Mothers in packaging and advertising - Mother's Day 2017

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24 February 2017
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The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising considers how advertisers have portrayed women over the years, in a special event for Mother's Day.

The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising considers how advertisers have portrayed women over the years, in a special event for Mother's Day.

The role of mothers has changed greatly over the decades, as women’s lives have changed and society has altered. The way in which we view mothers and the family can be viewed through the medium of advertising and product packaging, something which the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising will explore in a special event this Mother’s Day. 

For Mother’s Day, the Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising is focusing on the place of women within the home and the family, and how these are constructed enforced and/or challenged in the interplay between brands, packaging and advertising and the society in which they are consumed.

A walk through the Museum of Brands Time Tunnel is a journey through British social history via the everyday products which ordinary people bought, consumed, and threw away - from Victorian times to the present day.

Every product has been branded to communicate to a target audience, and to do this, advertisers must speak their customer’s language. By unpicking the messages communicated through image choices, colour selections, typography, slogans and shapes, we can reveal the attitudes and assumptions constructed by companies. And by tracing the evolution of these messages we can start to understand how these messages were accepted or challenged by consumers, within their historical and social context.

For example, advertising from the post-war era and into the 1950s often shows a mother at the centre of a contented family, alongside a father and a pair of angelic-looking children. Were women being invited to believe that if they bought the product in question, they too could enjoy this cosy idyll? Or was the message simply to attract a mother who prided herself on creating a happy home atmosphere?

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The Museum has not tried to pull together a history or retrospective of the role of mothers in advertising. Instead, visitors are invited to become more aware of the messaging, attitudes and ideals promoted by everyday products which your great grandmother, aunty, mother, sister and yourself would come across in the supermarket, on your dining table, or in your kitchen, bedroom or bathroom.

It is the incidental nature of these encounters with attitudes about motherhood that is interesting - however by looking at these objects behind glass, we become more aware of them as cultural objects. Once we leave the Museum we can carry on looking and questioning – How are women represented on the packaging of domestic products? Why are certain family products adverted in women’s magazines? Who are the companies communicating to, and are they using gender stereotypes to put their messages across?

Mother’s Day event

Come along to the Museum of Brands on 26 March to enjoy a series of talks and trials, alongside the Museum’s current focus on Women in Advertising.

Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising, 111-117 Lancaster Road, Notting Hill, London W11 1QT; tel: 0207 243 9611; e-mail; website.

Why not treat your mum to a gift that last all year long this Mother's Day, with a subscription to Family Tree magazine? See our special Mother's Day offer.