Mother's & Father's Day: the Meal vs. the Message

Published On: April 26, 2018

Applying last year’s learnings to this year’s campaigns.

Spring has finally sprung and the season of celebrating parents is upon us. Mother’s Day holds the trophy for most popular holiday to dine out, while Father’s Day follows close behind in the third spot. A 2017 National Restaurant Association Study found that 92 million Americans (or 37 percent of all consumers), planned to dine out on Mother’s Day. Seems like a lot, right? Well, it is!
We reviewed the holiday campaigns Fishbowl ran for clients in 2017, examining their effectiveness based on timing and subject lines, and then we surveyed holiday LTOs across a variety of channels.  What stood out?  The audience.  The “planners” of the celebratory meal out would be different based on the holiday, so of course it makes sense that the tactics to communicate with them should be different too.
Looking at 2017 email open rates of Fishbowl client’s, we have found that weekday open rates compared to weekend open rates in the first two weeks of May and June were 16% and 23% higher, respectively.  The highest day was Wednesday.
Another finding:  the highest open rate in the first two weeks of May was Wednesday May 10th – 4 days before the holiday.  Could it be that Dads charged with planning procrastinated a bit on their plans? And as you may have guessed, the highest open rate for Father’s Day emails was Wednesday, June 7th – a full 11 days before the celebratory event.
When it comes to subject lines, the difference in 2017 between Mom and Dad was stark.  Mother’s Day emails with subject lines containing “Mother/Mom” (or emails with symbols/emojis) had higher rates than subject lines with keywords such as “Gift” or “Celebrate.”  Conversely, emojis and symbols were the most compelling subject line keywords in Father’s Day emails – out performing “Father/Dad.”  However, we found anecdotally that a subject line with a unique spin on the holiday was also effective.
While diners out are not making the celebratory meal themselves, words like “treats” and “treating” were ubiquitous for both Mother’s and Father’s Day campaigns.  In Mother’s Day campaigns, many clients focused on the “handmade” element, or on meals cooked by others.  Tulips in emails and social media also proved to be just as compelling as tulips on the table, conjuring up the image of handing one’s mother a bouquet.  For Dad’s, it was all about the beef.  Images of steaks and burgers as well as references to “relaxing” were partnered with ties on hangers and unused grilling utensils.

2017 Subject-Line Performance

BOGO LTOs remained the most popular LTO, but there were many creative approaches in 2017.  Free homemade desserts and sides were used to draw in traffic, as were set menus and special meals.  Additionally, Mother’s Day LTOs appealed to last minute gift-givers by offering gift card purchases or raffles for a free spa trip.
The good news is that now is the time to capitalize on the popularity of these special dine-out holidays.  Send emails and promote your holiday specials in social media starting early in the month, featuring the compelling imagery and offers that drive response. Then make sure to send a final SMS reminder the day before.  But while these two holidays are similar, don’t get trapped into treating them identically as the planning audiences are likely to be different.
And by the time these holidays pass, you’ll be on to summer specials.
This blog was written by Fishbowl’s Marketing Director, Heather Lawrence.


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