Equal Holidays Deserve Equal Contests

Last month, Arm & Hammer ran a Mother’s Day promotion with wonderful prizes and accolades in thanks for the goodness of moms. And now here in the month of June, it appears no comparable campaign is in the works for dad.

The omission is glaring enough, but it goes beyond that of a contest.

In avoiding an equivalent promotion for fathers, Arm & Hammer is effectively declaring laundry to be a mother’s task – a dangerous proposition.

There’s no need to debate who really does laundry in a home (it varies depending on circumstances), or who it fell upon in past generations. There’s no need for one-sided media stories, or studies claiming who handled the brunt of it during the pandemic.

The fact is it’s 2021, and the equality-driven world of today places that responsibility on both spouses whether that’s one’s actual reality or not. Companies, media and the public wouldn’t dare suggest it’s a mother’s job to handle laundry. But it sure seems Arm & Hammer did.

And even if Arm & Hammer’s market research insists it’s mostly moms who buy their detergent, wouldn’t it look better if it didn’t acknowledge that through a promotion? It would be like Kraft running an ad that implies a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Those are fighting words, so why would Arm & Hammer even insinuate something similar?

Dads deserve the same honor for being superdads. They’ve done impossible juggling, too, and families count on them for everything.

How about surprising dads with the same experiences and prizes extended to moms? There’s still time, Arm & Hammer. Get it done and lighten some deserving dads’ loads.

The Trouble with Digital Media – and its Purpose

Newspaper editors have always had a difficult job. On top of ensuring that content is objective, fact-checked and accurate, they have two more daunting tasks – to ensure that content is of interest to readers and that there is space for it.

It’s the very reason that one of America’s foremost daily newspapers, The New York Times, still prints its famous slogan on the upper-left corner of page one: “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” That motto was added to insist of its intention to report the news impartially, but it also underscores a common trait of which digital media knows nothing about – space in printed media is limited.

The fact whereby digital media has no limits to the stories it can publish is also its curse. The result is a tendency to produce seemingly senseless pieces by today’s digital shock jocks who write and often opine to deliberately offend and demean – all for clicks. They are, in essence, the digital newspaper equivalent of tabloids who entertain rather than provide factual or newsworthy information.

This sort of thing happens every day, of course, but was recently noticeable in a Parents magazine online story (above). It’s hard to imagine why else one mom’s attempt to ridicule her husband gets this kind of attention on a national level.

Only on a digital platform.

Maybe if we stop keeping score, stop pointing fingers and simply encourage, uplift and treat everyone equal – and in the way we speak to others – we won’t need a useless headline like this.

Parenting Isn’t a Mindset, It’s a Vocation

Similac has long offered a StrongMoms program despite selling a product any parent can use. We’ve pointed it out in the past and received nothing in response – until now.

We replied to one of Similac’s StrongMoms social media posts with, “It’s baby formula. Why not call it StrongParents Rewards? #DadsCountToo”

Similac had a most curious response.

“While named StrongMoms, it’s really meant to be a mindset that encourages and supports all parents in the decisions they make for their families. So any caregiver who identifies with our message should feel like they can be a part of StrongMoms. We have plans to continuously improve our program for ALL caregivers, and we’ll be sure to share your feedback with our team.”

A great deal of sexism can be deduced from this three-sentence response:

1. If you’re a male, you’re not a dad – you’re a mom. Similac says that if you identify with their message of being a parent, you’re essentially a mom. Forget the fact you’re a dad or could even be a grandparent caregiver. Everyone is considered a mom in its program because mom is the default parent. Dads don’t matter.

2. Dad isn’t capable of being a caregiver. Don’t beat around the bush Similac, just say it – you don’t think dads are equally capable parents. You don’t believe dads are as good parents as moms. That why you can’t even state the word dad in your response. Of course, the truth is mothers bear no more instinctual ability to parent than fathers.

3. Let’s call a spade a spade. Why doesn’t Similac simply change the program’s name? Why can’t it employ the word parents instead of moms? Does Similac feel inclusion of the word parents would cause moms to become less interested in its products? That seems unlikely. Here’s what we do know: if your name is biased, your program is biased. If your logo is biased, your message is biased. If your photos are biased, your potential customers can’t identify with whatever message you’re trying to convey.

4. Gender equality doesn’t work both ways. Women deserve gender equality in the work force and companies wouldn’t dare suggest otherwise. Men deserve gender equality in the home but don’t get it. Promoting a mindset where dads aren’t supported in name isn’t supporting. It’s time for change.

5. Conduct a ‘switch the name’ test. Replace the word mom with dad to see how it reads and whether or not it might exclude. If so, it might be time to consider a more inclusive name. When a company doesn’t recognize and see the value of the man a woman chose to be her husband and father of their children, that could very well be insulting to moms, too.

Looking at Fatherhood Differently

Have you ever noticed how many organizations, groups, websites and social media accounts are devoted to helping men become better husbands and fathers?

Quite a few. It’s a noble effort to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.

On the flip side, you see far less devoted to helping women become better wives and mothers.

Why is that? And why is there a fatherhood.gov, whose goal is to provide, facilitate, and disseminate current research and proven and innovative… Why does it have a “Take Time to Be a Dad Today” slogan?

All of this is nice and well-intentioned. But there a motherhood.gov with a slogan, “Take Time to Be a Mom Today.”

Don’t these organizations at least provide the possibility they could be making dads feel inadequate, deficient and lessening their worth in the eyes of others? Moms bear no more instinctual ability to parent than dads.

There is no gender equality for dads in the parenting world. If a working mom requests time off for maternity leave or to care for a family member, companies oblige. The reaction is different when a dad requests the same.

Dads make huge sacrifices to provide for their families. While they’re at work providing for their families – sometimes gone days or weeks due to demanding jobs – they’re unable to spend time with their children through no fault of theirs. Oftentimes unfortunate economic circumstances have them living in poverty. The things dads do for their wives and children is commendable.

Maybe, just maybe, we’ve got fatherhood all wrong. Maybe dads aren’t broken. Maybe dads don’t need fixed.

Maybe we just need to look at things differently.

Is This Really a ‘Parents’ Magazine?

Parents Magazine has provided much inspiration for our recent social media posts. For a magazine that purports to be for “parents,” its readers and the parenting community might insist otherwise. But don’t take our or others’ words for it. Check out Parents Magazine’s very own content and you be the judge.

Dads love making and serving their kids healthy snacks, too. Why does Parents Magazine insist on making mom look like the only one who cares about nutrition?

This is another example of a headline that makes mom out to be the lead parent.

Don’t dad-tested discipline tricks work? “Parent-tested” would have been much more appropriate.

Here’s a way to increase male readership — mention them, involve them, ask them, survey them, talk about them. There’s no better way to engage someone with your mission than to make them feel like they matter.

What Do These Photos Say About Dads?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then we’re all wasting a lot of time writing.

Take a look at the print ad copy around you. That’s right – go ahead, pick up a magazine.

Companies spend millions with ad agencies to promote something in order to sell, but the images arguably do more than the writing.

And that leads us to the curious use of dads in marketing. Fathers aren’t used very often to sell parenting products, but when they are, it’s not always in a glamorous light.

Check out this TV news story photo (right) which tried to use lighthearted humor while an expectant dad shopped for baby items, but instead made him look inept and clueless as if he didn’t know how to operate a baby wrap.

Look at this parenting story from a lunch meat maker, where a young child cowers and hides from a father that comes across as overpowering and cruel.

Here’s another of a dad-to-be that’s seen admonishing his expectant wife.

Or check out this one accompanied by a headline that questions dad’s ability to be left alone with the child. One can only assume the dad here is indulging in TV first while tending to his child second.

Each story was well-intentioned, but what does this type of imagery do for the institution of fatherhood? What messages are these sending to our children? To spouses? To teachers? To neighbors?

Marketing has a duty to sell, but how is it shaping society-at-large with images like these? At best, it’s motivating only half of the parenting duo and distancing everyone else from men, making them to be less appealing as consumers and legitimate parents.

The next time you see advertising directed to the parenting community, don’t look at the words – look at the photos and ask yourself if they’re showing dad’s best side.

‘Twas the Night Before Shopping

‘Twas the night before shopping, as Christmas was coming,
Dad got the list ready, his fingers were humming.
He had to get set, he led the charge,
He scoured the ‘net, finding deals that were large.

The children were snoozing asleep undercover,
Also dreaming of Black Friday deals they’d discover.
With mama beside him, they both went a-clicking,
Shopping online takes a lot of nitpicking.

When they got to homepages, they saw some odd chatter,
Which insisted that dads didn’t all that much matter.
Site after site excluded dear dad,
Using wording for moms, which left them both sad.

It was hard to believe how dads were excluded,
“moms ran the home,” some companies alluded.
Wherever you looked no matter the price,
The omission of dad didn’t seem very nice.

When out on social media things got rather viral.
Other parents complained of this bad downward spiral.
So away to the car dad flew in a dash,
To confirm dads shopped and used hard-earned cash.

The tune as you’d guess on the mall speakers,
Was Bing Crosby singing to dads in their sneakers.
Across the food court and wide galleria,
Dads shopped and hunted for their next idea.

Not vapid but lively dads moved all about,
Wives and kids tagged along as dads started to shout:
“I know where we’ll save, I saw deals on my phone.
Just follow my plan, I’m so in the zone.
I worked hard for our money, so let’s stretch our dollar.
Finding deals is my game,” the dads seemed to hollar.

So up to each level, dads and families flew,
Finding specials, discounts and markdowns anew.
And then, I noticed and heard just for proof,
Dads tending to kids, they weren’t aloof.

They were dressed in their best, their entire outfit,
And some dads were stained with yellow baby spit.
A big diaper bag they’d flung on their backs,
They sure looked like parents, they even carried snacks.

Their guise wasn’t wrinkled, their beards were so hairy,
For months they were sleepy yet still acted merry.
‘Cause nothing did stop them with kids all in tow,
with presents to buy, they couldn’t move slow.

Their teeth how they shined, not the least bit of faint,
A halo encircled their heads like a saint.
They had broad faces, some were fit, some were not.
And they always stooped down to wipe faces with snot.

Called hubby and dad, those men never stopped,
And I nodded in favor and as they heroically shopped.
Those marketers who think that dads don’t shop,
Should have seen these guys their children call pop.

Mentioning dad by word may not seem like a lot,
But it gets them involved, makes them feel like they ought.
Dads sense that they matter when included by name,
It strengthens the family, it treats them the same.

Then you’ll hear them exclaim, above Christmas décor,
“I am daddy – hear me roar!”

Why Do Breakfast Foods Ignore Dads?

Cereal makers can’t seem to wrap their heads around the notion that dads provide breakfast for their kids.

For years we’ve been pointing out the problems of Cheerios, Kix, Quaker and others who continue to disregard dads as part of their customer base.

The latest offender is General Mills, who not only excludes dads from its latest campaign, but uses a possessive pronoun that contributes to the problem.

If you have children, do you refer to them as “my kids” or “our kids” when speaking with others?

The former connotes a more possessive or singular approach, whereas the latter sends a meaning of togetherness and unity. While “my” may seem harmless and unintentional, it conveys a certain message – whether you believe it or not – to others, but also to your partner.

It’s not uncommon to find stories, comments, or blog posts from women who complain that they’re stuck with the majority of the household and parental duties (that’s no fault of the dad – he’s typically working outside the home, but we’ll save this topic for another day). However, wouldn’t the action of calling the baby “ours” drive home a greater spirit of togetherness when tackling daily familial duties? These women might not feel so alone in their work by calling the children ours.

Companies like General Mills furthers this perception, too. It inconspicuously calls the children “your squad.” That makes dad out to be the lesser parent at best, completely irrelevant at worst. General Mills would do families and society a much better service by speaking in terms of “us.”

Using the word “parent” instead of “mom” won’t make or break the marketing business model, and it won’t make a female look away in disgust. Rather, it will make a dad feel like an included member of the family and feel like a valued customer.

It’s time for change. Words matter.™

Something’s Fishy Here

One could easily argue that Goldfish is the Disney of snack crackers.

Starting from a single idea, the company has widely diversified, established itself as an industry leader, expanded into larger markets around the globe, spanned generations, segmented into other areas and created the world’s most recognizable cracker – which serves as the company’s official mascot.

The Goldfish cracker is simple, tiny and lovable – not to mention tasty, which is more than you can say for Disney’s official mascot. It’s the perfect go-to snack for youth sports everywhere, solidly paired with its thirst-quenching counterpart, the juice box.

The Goldfish cracker has had different shapes, colors, flavors, branded tie-ins and spinoffs. As consumers, we eat them for snacks, at meals and as desserts.

(Now, if they could only figure out a breakfast-style cracker.)

Quite simply, there is nothing the Goldfish cracker can’t do.

Except champion equality.

Its latest ad disregards fathers – an unfortunate tactic from a company with a decent track record.

Just two years ago we thanked Goldfish for its inclusive message right on the package. Today, its latest magazine ad tosses dads back into the water for no apparent reason.

Words matter – something Goldfish, Pepperidge Farm and its creative team apparently has yet to learn. It had better change its ways soon before mainstream media, social media and society’s disapproving stare reminds them that stereotypes are wrong.

Everyone’s watching.

Marginalized Even During a Pandemic

We’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic and – believe it or not – Clorox has an ad that markets disinfecting wipes only to moms. It’s a strange scenario for a major global manufacturer with one of its corporate responsibility goals as inclusion.

Granted, the ad first appeared in late 2019 but the image remains alive and well on the Internet.

You can learn a lot from Clorox’s Corporate Responsibility page. There it not only touts inclusion but other admirable objectives:

“We’re proud of our efforts to…strengthen our communities.”
“It’s about achieving success the right way…guided by our values.”

Sadly these examples are another example of corp speak – flowery language seen as an asset in the workplace, but lost by the time it reaches the consumer. Ignoring fathers strengthens communities? Achieving success the right way? Guided by values?

All of it seems a bit hollow.

The company has yet to learn from its mistakes, having endured several allegations of sexist marketing over the past two decades. Its most recent in 2009, featured during the TV show, “Mad Men,” showed a man’s white, lipstick-stained shirt with the caption, “Clorox. Getting ad guys out of hot water for generations.”

COVID-19, like laundry stains, knows no gender. It’s time for Clorox to back up its mission with advertisements that strengthen communities, families and parents who have supported it for over 100 years.