Is Rice Krispies really intended for only kids and moms?

Makers of breakfast foods have long been known for innovation.  New cereal and frozen foods hit the shelves regularly.

But it would seem that not everyone’s invited to the table.

Pick up any cereal box and you’ll often discover a world that speaks only to moms.  Despite all the newfound innovations in the grocery store, marketers remain convinced that the family dynamic hasn’t changed – that dads don’t take care of children, don’t tend to the home, or even spend their morning ritual with the family.ricekrispies.jpg

The Rice Krispies Twitter page reinforces this outdated stereotype with a Twitter bio (right) that excludes dads from the outset.  The exclusion is particularly surprising for a brand that’s well accepted and loved by families everywhere — families which include dads.

Its approach is surprisingly consistent with a few of its iconic shelf mates.  It wasn’t until 2015 that Cheerios changed its webpage touting itself as “Mom’s Choice.”  Kix defers to mom in both slogan and message on every box.  Even the back of Frosted Mini-Wheats exhorts kids to specifically ask mom for more.  And El Monterey has long used the hashtag #momwins throughout its social media.

Our tweets on the Rice Krispies bio recently caught the attention of Kellogg’s, but the communication fell flat when subsequent tweets weren’t returned.  We’re still waiting for what could be a quick fix and thus restore balance to the cereal shelves.

Of course, this particular cereal stretches far beyond the bowl.  The oft-duplicated rice puffs are a virtual kitchen staple, useful in many recipes around the kitchen.  Its Twitter page frequently touts its popular endearing spinoff, the Rice Krispies treat. Even its venerable mascots Snap, Crackle and Pop resonate with everyone.

Given its prowess in our daily lives, let’s hope Rice Krispies can turn things around soon and become close with dads again.

Like super close.

Like white on rice.

Cleaning up diapers: why the race for dads is on

In the world of diapers, there seems to be a sudden race to reach the long, undervalued segment of dads.

Although in some respects, the race might resemble that of a slow crawl.

Within the past month, we’ve seen the big three diaper makers – Pampers, Huggies and Luvs – all take intriguing steps toward speaking to the parent other than mom. Of course, that would be dad, the other parent who’s curiously inconspicuous from most diaper websites.

Pampers seems to be in the early lead, having quietly updated its prominent menu tabpampers2.jpg with little fanfare:  “Mommy Corner” was switched to “Parent Corner.”  Of course, Dad Marketing Headquarters noticed the change, and gave instant kudos for the fantastic, albeit minor one-word upgrade.  Fresh off its successful #PampersBabyBoard event, several dads there and elsewhere noticed the improvement and too offered their appreciation via social media.  Pampers still has a way to go to reach full parental inclusion, but tweaking a prominent communication tool like a website menu is a positive start.

Huggies, on the other hand, maintains its long-standing “Mommy Answers” menu tab, a huggies2section which ignores fathers as equal parents in more ways than one.  We’ve been in communication with its PR agency, who assures us that changes are on the way this summer.

Huggies is no stranger to controversy. Its 2012 “Have Dad Put Huggies to the Test” campaign backfired, causing its marketing team to embark on some serious damage control after one father started a “We’re dads, Huggies. Not dummies,” petition that garnered more than 1,000 signatures in less than a week.

huggies7And just this calendar year it maintained a web page at huggies.com offering the unabashed advice, “4 Ways to Get Dads to Do Diapers.”  That piece has since been removed.

Luvs also made a significant change last week:  one of its front page web sliders at luvs.com was altered after repeated nudging from our office.  It only took a simple edit to make dads everywhere feel included with its new self-proclaimed slogan:  “The Official Diaper of Experienced luvs7.pngParents.”  The only problem is, there’s other sliders on its landing page that contain other mom-only references, as well as others on its site that need updated, too.

These easy fixes are often at the core of the problem.  So often it’s a matter of a quick edit – many times a mere one word – that would make a noticeable difference.  In today’s ease-of-use content management world, they’re the kind of changes that anyone could make quick and painless within minutes.  While Huggies’ changes seem to be part of a full site-wide revision and overhaul, why wait to make uncomplicated, one-word adjustments?  Those straightforward, obvious fixes should be made right now.  All of this is part of a slow, drawn-out process and it doesn’t need to be this way.  Equality shouldn’t wait.

For now, at least a word of congrats to these diaper makers is in order.  But at the same time, no parent would let a child sit for days with an oopsie in its diaper.  So why should an exclusionary website sit unattended to, just the same?

The race is on to capitalize on the spending power of dads.  Who will win?  Keep up-to-date with this site and also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, where you can be certain we’ll stay on top of it.

Do dads help in the morning? One baker doesn’t think so

No matter what dads do, they can’t seem to convince the makers of breakfast food items that dads are active, engaged and present during the morning routine.littledebbie.jpg

Numerous products regularly insist that dad doesn’t buy cereal, he can’t microwave a breakfast burrito, or simply can’t choose the proper peanut butter.

And now, there’s another product that’s joined the morning exclusion bandwagon, one which marks those authentic, crazy morning rituals – just apparently not endured by dads.

Little Debbie has unveiled its Moms of 7 AM campaign, which seemingly discounts dads as equal, competent parents.

Of course, we have a problem with this approach.  By positioning its product around a facet of daily life we all endure and is not exclusive to any gender – the morning ritual – and claiming it to be mom’s domain, Little Debbie is ignoring a lot of grocery shopping, caretaking (working and stay-at-home) dads everywhere.  It’s a practice that’s particularly hard to believe for a company that proudly claims to be “a family bakery.”

littledebbie2.jpgOf course, families include dads, and its own founder, O.D. McKee, sounds like he was a seemingly a good dad in his own right, naming the brand after his own granddaughter.  It even uses a manthe Muffin Man – to promote its own products.

What’s also disappointing is how its ad firm, the great Luckie & Co., managed to only conduct extensive quantitative and qualitative research with moms – then claimed to finally get to the heart of what makes 7 a.m. a special time in households across America.  How could this conclusion have been reached without consulting dads?

littledebbie4.pngWe’ll contend that in most homes, dad plays an important, pivotal role in the life of a family – even during the morning routine.

It wouldn’t take much for Little Debbie to rename its campaign “Parents of 7 AM,” just like it hasn’t taken much to turn off dads with this exclusionary promo.

There’s plenty of other snack cakes to choose from, so let’s hope Little Debbie – a family bakery – makes a quick switch before dads quickly switch to another brand.

Baby food is important – and so are dads

Could it really be the business model of Beech-Nut to exclude dads as part of its beechnut1.pngcustomer base?

It’s a fair question when you visit beechnut.com and read its content.  After all, what else is one to think when you see a website which speaks only to moms and ignores dads as fully competent and equal parents?

Having a practice like this would be like showing up at a party where the host only speaks to your partner and completely ignores you.  Doesn’t talk to you.  Doesn’t even look at you.

It was a little like that with Beech-Nut’s CEO Jeff Boutelle, who used the word “moms” 18 times during this 2014 interview with Grocery Headquarters, with nary a mention of “dads.”

beechnut2.jpgNo one likes to be left out, but sadly, this belief is penned right within its mission, where it insists only moms prepare food for families.

Yet even if Beech-Nut claims that research proves the majority of its customers are moms, why exclude the dad segment as if it doesn’t matter?  Stereotypical dad-products (e.g., tools, cars), or even sports, doesn’t hone its marketing exclusive to men.  So why must Beech-Nut craft its message to the exclusion of equally capable parents like dads?beechnut3.png

It’s a gender bias, which is sexist and wrong.  Dads cook.  Dads buy baby food.  Dads feed children.

We’re calling for Beech-Nut to treat dads like true parents and make some quick edits to its website and social media.  If its values include “real food for everyone,” then it must think not only about current dads, but the future ones who are eating its product right now – and will want to be valued as consumers someday when they become dads, too.

Yes, dads change diapers: why this degrading story needs to disappear from Huggies’ website

As dads continue to strive for equality in parenting, modern day media persists in poking fun at the so-called incompetency of bumbling fathers. We’re not talking about 1983’s “Mr. Mom,” but far more recent works.

You may recall that in 2012, Huggies started a marketing campaign titled, “Have Dad Put Huggies To The Test.” The series of ads portrayed dads as inattentive caregivers, and thus, propagated old-fashioned stereotypes. Huggies received a heavy dose of backlash from dads, who shared their disappointment over the ads.huggies7.png

The marketers at its parent company, Kimberly-Clark, were forced to embark on some serious damage control after one father started a “We’re dads, Huggies. Not dummies” petition that garnered more than 1,000 signatures in less than a week. Social media fervor grew – Huggies learned a quick lesson the hard way and swiftly pulled the ads.

Despite all the profuse and warranted apologizing that followed, Huggies didn’t seem to learn from its unfortunate experience. To this day, its website still contains maintains a “Mommy Answers” page with no comparable dad counterpart. Huggies print ads also continue to speak only to mom by name, and there’s gender biased language on its site throughout.

Yet, one of its worst jabs is even more recent – which harkens to its “dad test” campaign – and you can find it live at huggies.com.

There you’ll find an article offering the unabashed advice, “4 Ways to Get Dad to Do Diapers.”

It’s almost unthinkable to believe a headline like this could exist anywhere, but it does. Imagine seeing a story titled, “4 Ways to Get Dads to Cook,” if you’re looking for a comparable headline that would too cause an uproar.

Like so many other “parent/baby” companies, Huggies will claim to speak to both moms and dads. Huggies has even taken steps to sponsor the At-Home Dads Convention, donate diapers to the National Fatherhood Conference, and has an ongoing relationship with the City Dads Group – all noble and noteworthy causes.

Between Huggies’ generous donations and disparaging story – it creates a strong disconnect we can’t ignore.

Huggies’ lack to change its marketing strategy towards dads and genuinely embrace them as valuable shoppers is an example of how respect for dads seems to continue to take a massive backseat to the unwarranted stigma about dads.

Gender equality can never be achieved without dropping the sly innuendo that degrades and belittles the institution of fatherhood.

Right about now, dads could use a hug. What do you say, Huggies?

Boy meets world: new toy maker proves boys, dolls mix

The year was 1985 when the third largest toy maker in the world, Hasbro, unveiled its new My Buddy line – a doll geared toward young boys.  The toy was relatively masculine in color (red, blue) and clothes (overalls, sneakers, ball cap), and was marketed as a buddy tagalong during playtime, not unlike man’s original best friend.  Its resemblance and feel to that of a Cabbage Patch Kid was no accident as Hasbro was trying to capitalize on the then-intensely popular doll designed largely for girls.

Not much remains from My Buddy’s short-lived tenure as it disappeared sometime in the 1990s, though you can certainly find vintage dolls at a web browser near you.

Perhaps more curious is a visit to its concise Wikipedia tribute page, where one small line reveals just how little progress society has made regarding toy stereotypes and breaking gender barriers:

“The (My Buddy) idea was both innovative and controversial for its time, as toy dolls were traditionally associated with younger girls.”

For its time?  That was 32 years ago, and has anything really changed?  Take a walk down any toy aisle and it seems the answer is barely.

However, one progressive company is looking to make good on lost time, and from the neglect of our toy forefathers and their shortcomings.

That’s my boyboystory3.png

Boy Story, launched in 2016, offers high-end 18″ poseable action dolls, plus a book series, built to last and blast through modern day stereotypes.  Think American Girl Doll finally meets boy – similar to how Barbie has Ken – an idea by design to ensure Boy Story dolls are fully make-believe compatible with other equivalent girl dolls.

“We want to make it easy for boys to feel comfortable playing with dolls and get rid of some of those gender stereotypes that we see as harmful,” said Kristen Jarvis Johnson, co-founder.

The concept arose through a Kickstarter campaign and has blossomed into a full-fledged boy doll company set to make serious noise at next month’s famed New York Toy Fair, as well as through a partnership with the UN Women’s solidarity movement, HeForShe.

In the beginning

Boy Story founders Johnson and Katie Jarvis are a robust and inventive sister-duo who boystory4founded their enterprise out of frustration.  When Johnson became pregnant with her second son, she wanted to purchase a doll for her older son – one that could help him get accustomed to the future arrival.  She visited store after store and found none that could withstand serious play, nor offer true masculine features.

Johnson would eventually leave her law career to raise her two boys full-time, and fully immerse herself into the Boy Story concept.  Throughout the Kickstarter phase and initial sales, which began this past October, Johnson has heard plenty of positive feedback from parents who believe her toy is long overdue.

“Moms love it for the most part, and grandmothers love it,” Johnson said.  “A lot of dads like it, but a lot of them are skeptical about it.  When they see it in person, they think ‘That’s so cool.’”

All dolled up

Boy Story dolls are not only sturdy, but they have plastic sculpted hair (ideal for clean-up after, say, sandbox play), heavy canvas material for their bodies and each comes in large, sturdy boxes.  There are even dolls of different skin and hair color.

boystory1.pngThe dolls’ primary target age is 3-8, and they’re designed for both boys and girls.  Boys, in particular, appreciate finally having a relatable toy that helps them celebrate boyhood, while girls appreciate having a companion to go with their female dolls.

The concept is also unique in that it may be the only toy currently on the market which allows boys to embrace and grow their natural desire to become nurturers.  Girls have plenty of feminine baby dolls to make-believe being a mother, but boys have nearly nothing by way of masculine toys that allows them to mimic being a daddy.

Boy Story now fills that void.

“We haven’t seen (a boy doll) partially because society, for a long time, said we have women in the home who took care of that turf,” Johnson said.  “And boys weren’t really considered to be in the home and nurturers – and the toy market catered to that, and that developed over time that boys don’t play with dolls.  But we’ve seen that boys play with dolls when you give them dolls.”

Play time diversity

Johnson fully believes their concept is changing with the way the family dynamic has evolved.boystory2.png

“As we see our society changing and families sharing the load and balancing our lives, it’s just doing what we do and taking care of life,” she said.  “The idea that boys don’t play with dolls is less relevant.  The reality is that we have hands-on parents, and it negates the idea that boys don’t play with dolls.”

Boy Story, she believes, finds a proper balance between the real world and the toy market, which hasn’t caught up to the times.

“The toy market, like it or not, has said that pink is a girl color and blue is boy color,” Johnson said.  “And if you try to give a pink baby doll to a boy, it kind of goes against the grain of the trend that the market is pushing on children.  So, we’re trying to erase that cycle in a way that recognizes that there is that conditioning in society, and that boys want things that are boyish.  You’ve got to break down that barriers before you can play in the sandbox.  Let’s give him a doll, and once they’re comfortable with that, we’ve made the sandbox more equal.”

Keeping masculinity real

Johnson realizes not everyone is a fan of the Boy Story concept.  Some tell her it’s not needed, some insist it won’t sell, and others condemn her for “trying to turn all of our boys gay.”

Millennial parents tend to warm up to Boy Story because they’re tired of the hyper-gender, pink-blue issues with toys.  Generally, older parents don’t approve of the product, and some men’s rights activists think Boy Story is pushing feminism down their throats.  If anything, Johnson contends, they’re trying to bring more authentic masculinity to toys without action figures needing to appear ultra-muscular, wield violent weapons, or don a superhero cape.

“I get reactions all over the map,” she said.  “Some will want it and some won’t, and that’s fine.  If someone says, ‘Boys already have dolls, they have G.I. Joe dolls’ – my response is that the dolls we make are completely different.  We’ve had really positive sales and have a lot of parents who appreciate having a boy doll available to them.  For us, it’s about expanding diversity in the toy market.”

More than just toying around

Johnson said that American Girl Doll once sold a boy doll that was only sold in a set with twins, and the size was smaller.  It discontinued that product in 2016.

So, she’s thrilled to bring this new, modern idea to the illustrious New York Toy Fair held Feb. 18-21, where Boy Story stands to gain a huge leap in legitimacy and recognition.

“You can really feel out the market there,” Johnson said.  “You get a much stronger sense to feel what other retailers are interested in you.”

Boy Story has also partnered with HeForShe, where it will launch a special edition doll in honor of International Women’s Day on Mar. 8.  Johnson believes that Boy Story’s mission to engage men and boys as agents of change aligns perfectly with HeForShe’s work.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us, but also for us to really tap into distribution networking to get our dolls out there so we’re accomplishing our mission,” she said.  “It’s great for legitimizing our company, but also for helping HeForShe and its work.”

Games people play

The toy industry, Johnson believes, loves the divide between boy and girls toys.  By boystory5.pngpainting one bike blue and another pink, companies make more money when they find a way to separate products by gender – they’re creating demand even though there’s no difference in the two bikes.

“A doll is a little bit different,” she said.  “Dolls represent people, and they have genders associated with them.”

But the divide was never fully appreciated by Hasbro in 1985.  Strangely, the My Buddy box never proclaimed the toy as a doll, nor called it a boy.  It almost seemed uneasy about admitting reality, something that Boy Story proudly declares:  this doll is indeed a boy.

Where are the dads in the Disney galaxy?

For all the positive mojo Disney cranks out on a regular basis, it appears to have a genuine problem with finding – how shall we say it – balance.

Last week a story circulated on the Internet titled, “Where Are the Moms in the Star Wars Galaxy?”  The writer argued that while mothers do play a role in the Star Wars universe, they don’t receive as much thematic prominence as father-son/child relationships.  It’s a thought-provoking piece with strong merit – highly recommended.

Then, just two days later, Disney Parks revealed the members of its 10th annual Moms Panel – an online forum for everyday people to share helpful tips and vacation planning advice.disneymoms6.png

The problem is, the panel isn’t a representative sample of everyday peopleit’s overwhelmingly comprised of only moms.  Of course, this is not a bad thing, but the imbalance is; it’s important to remember that dads are part of families, and vacation planning involves them, because they too have plenty to share with potential travelers about the topic.

But Disney awkwardly placed a lone dad on this year’s Moms Panel, thereby disrespecting and ignoring his parental title and thus cutting last year’s dad total – if you can believe it – in half.

Its actions disregard fathers as fully competent, equal parents, much in the same vein that Jif Peanut Butter’s long-standing catchphrase excludes dads as dedicated customers.disneymoms1

We wrote about the Disney Parks Moms Panel last fall and received positive feedback from readers who also implored Disney to catch up with the modern world and to better represent what families mean today.

We realize that equality takes time, so we didn’t expect Disney to instantly even out the number of women and men on the panel, although doing so would rightfully provide a true representation of all parenting travel issues.  However, we thoughtfully anticipated a name change in the spirit of authentic, modern parenting.

Unfortunately, Disney let us all down, because it’s not just dads that end up on the short end of the stick.  It’s the kids and the spouses who deserve a vacation planned at least partly through a fatherly perspective.  But they’ll hardly get that, because instead, dads are being treated like second-class parents who simply don’t matter.

Hilton also operates a similar travel panel with a comparable name – Hilton Mom Voyage – and it has a mere three dads among 30 panelists.

Echoidisneymoms4ng the words of the Star Wars column, dads deserve better.

The members of next year’s Disney panel will be announced soon enough, but why wait that long to properly rename the panel?

Disney, let’s make things right, because families are stronger – and vacations are more magical – when we’re united as parents.