I am no expert in marketing or promotion, but it seems to me like an unwise campaign for a mother and baby product retailer is to send a bunch of random people cards congratulating them on their pregnancies without confirming the recipients are indeed pregnant. It seems even more unwise for said company to pose as a fake friend sending these people—who, again, may or may not actually be pregnant—a bunch of baby-related gift cards that aren’t really gift cards at all. But, hey, as I said, I’m no expert!
According to the New York Times, one company did not heed my non-expert backseat hindsight advice and did, in fact, enact a marketing blitz that included sending thousands of women, many of whom were not pregnant, cards and gift certificates congratulating them on said fictional pregnancies.
The company, Mothers Lounge, is a wholesale mother and baby product distributor, but instead of just mailing around a basic pamphlet, they sent prospective customers—ones likely poached from shared and/or sold consumer data from baby gift companies—about $245 worth of Mothers Lounge gift certificates, accompanied by a handwritten card from someone named Jenny B. reading, “Congratulations!!! I’m so excited for you! I hope you like these.”
Not everyone who buys a baby gift or product has or will have a baby, or want a baby, or, more importantly, want a fake stranger to send them a fake baby card. And so, per the Times, this particular marketing technique did not go well:
Halen Hall-Chisler’s letter was sent to her parents’ house in Marietta, Ohio. Last year Ms. Hall-Chisler, who is 26, had an abortion. That caused a rift in her relationship with her mother.
Receiving the congratulatory package made her feel uncomfortable. “It was a little scary,” said Ms. Hall-Chisler, who works in a doughnut shop in Portland, Maine. “Especially in my circumstance, it was addressed to me with a name I don’t normally go by and not a lot of people know that is my first name.”
Like, really not well at all:
Claire Jiang, 24, said she had received a frantic text from her father asking if she was pregnant. Embarrassed, Ms. Jiang, who is an architect in New York, emphatically denied the accusation.
But she was nonetheless confused as to why she would have been on the mailing list. The only explanation, she thought, was that she had purchased a baby gift for a friend last year. But even then, she was not living at her parents’ address at the time.
Not nearly ready to start a family, Ms. Jiang was perplexed that she was the target demographic. Her first reaction was to say to her father: “Can you just throw them away? I don’t want to think about this.”
Indeed, this particular marketing technique is creepy and invasive at best, and harmful at worst. In addition to posing potential familial rifts, it’s a cruel tactic, considering the 10 percent of women and non-gender conforming childbearing individuals who struggle with infertility, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, not to mention those who suffer miscarriages or stillborn births. On top of that, even pregnant people couldn’t get much out of the mailing—though the gift certificates Mothers Lounge sent were real, the accompanying shipping fees were so high they weren’t even worth it to use.
A spokesperson for Mothers Lounge told the New York Times in a statement that the marketing campaign was “heartfelt.” Jezebel reached out to the company for comment and will update if and when we hear back.