for – that cliché that exists around older men. Likelihood is that I didn’t try hard enough and also that there are now many more options. Being a dad myself, I have a self-interest in the ‘offers’ being touted. I want to see if something appeals to me, for me. It’s all self, self, self.

I also take a perverted humourist’s view of the products that are punted at ‘older’ men: Beer and beards, shaving, shoes, sunglasses and saki mugs (?), Alcohol and audio products (high-end, naturally). Of course, some of my messages are driven by my browsing and purchasing habits, which always begs the question: ‘if they know so much about me, can they perhaps anticipate my sensitivities?’

It’s been a tough year for advertisers, for brands and marketeers. Crushed by the demise of high street retail, harried by a crisis of consumer confidence sparked by Covid. Sometimes you have to go back to basics. If you want to show your sensitive side about cultural or personal issues check with the source. Ask people who know, do the research, talk to the communities. It’s always been about knowing your audience; nothing ever changes on that front.