About a month before Mother’s Day, Lillie Sun was checking her Twitter feed when she saw that Etsy Inc., a marketplace for handcrafted items and vintage goods, was allowing shoppers to opt out of marketing emails for the holiday, which can be an emotional time of year for some.

Sun, who leads the growth and direct-to-consumer channels for natural beauty brand Three Ships, thought it was a “no-brainer” move and took the idea to her team.

“In my personal life, someone close to me was struggling to get pregnant, and I was very cautious around Mother’s Day with what I was saying to her,” she says. “It was kind of like, ‘Well, if I’m being careful about how I’m talking about it to my friend, that should probably also apply to the 30,000 people we send our emails to.’”

After Sun consulted with the company’s co-founders, who supported testing the new marketing strategy, Three Ships sent out a plain text email from its customer experience manager with a carefully crafted message conveying the company’s empathetic stance. “Our aim was to say, ‘Hey, we know Mother’s Day isn’t a happy holiday for everyone, and we want to be cognizant of that,’” she says. “COVID has heightened a lot of people’s emotional responses, and we needed to take their sensitivities into consideration.”

Three Ships and Etsy are not alone in tackling more conscientious marketing after a year-plus that has been defined by excessive grief and loss amid a global pandemic. Pandora Jewelry, bedding and bath brand Parachute, electronics retailer Moment, Groove Life, which sells wedding bands and other accessories for active outdoorsy types, and others recently sent opt-out messages for the relationship-based retail holidays of Mother’s and Father’s Day. The effort is intended to spare recipients from any unwanted, painful and often frequent reminders that the holidays are approaching—whether for someone who already lost or is close to losing a parent or a child, couples struggling to conceive, birth parents who have put a child up for adoption, estranged family members and a host of other fraught…

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