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This Year, Give Mom a Dogfight

Forget the flowers—innovative brands are putting an experiential spin on Mother's Day

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Mother’s Day (better get moving, people, it’s 13 days away) will see Americans spend just shy of $19 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation. Chances are, nobody needs help guessing how that money will be spent: 83 percent of people will give mom a greeting card, per the NRF, and 66 percent will opt to furnish mom with flowers. What’s more, according to a recent study by Experian, 52 percent of Americans will save time by going online to buy mom a gift with a few clicks.

But according to Katherine Wintsch, founder of marketing think tank The Mom Complex, brands are missing an opportunity. “If you can order the gift through an app, it doesn’t demonstrate that you’ve spent a lot of time,” she said. “You’d hope brands would begin to recognize this is the one day people should stop and do something more.”

A few brands are recognizing it, playing some interesting riffs on the standard Mother’s Day gift this year and evincing a small but growing preference for gifts that are participatory, handmade or perhaps even geared toward social change.

“Families today are looking for new traditions,” said Keith Salwoski, promotions director for the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, whose “Mother’s Day Breakfast in Bed Experience” ($24 extra room charge) ends the tradition of burned toast at home by sending the kids down to the hotel’s kitchens. There, they don a toque, cook heart-shaped pancakes under the supervision of the executive chef and bring the tray up to mom’s room.

For its part, New York’s Big Apple Florist is updating the tradition of sending flowers with its “Brunch & Bouquets” package ($175), a three-hour class (including scones and mimosas) that teaches mom how to make her own bouquet. “Trends right now are so social-media-based—not very hands-on, which is what makes this idea unique,” said marketing director Ashley Smith.

Taking hands-on to the next level is a company called Cloud 9 Living, which is advertising a range of “experiential” Mother’s Day packages, including bull-riding lessons ($60) , a “Cardio Strip Tease Dance Package” ($110) and something called “Fighter Pilot for a Day” ($1,395) where an instructor takes your mother up in a fighter jet. “Mom doesn’t remember the flowers you gave her a few years back,” said vp Bobby Augst, “but she’ll never forget this.”

Finally, you can help make the world a better place in mom’s name with one of Unicef’s “inspired gifts” for Mother’s Day. A donation of $24, for example, will buy 80 doses of measles vaccine for impoverished kids—and mom still gets a card.