Sanjeev Kotnala: Return of the Stereotyped Mother

17 May,2017

By Sanjeev Kotnala


Nothing has changed. Women empowerment and all. The situation is much different than what the advertising fraternity will want us to believe. In some Hindi film, there was a dialogue, ‘Yeh saala itna kameena hai ki apni maa ko baych kayega’. No, we are not that bad, but we still  overtly trigger desired  sentiments and can’t help pushing the guilt lever more often than that of love and care. Mother’s Day be dammed.

Advertising been scratching guilt wounds more than applying balm to them. It continues to paint the stereotypical socially politically and culturally right picture of a Mother. The one we are comfortable with.  Not surprising that most brands remain in a safe territory. Everyone is cautious of the hypersensitive hawks on social media waiting for that one slip. They can make or break a brand managers day.

Every year I search out for brands that will prove me wrong. Brands that are more confidence be little bolder. In absence of real tectonic movement, even a simple push like RELIANCE FRESH #JeeLeZARA on Women’s Day or NISSAN helps.

Annually, in this period, brands feel that extra urge to pay homage to mother. We see some humourous communication on social media and we enjoy it. Take for example the one featuring Nirupa Roy, the mother who lost her kids in every movie or the re-crafted motivational quote ‘Behind every successful kid is a Mother. They make us smile. Meanwhile, the real situation is  a bit different and is best captured in cartoon below.

The agencies brainstorm in brightly lit halls focusing their energies to re-define the emotional connect and guilt trip levers still available to be exploited. They evaluate and try picking the most  relevant and differentiated one that is in sync with the brand promise and culture. It is not an easy task. Then they put it through the acid test of revenue potential and possible brand impressions. It is what  finally decides if the idea is finally executed and the budget that is  be put behind it. The agency pushes the potential award winning execution with a loud over amplified  promise of it being commented, liked, shared, viewed and reviewed to become a viral. So what you end up seeing is something good. Anyway, every client gets the creative they deserve.

If there is not much left in stereotypes, then brands like Nivea feebly attempts to strategically expands the group to #JustLikeMAA or reverse the role as GOOGLE does in its First-Day communication. When it remains a bit forced, the audience fails to connect.

Surprisingly, I find this simple message form MICROMAX ‘What Maa Really Wants’ relevant. Every one of us knows how true it is. And then I am immediately reminded by #MilnaZarooriHai by The mommom on Facebook that roles can be reversed.

Some brands like WAGHBAKRI do not want to leave things to chance. They very politely and somewhat hesitantly push the product. Something you could buy her on Mother’s Day. Somehow, giving Green Tea on Mother’s Day does not cut ice.

TANISHQ tells you to express your love with jwellery. Their sales pitch is a bit more softer and emotional and it got nothing to do with the possible price difference.

Some communication connect well. They make you think and feel the real emotions. The  product is silently weaved in for comfort. It is not intrusive in nature. This time a communication from a real estate business by ZILLOW AD– the sad kid missing his mother, and you remain with the thought for a lot longer.


Yes, mothers do swear. However, mostly we have seen male in the house being aggressive and releasing their irritation just by swearing. It is  relaxing. Somehow, moms go through their super-active pressure cooker role without swearing. And  KRAFT asks you to swear like mom,. Definietly an insightful start but the execution is too constipated.

Why not change the equations. GODREJ EXPERT flipped it differently. It is likeable. And am sure that I many soap writers and Balajee Tele-films would hate to see a world like that. And then IndiaBulls  goes to milk dry the exression #Maa KabhiThaktiNahi

Oh, by the way, quite a lot of this is on digital. It’s here that the clients with not a strong foundation for the event allow agencies to play. Long format communication is  a basic format here. Activation is suport. Many forget that  audience watch, share or comments when the content is interesting, emotive or humorous. In 2015, CELLO tried defining the sacrifice and thing’s mom done for you. It was a 7 minutes long torture that sincerely fails to deliver. Brands must wake up. Check it out for yourself.

It is worth noticing that most of these communications comment on a daughter-mother relationship and the father is not in the frame. Maybe, homage will be paid to this less celerated breed on June 18, Father’s Day. Brands you have enough time. I can not resist sharing this real mom in FILTER COPY, fashion conversation with MAA.

Let me call my old-fashioned MAA and salute her for being herself. Here Hyundai tells you how they behave. Not a great execution but there is a lot of truth in it. Thank you mom.

At the end. I think agencies will have to work that extra hard in further exploiting such a strong relationships. They will need to be bold and adventurous, to be with the new generation. A large part of the audience ( I hope) have had enough of stereotyped moms, and NO please leave our BUA, TAIJI, MAUSI, while stereotyping these emotions.  And remember even a 10-year-old has a mother and so does a 45 year old. Be bold – Change the recipe- a bit like Tata Sampann


Sanjeev Kotnala with 29 years of corporate experience is the founder of Intradia World; a Brand, Marketing & Management Advisory. Additionally, he focusses on   Ideation, Innovation, design thinking and BRAND-I, be the brand. Email tweet @s_kotnala web:


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