Corp speak, runarounds and talking the talk

Have you ever contacted a company only to get the runaround?

We do every day. The problem with our interactions is that they involve a little more than a faulty product, damaged good, or spoiled food. Those problems can be corrected on the spot.

Ours involve changing a mindset, a company culture and attitudes about parenting.

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What we often experience is corpspeak and a serious case of talking a good talk, yet never really walking the walk. When we point out to companies their exclusion of fathers in advertising and marketing, we hear a response that lacks of clarity and offers tedium that never results in succinct answers or change. They’re generally vague on timing, which usually means there will be no change.

Check out the following responses we’ve received in the past month or so from four prominent brands.

Baby Jogger:
“Thank you for reaching out to us. We believe that all parents and caregivers are capable of providing excellent care for their little ones. Consumer feedback is important to us and we take it very seriously. We have shared your comments with our marketing team.”

Fresh Market:
“Hi there! We love Dads too! They are mentioned on this sign as well. Just follow the asterisk! We understand, however, that their mention is not as noticeable and will share your feedback with our team!:”

Rite Aid:
“We value your feedback and we appreciate you reaching out to us. We will forward your feedback to our Leadership team for review. Thank you!”

Mott’s
“You are absolutely right. Thanks for catching a really old portion of our site that needs to be updated. Our team is working to make this correction because we love moms AND dads! It takes a village to raise a child, and we appreciate the reminder. Thanks for keeping us honest.”

Mott’s offered the most promising response, but even with that, not in any single instance did a representative make a promise or even correct the problem on the spot. Instead, the buck was passed and the complaint was temporarily pacified by ensuring us that our feedback was “valued.”

Companies love to talk about exceptional customer service, but few really back it up.

At the same time, we’ve successfully lobbied other major brands to make changes – and they did. We’ve influenced the likes of Kix, Jif, Cheerios, Pampers, Huggies, Luvs and the New York Times. It worked by simple, old-fashioned persistence.

If you’re a parent who cares about inclusion and equality, our suggestion is to remain persistent and enlist other like-minded parents to help with the cause.

Many consumers win their battles, and there’s a good chance you will, too.

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Fatherhood is alive and well

I noticed a thoughtful Father’s Day meme this week: “May the Holy Spirit teach fathers to be good mentors for their children.”

It was nice and well-intentioned, and included a sweet photo of a dad playing with his daughter. However, I couldn’t get the following thought out of my mind – Why don’t we ever see messages like these directed at moms on Mother’s Day?

I mean, I’ve never seen a Mother’s Day meme imploring mothers to be good mentors for their kids. Does society assume that’s never an issue?

So why are dads made out to be lesser-than, like they have some sort of deficiency? Why are we correcting them and telling them they’re toxic? Why are we always hinting that they need to be improved?

Father’s Day is their day – can’t we be a little more upbeat and positive?

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Of course, there was a time when dad served as provider, while mom raised the children. Yet even then, dads weren’t less of parents – they just had different roles based on societal expectations and norms. It wasn’t like moms were able to nurture any better than dads, or were born with more intrinsic abilities to raise, support and rear good children.

Times are much different today with working moms, stay-at-home dads, and everyone meeting at the middle, but still the world tends to look more favorably upon mothers and never questions their abilities, judging them to be superior to fathers as parents.

What shapes this? Everything around us.

It’s evident in our attitudes, which spill into everyday conversations at home, work and in our neighborhoods. We see it in schools, where dads play outsiders in settings largely ruled by moms. We read it on the Internet, social media and news media, where the word mom is a synonym for parent. We witness it in the advertising of products and services all around us, where through old-fashioned slogans and dad exclusion via words and photos, marketers seem convinced that dads don’t visit stores and make purchases for their families.

It’s in the entertainment world, where the clumsy and aloof dad character can’t seem to handle any domestic chores, offering cheap comic fodder as the one who doesn’t know how to parent kids while the household goes awry. Even in government, we see supplemental food, health and nutrition programs only for low-income women.

Why should any of this matter?

Whether you’re a dad or not, this issue affects everyone – because we all have or had a dad. Any dad will tell you that being one is a major responsibility. And like any responsibility, whether it’s homework, for-pay-work, or house work, it involves being motivated and dedicated. Remaining faithful and true to responsibilities shapes us better as strong, loveable human beings, helping us to serve our purpose and one another.

Personal side effects include greater prosperity, happiness and a more deep-seated moral compass. As a society, we strengthen our communities, neighborhoods and businesses.

Happiness grows. Attitudes improve. Love flourishes.

Yes, I do pray that fathers will be good mentors for their children, and I pray that same sentiment for mothers.

But I also think that fatherhood has been misrepresented.

The far majority of dads are good men – real good. They need our respect and deserve our support. Contrary to what the media and marketing tells you, fatherhood is alive and well!

Pass it on.

One word makes all the difference

Consider the advertisement and slogan examples all around you.

Oftentimes, if marketers could merely change one word, the message they convey becomes much more inclusive.

  • Arm & Hammer: “If you want to know which detergent to trust, ask your mother. And her mother. And her mother.”
  • Applegate natural and organic meats: “Mom’s dream team for lunch”
  • Aveeno Baby: “Trusted sun protection for baby and mom…maybe that’s why so many moms choose Aveeno…”
  • Babybel: “Attention moms! I’m obviously a great addition to your kid’s lunchbox…”
  • Baby Depot at Burlington: “At Burlington, we carry the most Mom-trusted brands…”
  • Banquet frozen foods: “Perfect for busy moms with even busier families.”
  • Beech-Nut: “Moms don’t add anything artificial into their babies’ food. So neither do we.”
  • Betty Crocker: “Your little one will feel like a Superhero – and you will look like Wondermom! – when you reveal a Superhero Cake for his birthday dessert.”
  • Capri Sun: “At Capri Sun, we’ve been listening to and learning from our moms since the very beginning.”
  • Chuck E. Cheese: “Join us for Chuck E. Cheese’s new Mommy & Me class.”
  • Chuck E. Cheese: “Thank you, mom.” (TV commercial)
  • Coppertone: “…it’s easy for moms to love it too.”
  • Dannon: “As a mom, you want your kids to grow up healthy and strong.”
  • Desitin: “Trusted by more pediatricians and moms than any other brand…”
  • Dr. Smith’s: “The brand moms and pediatricians trust to gently help treat irritated baby bottoms, fast.”
  • Earth’s Best Diapers: “For Moms who care and the little ones they love…”
  • Fisher-Price: “Thanks Mom, for choosing us your most loved & trusted brand.”
  • Garanimals: “Moms know the right outfit makes everybody comfortable…Moms love them because they’re practical.”
  • Gerber: “…we’ve collected product reviews from Moms like you…”
  • Gerber Life Insurance Company: “See what Moms are saying about the Grow-Up Plan.”
  • Huggies: “Got questions? We’ve got answers! Huggies Mommy Answers has essential baby info…”
  • Hyland’s Baby: “…and have been trusted by moms for over 80 years.”
  • IntelliGender: “…a fun pre-birth experience for expectant moms everywhere!”
  • Jif: “In 1958, original Jif Creamy Peanut Butter was introduced, and quickly became a favorite. Moms recognized Jif peanut butter’s superior fresh-roasted peanut taste…”
  • Johnson’s: “Moms around the world trust Johnson’s to safely care for their babies. We are committed to working with moms…”
  • Juicy Juice: “Hey moms, check out these great Juicy Juice crafts and recipes!”
  • Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats: “Mom, more please!”
  • Kid Cuisine: “We believe that kids should get to be kids, and moms should get to serve food…”
  • Kix: “Generations later, kids still love it and moms still approve.”Luvs: “The official diaper of experienced moms.”
  • Lysol: “Congratulations, you’re a mom!…Being a new mom is an exciting…”
  • MyGerber: “Moms and babies, let’s get growing.”
  • Nestle Pure Life: “Meet our moms: nestlepurelifepromise.com”
  • Noodle & Boo: “Our mama profile…only the best will do for her baby.”
  • Nutrients for Life: “Thank mom for the cookies & N.P.K for the ingredients.”
  • Oscar Mayer: “These are real moms getting their kids ready for kindergarten.”
  • P&G: “Thank You Mom for supporting all of our interests.”
  • Pampers: Website menu tab includes “Mommy Corner,” with no dads’ counterpart.
  • Parents magazine: “Must-haves and must-dos for mom and family.”
  • Similac: “More Moms choose the Similac Brand.”
  • Texas Toast: “Thick, crunchy toast. Brushed with buttery, garlic goodness. Bravo, Mom. Take a bow.”
  • Tum-E Yummies: “Moms see goodness. Kids see fun!”
  • Tummy Calm: “Mommy, my tummy hurts…”
  • Walmart: “Baby basics for every mom…Top-rated by moms like you.”
  • Walmart: “Mom’s menu rescue”
  • Zone Perfect: “Mom, look what I can do!…A mom can dream, right?”

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The replacement of words mom or mother with the word parent is a simple solution that projects the message that fathers and mothers deserve equality within the realm of the family.

This means that both women and men have the potential to be nurturing, compassionate, and emotionally available to their children. This also means that both men and women have the capacity to be providers, protectors, educators, and disciplinarians to their children.

The beauty of this truth is that both men and women can fulfill each of these roles and more—even if it means they take differing paths to arrive at that goal.

This company needs to stop calling dads, moms

Recently we noticed a Disney Moms post which identified a dad as a mom, so we shared that inaccuracy with the Twitterverse.

A handful of Disney supporters offered comments. In fact, they told us not to worry, to direct our energy toward other things and offered assurance of respect for dads.

That was nice, but it offers plenty for discussion.

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It’s great to hear that Disney Moms appreciate dads. In previous posts we’ve regularly lauded the program’s intentions and agree that dads comprise a valuable part of the group. If you’re planning to visit a Disney park, this program does offer great advice. There’s little doubt in our minds that dads are indeed loved and appreciated by participants on the panel.

Well, mostly. If they were truly and fully appreciated, dads wouldn’t be excluded from the program’s name. As for respect? Not completely.

One definition calls respect “a feeling of deep admiration for someone elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” It’s hard for dads to feel fully appreciated when the most honorable title achieved upon the birth of one’s child isn’t stated – or even acknowledged.

The dismissal of our concerns, however, is cause for disappointment. When those commenters asked us to direct our energy toward other matters and not to worry – it made us feel like our concerns didn’t matter, rather than acknowledging them and admitting the obvious discrimination.

We’ll admit it’s hard for anyone on the panel to do this. Those members are getting nice perks and probably aren’t even allowed to voice displeasure over the current Disney Moms name. If they did, it might mean the end of extras and incentives.

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Hey, we get it. No panel member is going to bite the hand that feeds them.

One woman commented, “it never really was much of an issue.”

Perhaps from her perspective. But she’s not a dad. Ask the millions of dads elsewhere who don’t sit on that panel and only see a major brand name ignore their very being. Most dads live their lives as secondary parents to moms. Just ask Huggies. Or watch videos. Or read magazines. Or follow our Twitter page.

The fact of the matter is, it’s not only odd to see dads being called moms – it’s wrong and unfair. It devalues who they are – equal, competent parents. We don’t believe women’s basketball teams should be called men. Congresswomen shouldn’t be called men. Policewomen shouldn’t be called men.

Language is one of the most powerful means through which sexism and gender discrimination are carried out.

This is no different.

No mom would like being called a dad, right?

We successfully lobbied Kix, Jif, Cheerios, Pampers, Huggies, Luvs, the New York Times and other major brands to make changes, and we’ll continue to advocate for equality and inclusion.

The awkwardness of having Disney call a father a mother – and seeing men accept that – isn’t bound to last forever.

It’s time for Disney to make everyone feel like true guests. Dads are waiting.

Dads already have their priorities straight, now marketing and media need to do the same

Willful pigeonholing of dad by marketers and media into the secondary parent role feeds our senses, shapes our attitudes and makes us believe that all dads aren’t as skilled and competent as moms. The formula works so well that companies have convinced themselves that nothing has changed over the years, and thus, the typecasting continues.

As a result, society makes this persist in many ways.

One example is the methodology of the academic studies about moms and dads and their role as parents. The observations and conclusions are usually mom-biased and more importantly discount, overlook, or ignore a dad’s perspective.

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One recent illustration of this is a 2016 study by researchers at the University of Minnesota and Cornell University. This study was featured in a Star Tribune article on October 15, 2016, titled, “Among Parents, Dads Get All the Fun and Moms the Stress and Fatigue.” The researchers sampled more than 12,000 parents while measuring how happy, sad, stressed, fatigued, and meaningful their time was throughout the day, both with their children and apart from them. One of the report’s authors – as well as the media – concluded that moms do more housework and dads get to have more fun.

However, the researchers and media never considered how dads and moms have different priorities when it comes to the time they spend with their kids. The truth is neither approach to parenting is wrong, they’re just different. The same is true when it comes to shopping.

Different priorities doesn’t mean that a dad does not care and a mom is more caring. Most dads work during the week and, because of this, they use their limited spare time to enjoy and have fun with kids. Different also doesn’t mean that dad doesn’t have any interest in shopping or wouldn’t like to share in the shopping duty.

Consider the shaping of thought by the marketing images in advertisements: dad is often viewed as the playmate, while mom handles the cooking, cleaning, and shopping. If gender equity is sought, marketers should consider how genders could be depicted differently and fairly.

The aura of today’s modern dad is vastly different than that of yesteryear. Now is the time for companies to view dads with a clean slate by erasing all the myths and misguided labels, which drag them down from being viewed as equal and adept parents.

A few companies are already realizing this untapped potential, and they stand to maximize gains in a crowded field seeking to win over parents and their spending dollar.

Numbers don’t lie

According to a 2012 study by Parenting Group, publisher of Parenting and Babytalk magazines and Parenting.com, and Edelman, a leading global communications marketing firm, statistics show that men are now the primary shoppers in 32 percent of households – more than double the 14 percent rating of two decades ago. That same study, in a Yahoo survey of 2,400 U.S. men ages 18 to 64, found more than half now identify themselves as the primary grocery shoppers in their households, but only 22 to 24 percent feel advertising in packaged-goods categories speaks to them.

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Defy Media investigated tasks of men aged 18 to 49 in 2014. They discovered that 65 percent of men hold the primary responsibility of shopping for several household product categories and 54 percent of married men say they shop for groceries and household supplies more than their spouses.

Phil Lempert has served as a food trends editor for NBC’s “Today Show” since 1991 and is now known as the Supermarket Guru. In a 2015 piece, he noted that according to a new Young & Rubicam study, men now comprise 41 percent of all primary grocery shoppers, but that figure is even higher among dads: 80 percent of millennials and 45 percent among all dads are either the primary or shared grocery shoppers in their families. The study also found that dads are more brand-loyal and less frugal than moms.
These facts alone suggest an invitation to corporate and marketing executives to seriously consider developing a marketing campaign to both parents, without the exclusion of one or the other. The facts are often ignored due to the myths of fatherhood, but the reality speaks of new dynamics.

There is no question parenting has evolved. Dads, as well as moms, have contributed to the new progressive development of today’s modern parents in which roles, like shopping, are shared between parents. This new parenting culture brings up many questions like:

  • Is the relationship between marketing and modern parents changing? How is it possible to not explore or consider dads as valuable customers?
  • How can a marketing department would neglect the obvious?
  • How can a CEO and its board allow all this to be missed, year after year?

Let’s hope that the corporate world soon catches up to modern families who so greatly matter to their bottom line.

What did we learn from the Gillette ad?

Now that the hype has died down, did we learn anything?

When Gillette’s “We Believe” advertisement went viral, was it really nothing more than a cynical marketing ploy? Did it really backfire like its critics say?

What did Gillette learn? What did we learn?

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We learned that Gillette deleted an astounding 34 percent of the ad’s comments on YouTube, a figure that some consider the highest relative comment delete on any 1 million or more commented video in YouTube’s history.

We learned that Gillette’s sales haven’t been affected yet, though that’s hard to determine at this point. Razors are often bought on very long purchase cycles, so a definitive sales conclusion can’t fully be realized until months from now.

We learned that the pot does indeed call the kettle black. Thousands on social media pointed to a past Gillette sponsorship photo whereby women wore tight-fitting blue jumpsuits with Gillette’s logo featured across their behinds.

We learned that there have been calls for boycotts of Gillette. One has to wonder what fans and players of the New England Patriots think about their stadium being sponsored by Procter & Gamble’s top razor brand.

gillette4.jpgIn the end, the campaign received considerable attention, but it also drew heavy criticism by suggesting that good men are in the minority. It even took aim at boys seeing bikinis on TV (like, think how all of us will be subjected to that during Super Bowl commercials) and roughhousing on the ground.

Caring isn’t feminine, and leadership isn’t masculine. The bad apples involved in the high-profile, celebrity #MeToo culture doesn’t mean that the entire bunch is spoiled. Everyone gets that toxic masculinity is a bad form of masculinity, but it’s not as prevalent as Gillette insinuates. Look around you, most men are decent men. And the boys of today are its customers of tomorrow.

The male-shaming of Gillette’s ad demoralizes and labels its very customer base. It’s hard to imagine a scenario whereby Gillette would run a similar female-shaming ad telling women they’re not good enough, and that they need to do better. Lost in Gillette’s well-intentioned piece was a message that stereotyped, emasculated and demeaned the far majority of an entire gender.

Gillette’s pledge “to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man” is a lofty one. It’s operated by a parent company that has a troubling history of ads and social media which thrive off old-fashioned notions of masculinity and femininity.

We learned that Gillette has work to do. And it starts today.