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The Rice Krispies Twitter page reinforces this outdated stereotype with a Twitter bio (right) that excludes dads from the outset.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.

They did produce some change

When companies receive customer inquiries, they have three basic communication options: 1. Ignore it, 2. Auto-respond, 3. Converse/engage.

We’ve experienced all of these as consumers, and equally so here as dadmarketing employees.

Ignoring the customer contact is the peculiar, and unfortunately all-too-often, approach. Many of us make contact with businesses quite frequently, sometimes without even realizing it, and it’s so often we never hear a thing. That’s troubling for those of us as customers, and potentially terminal for the company. Look at it this way: do you like being ignored by family, friends or co-workers?

Auto-responses can certainly serve their purpose. Sometimes it’s nice to know the company received our email when we send it at 6 a.m. At the same time, the company isn’t fooling anyone; auto-responses feel distant, robotic and forced at times, leaving customers to feel like numbers. It makes the business feel like they’re all about busyness.

Those companies who invest in people, however, and choose to converse and engage with its customers truly get it. Sure, it costs more to devote precious dollars to one-on-one interaction, but it’s totally worth it. Finding that level of interaction is rare, but it’s what separates the companies who care, from the ones who could care less.

On Wednesday we received our regular email newsletter from Produce For Kids, a web resource created in 2002 by Shuman Produce, Inc., who grows and ships Vidalia sweet onions. Its website, produceforkids.com, is dedicated to educating families on the benefits of healthy eating, providing simple meal solutions and raising money for children’s non-profit organizations.

The email newsletter, however, carried a headline that troubled us: “10 Kitchen Staples Every Mom Needs.” We immediately wrote about it, and tweeted Produce For Kids about our post.

Guess what happened?

They listened. They responded. We conversed. They made something wrong, right.produceforkids2

In fact, they made the edit to the headline and photo graphic in a matter of minutes, something completely unheard of in a world of marketing that loves to exclude fathers from messages. Usually that kind of change, simple as it is, must swim through a lot of red tape and organizational bureaucracy.

Cheerios is another story who turned around something negative into something positive, but that quest took several months.

Produce For Kids turned righted the ship over the lunch hour.

For an organization whose efforts revolve around food, produce, shopping, kitchens – it would be easy for it to fall into the dad-exclusionary trap and squarely ignore fathers like so many other businesses and organizations in the same arena. Instead, they have been one of the more stand-up groups, not using a slogan as mere lip service, but rather living by it. Check out its “About Us” page: it could have employed the stereotypical mom-child-kitchen photo, but it didn’t – they gave dads their due.

Here’s to Produce For Kids and its dedicated work at including everyone in the family in its mission — you have dadmarketing’s highest Seal of Approval.

Three cheers for Cheerios making it right

cheeriosloveLast April, we penned an entry which spoke of the wonder of Cheerios.

In our estimation, it has been the perfect cereal since birth, a spectacle of simplicity combining a healthy, any-time-of-day food option with surprising versatility for enjoyment beyond basic sustenance.

Our many tastes change with age – clothing, books, TV, music, movies – but not Cheerios. We’ve enjoyed it our entire lives, from birth to old age, and there aren’t many cereals or even entertainment options which can claim that.

Cheerios has securely been part of our lives. We love it. It loves us. Its round shape is practical, if not symbolic, a reminder of our eternal and endless love, which like a circle has no beginning and no end.

But then, like a marketing executive suddenly turned to the Jif Side of the Force, we noticed a bizarre, Kix-like web page that made us think otherwise.

It was as if Cheerios instantly soured to everyone – moms and dads, young and old, large and small – by showing favoritism to one and ignoring the other, trying to tear apart so many of us that shared this common, charming cereal bond.

That’s when we wrote about this marketing aberration which made us so confused and angry.

You may recall that at that time, Cheerios was actually getting a lot of praise for its dad-loving TV commercial, which may have been the reason its web-based dad exclusion flew under the radar.

We tried communicating with General Mills several times, but to no avail.

Fast forward to today, some nine months later, when we occasionally like to check up on our topics, and we were pleasantly surprised to discover that web graphic no longer exists at cheerios.com.

Eager to know more about the change, we reached out elsewhere, this time with the excellent Kirstie Foster, public relations and social media director at General Mills.

Through Foster’s mediation, Cheerios responded with the following:

Hi there! We’ve always thought the world of dads. Many factors led us to the decision that it was finally time to show it.

How about that? No, it wasn’t a direct shout out to dadmarketing, but we like to think we had a hand in the change.

We may be a small, upstart organization, but our influence and message shouldn’t be understated. Dads have been left out of the marketing messages too long, too often. Cheerios no doubt recognized that, and we’re proud of those involved with the change at General Mills.

Think about Jif’s “Choosy Moms Choose Jif.” How sexist and old fashioned is that?

Cheerios changed for the better, so why can’t Jif? Why can’t others?

We’ll keep beating the drum until others reach Cheerios status, and maybe together – through sharing, talking and communicating – we’ll help more of them become products we can stick with for a lifetime.

Cake loss

Trying to rid the world of dad exclusion regarding anything kitchen related is like asking a Kardashian to stay away from a camera lens.

It’s a challenge, but dadmarketing came into being just for this.

(The dad stuff, not the Kardashians.)bettycrocker2bettycrocker1

Our latest offender is Betty Crocker, which should not come as all that surprising. But what is surprising is how Betty Crocker did it, and so very unnecessarily.

A quick look at the ad reveals nothing glaringly wrong. There aren’t any Kix-like, dad-excluding slogans plastered front-and-center. There aren’t any “Attention Mom” banners adorned at the top. The word “mom” really isn’t anywhere noticeable.

For a few brief moments we were actually overjoyed about the possibility of a column lauding Betty Crocker for not pushing the “baking is only for moms” agenda.

But then we read the fine print.

If you took the time to dig all the way through this copy-heavy, two-page spread from the September 2014 American Baby magazine, you’ll find that it’s really not directed at dads whatsoever, because Betty Crocker assures that after a day of baking, “you will look like Wondermom!”

How’s that for a red-spooned slap in the face, dads?

You see, venerable Betty Crocker, you may be surprised to know that some dads like to bake for their families. Dad doesn’t come home from work with mom waiting there and hot food on the table like it happened a few generations ago. What’s more, boys like to bake too, and you could learn a lot from Hasbro, makers of the Easy Bake Oven, who developed a boy-friendly version of their classic toy after one young girl simply spoke up.

Betty Crocker has been around for almost 100 years, and has been moderately progressive in modernizing their female likeness over time. But their treatment of dads in today’s modern world where fathers clearly do more than past generations makes them look stuck in the past.

No one should know better than Betty Crocker how the tiniest ingredient can alter an entire recipe. That’s exactly what happened in BC’s latest ad blunder.

We’ll be surprised if we ever hear from Betty Crocker, seeing how they’re operated by General Mills, makers of two of the most dad unfriendly brands around: Cheerios and Kix. We’ve tweeted them before, and they’ve ignored us like a stale cookie crumb.

Still, we’ll keep trying, because a small change in marketing approach would require “no superpowers needed,” and then we can all celebrate together with a Betty Crocker dessert.

Until then, we’ll just keep using another brand actually created by a man who knew a thing or two about cakes.

I don’t cheer for Cheerios

The phrase “to those whom much has been given, more is required,” is best known for its origin in the Bible.

I think it applies to cereal, too — specifically, Cheerios — and we’ll get to that connection in a minute.cheeriosfrown

But let’s think about Cheerios first.  It’s one of the strongest brands around.  Its no-nonsense black serif font on the plain yellow box is iconic.  The circular shape is basic, pure and often imitated.  Its ingredients include whole grain oats and just one gram of sugar.  Nearly every off- and store-brand has made a knock-off version and given it a similar name.  The taste is simple and unchanged virtually since the beginning, unless you count the explosion of its flavored offspring, such as Reduced-Fat-Yogurt-Berry-Blast-Cinnamon-Coated-Sprinkle Cheerios (seriously, do we need this much variety?).

I would argue that Cheerios has been in every American home at least one point in time since its inception, and I doubt many brand names can proclaim that.  We eat it.  We make snack mixes with it.  We feed it to babies.  We feed it to birds.  We make crafts with it.  We give it to kids in church to keep them quiet.  We string it on Christmas trees.  We love it.  We trust it.  Its wholesome.  It sticks on noses (try doing that with Kix).  It’s certified by the American Heart Association!  It’s genius!Image

It’s just plain…perfect!

Or is it?

Their marketing folks nearly had me at hello, but as I went further into their website, discovered that it’s Mom’s Choice.  And that’s when I started thinking about the phrase, “to those whom much has been given, more is required.”

You see, we’ve made Cheerios a part of our lives and trusted it for years, and I always thought it was a decently mutual relationship:  General Mills kept making it, we kept eating it and everyone was happy.  But then they started saying that it’s the cereal which mom’s choose, and dads instantly became alienated and left out.  More should be required of one of the top cereals around.  They’re supposed to be an example for everyone else.  Do you ever see the NFL say, “It’s the sports league more dads watch with their boys than any other”?

Cheerios, I thought you were better than this.  We’ve all given you so much, and more should be required.

I have the last box I’ll ever buy in my cupboard, and I’m not even going to eat it.

But the birds will.