Pink Done Right Equals PANK® And Male Marketers Should Pay Attention

The segment of women who do not have children is growing and so too is their voice thanks to Melanie Notkin, founder and CEO of Notkin has coined the name PANKs® (Professional Aunts No Kids) as well as created this online community to provide a place for aunts to share their passion and love for their nieces and nephews. Membership, in the thousands, continues to boom and some companies are listening.

I asked Melanie to write a guest post providing more insight into this unrecognized and misunderstood market. Boy, did she deliver!

Read on for updated stats, how Sears and others have responded with new ad messages as well as info on the April 26th (that’s tomorrow!) release of her NEW book titled none other than Savvy Auntie.

Bottomline? As marketers, you would be wise NOT to mistake these women for moms. 

From Melanie Notkin: ___________________________________________

This is the time of year when I feel invisible.

Mother’s Day is approaching and my inbox is already dripping with Mother’s Day messaging. And in a few weeks, on that Sunday marked with brunches and beautiful bobbles for mom, I’ll be wished a Happy Mother’s Day too.

Only I’m not a mother. (I do wish I were.)

At 42, I’m part of the new generation of women who could choose to wait for love (like in my case), could choose to love someone of the same gender, could choose not to have children (for whatever valid reason) or could be suffering from a biological issue which challenges fertility (not uncommon as women have their first child later than ever before.)

And it’s a pretty powerful generation. The US Census reports that 46 percent of American women are not mothers. And that’s just through age 44. For all we know, there are more non-moms than moms in America today.

Yet the assumption is that we’re all moms.  Often the labels “woman” and “mom” are interchanged so as to attribute data for women to moms. For instance, if 85 percent of household purchases are made by women, marketers target moms. Well in my household, 100 percent of purchasing decisions are made by me.

Which is why this time of year can make millions of women feel invisible. For marketers to disenfranchise nearly 50 percent of US women is unfortunate. Especially since just about every woman has a child in her life who she loves and adores. Whether we are Aunties by Relation, Aunties by Choice, Godmothers… or just a woman who sprinkles magic to all the children she knows, and/or children around the world (think Oprah!) we’re aunts. And we have the discretionary income and time relative to moms to spend on the children in our lives, and on ourselves.

I’ve dubbed this new segment of modern American women: PANKs® (Professional Aunts No Kids), and it’s growing year after year.  In 1976 only 35 percent of American women didn’t have children.

Just last month, The White House Report:Women in America stated the following:

  • More women than in the past have never had a child.
  • In 2008, about 18 percent of women age 40–44 have never had a child, almost double that in 1976 (10 percent).
  • There has been a steep rise in the share of women age 25–29 who have not had a child, rising from 31 percent in 1976 to about 46 percent in 2008.
  • And we’re childless, longer:
    – The likelihood of a woman having her first child at age 30 or older increased roughly six-fold from about 4 percent of all first-time mothers
    in the 1970s to 24 percent in 2007.
    – 14 percent of first-time moms are age 35 or older.

But still, marketers selling fragrance and flowers on Mother’s Day will throw a wide net trying to catch all those who may be buying gifts for their mother, flooding our inboxes, mail, media and in-store messaging  with “Happy Mother’s Day!” as if all women are moms.

What’s so bad about wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day? Or sending me “Dear Mom” emails?

Marketers are turning off women who are not mothers, cannot be mothers, and have chosen not to be mothers. Not only is it an ineffective use of marketing dollars, it’s pushing away valuable consumer dollars.

Last year, Sears did a fantastic job including all women in their Mother’s Day campaign. Its  :30 second national spot was called “Other Mother’s Day” and it featured all the women in a child’s life, like the child’s aunt and mom’s best friend.

It was a genius commercial that was inclusive, stood out, and made me reconsider Sears as a place to spend my consumer dollars- on Mother’s Day and every day. And I’m not the only one. Here’s some feedback Sears received for their spot:

“I just wanted to say how touched I was by your “Other Moms” Mother’s Day commercial. As a cool aunt to my sister’s kids and the one who lets her best friend’s kids do anything, it was nice to be remembered. I’m proud to be a loyal Sears customer. I’ll be by to pick up a new dishwasher in a few weeks 🙂 Thanks!”

Robert Raible, Sears Vice President of Integrated Marketing, realized he was onto something big when he told me this: “We acknowledge the women like the segment term you’ve taught us, ‘PANKs’ who are not mothers. We’re going to want to continue to be meaningful to this segment too and they will absolutely continue to be important whether we choose to talk to them directly like in this Mother’s Day spot or in other ways. Now that we’ve tapped into it with success, we’re looking for more opportunities.”

Good for Sears and good for brands like PepsiCo, Hallmark and Disney who’ve already invested in this segment through Savvy Auntie.  Whether marketers need better targeting or to be more inclusive of the nearly 50 percent of American women who are not mothers, there’s a real opportunity here to win loyal consumers.

And all it takes is to not wish everyone a Happy Mother’s Day.


Savvy Auntie, the book: “You’ll be blown away by Melanie Notkin’s expertise on America’s cool aunts, who are over-loved yet overlooked by marketers. If you want to gain the hearts and dollars of these kid-loving, high-spending women, SAVVY AUNTIE is a must read.” Mary Lou Quinlan, CEO, Just Ask a Woman, author, What She’s Not Telling You

Thank you, Melanie!!

Melanie Notkin is the founder of and author, SAVVY AUNTIE: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids (Morrow/HarperCollins).  Melanie invites you to join the Savvy Auntourage at or find her on Twitter @SavvyAuntie


Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising, Birmingham, Alabama. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email

2 Responses to “Pink Done Right Equals PANK® And Male Marketers Should Pay Attention”

  1. Excellent post! I, too, am an aunt only–and happy to be one. And many times a year, not just at Mother’s Day, I find myself being left out of marketers’ visions. Some companies are slowly understanding there are other women out there besides mothers. And I’m glad you mentioned Sears for their ad campaign. Mothers deserve the attention on Mother’s Day, but more marketers should segment their lists and more marketers should pay attention to the single woman.

  2. This is a genius idea and much overdue. It’s true that it’s archaic and insensitive for marketers to label all women as Moms. I will support SavvyAuntie whole-heartedly. Consider me a new member of your advocate army!

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