Baking up parental equality

Most consumer products have peak sales times of the year – periods on the calendar when companies can best capitalize on generating the most revenue.entenmanns.jpg

For many, that time of year is the holiday shopping season, when gift buying is strong. For others, such as home improvement stores, that time occurs during the spring when home owners are fixing and planting. Fitness centers especially profit during January and February as New Year’s resolutions mean losing weight and exercising more.

Of course, this time of year – back-to-school season – is when breakfast and lunch makers ramp up efforts to get families in the groove of using their products.

And what is snack maker/baker Entenmann’s doing? It’s telling the nation that only one parent takes care of kids.entenmanns2.jpg

Not only can you find use of the word mom (not parent), you can also find images of a lopsided 13 moms vs. 4 dads on its Parents/Have Fun With Us page.

All of this would have been appropriate some 60-70 years ago when moms ran the show. But parenting has changed dramatically since then. In today’s modern families, dad is now also in charge of buying groceries, clothes, school supplies, and other products and services the family needs to exist. So the marketing approach is key, because dad needs to see he is a trustworthy purchasing agent for his family. The best way to do this is to involve him in the marketing process and value him as an equal parent as well as a valued customer.

By marketing directly to moms, Entenmann’s reinforces a certain stereotype and subliminally makes dad feel that mom is a better/leading parent.

Entenmann’s could do everyone a service by ending this practice of only conversing with moms. It will also do itself a firm favor by winning back dads who are currently reaching for another brand.

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What to expect — when you’re a dad

There’s no denying the impact of the legendary book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Author Heidi Murkoff didn’t just write a book in 1984, she created a brand whattoexpect3.jpgthat has spawned a series of books, an online companion site, a feature film starring Cameron Diaz, and a foundation that has benefited over a half million parents.

Simply put, when Murkoff speaks, people listen. And they should. Her easily accessible WhatToExpect.com is a treasure trove of exhaustive pregnancy subject matter. The site is still greatly in need of a “For Dad” section, and while we’ve already addressed that once, we’ll get back to that in a moment.

Today, let’s look at its latest email newsletter, which tackles an amazingly thoughtful question from one of its readers and is also kindheartedly addressed by its founder Murkoff.

While it’s easy to appreciate this column’s intent, dads may find a real problem with parts of it.

whattoexpect4.pngIts headline sounds like dad is some sort of project that needs to be developed, and can only be done so by a woman. As the reader’s question poses, yes, dad needs cared for – which is part of the definition of nurture – but he doesn’t need to be grown or developed (another part of the definition of nurture). If mom was given space to figure out things on her own, so can dad. That learning can also come together, but there’s no need to insinuate that a dad needs training that only the “lead parent” (e.g., mom) can provide.

To draw a comparison, let’s say a husband posed a similar question about his wife. Would anyone ever attempt to write a comparable headline, “Nurturing the Mother-to-Be”? No, because moms would likely be terribly offended. Most assume – because females give birth – that mothering is instinctual, and fathering must be learned. The truth is, mothers bear no more instinctual ability to parent than fathers.

whattoexpect5Now looking at Murkoff’s response, the opening line also shows a lack of respect for men. No, men don’t care only about sex, and it also suggests that men aren’t as dedicated to conceiving as women. Saying anything otherwise is demeaning to the many caring dads-to-be who are just as interested in having a baby as the mom-to-be.

That first sentence is a rather insensitive opening for a question that has a lot of heart. Remember, the wife’s question says that her husband is feeling “a little neglected,” and she wants to “let him know he’s special too.” That man sounds rather sensitive to us, not anything like the ones portrayed in a beer commercial near you. The bottom line is, it’s sexist to assume that the majority of men only care about the sex part, not the baby part.

That gender bias wouldn’t be so bad had it not been punctuated in the third paragraph, where Murkoff suggests a sports day for the husband. That’s a fine suggestion which most dads would probably enjoy, but not all dads do. It’s a little like how dads are portrayed on Father’s Day cards, almost always with neckties, suits and tools. Again, we’re not against the sports suggestion itself (it’s a great one!), but coupled with the men-only-care-about-sex anthem earlier, dads are feeling a bit profiled by the end.

What to Expect seems to have all the bases covered when it comes to pregnancy, but it might consider another book in its series which comes from a dad’s perspective. Alas, no pregnancy guide is complete without considering dad, because there’s a lot more to pregnancy than just the woman’s body and mind. That baby in there, it’s theirs equally.

Why yes, dads do lunch

Getting food companies – especially, lunch food makers – to accept the realities of today’s modern parenting world has been an uphill climb for our team.

In those companies’ worlds, only the mom shops, cooks and prepares lunches. The dad remains out of the picture, or at best, only a token visual.danimals

Danimals yogurt snacks is the latest brand to exclude fathers from its marketing content, as seen on its website, and regularly in social media.

This act is a risky proposition, to be sure. The first implication is that it makes mom’s place to be in the kitchen. The second is that it implies dads don’t prepare meals or raise children. Either way, both parents look bad because it places an unfair gender bias built on norms from yesteryear.danimals2.jpg

As mentioned, we continue to find this in the lunch world. At the start of last school year, Oscar Mayer introduced a video spot heralding mom for her work in readying kids for school. Babybel has been known to exclude fathers. Juice box makers regularly ignore dads as equal parents. And Jif has its infamous time-worn, out-of-date slogan.

We all know that dads pack lunches, and we’ve even seen those cute stories where dads share noontime love through their talents.danimals3.png

It’s particularly disappointing to see the exclusion perpetuated on the Danimals social media pages, where dads are forgotten on a regular basis.

If Danimals doesn’t want to be forgotten by dads, we’re open to talking sometime. Want to do lunch?

Consistently inconsistent

If every baby company could produce an ad as good as this one from SwaddleMe, think how the parental community would be that much more unified as one.swaddleme.jpg

Here we have both a mom and a dad featured not once, but twice. And it utilizes words like love, hold and swaddle prominently — accurate terms (unfortunately) not often associated with fathers. The multiple use of mom and dad imagery means this is one of the rare instances we’ve seen where an equal numbers of dads featured with moms.

However, SwaddleMe’s keen eye on parental equality seems to end with its print ad. Once you take a visit to its website, you’ll find a site that portrays a different approach:

  • Its About Us page declares its real intent: “At Summer Infant, we strive to delight moms and babies, and walk beside you in your parenting journey…”  It should be noted that this goal seems rather conflicted when considering that the company was founded by a devoted dad.
  • It offers a Mommies Melodies Lamb, which hardly appears to be anything exclusive or reserved solely for moms.
  • Regularly utilizes phrases likeswaddleme2.jpg, “Other products moms love” and “What moms love.”
  • Even its product testing page assumes that everyone visiting its site is a mom! (right)

It won’t take much to achieve greatness, SwaddleMe. Here’s hoping you can match your website with an outstanding print ad. We’ll be cheering for you.

Start spreading the news

Ever since Dad Marketing was founded, we’ve always preached that it’s both the mom and dad who are expecting, not just mom. newyorkbabyshow2.jpg

That might sound strange to some, not just because it’s women who physically carry children, but it’s also because of the way media and marketing shape our thoughts. They’ve conditioned us via advertising imagery and word choice that moms are primary parents:

“More Moms choose the Similac Brand.”
“Thank You Mom by P&G.”
“Moms around the world trust Johnson’s to safely care for their babies.
“See what Moms are saying about the Gerber Grow-Up Plan.”

These words are prominent messages in the public eye telling us that moms are the full-time parents, and dad is merely a part-time helper, at best.

newyorkbabyshow.pngAnd yet, every so often we encounter an organization who Gets It, who realizes that dads matter every bit to the parenting world as moms – and the idea speaks to dads, and markets to them, and listens to them. Suddenly, dads matter and are valued as true parents and customers.

We offer our highest Seal of Approval to the New York Baby Show, who fully acknowledges dads as equal parents. There they exclaim that “parents” are expecting, not just mom.

Keep up the good work New York Baby Show. People notice your inclusion, and someday, everyone will want to be a part of it.

Words matter: why ignoring dads in ads is baloney

Nearly every day, words spoken by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump make national headlines.  Of course, some quotes are more shocking than others, and yet the level of scrutiny is often over a few select words.

Why the fuss?

Because words matter.oscarmayer4.png

Oscar Mayer recently introduced an ad about sending young children to school for the first time.  At first glance, it’s touching.  It looks great.

Note we said looks, because if you re-watch the ad with the volume muted, most everything looks good.  It looks like a touching ad involving the entire family, even if dad plays a rather minor role.oscarmayer1.png

But cue back the volume and notice the complete omission of “dad” in speech, and that changes the ad’s marketing breadth entirely.  No longer is dad playing a token cameo at best, but rather, he’s been excluded from the message – a sad, recurring theme among lunch makers who only believe mom’s pack lunches.

Oscar Mayer’s eschewed use of the word dad is an unfortunate practice for a company with dads at its roots.oscarmayer3.jpg

After all, what does this ad say to the late Richard Trentlage, the man who created the venerable Oscar Mayer Wiener song, who died Sept. 21 at age 87?  As a dad, Trentlage used his living room as a recording studio and had his children sing audition tapes.

It’s part of a rich Oscar Mayer legacy, which was founded in 1883 (perhaps Mayer was a dad?).  But 1883 is a whopping 133 years ago.  It’s high time this prominent company gets back to the basics if it wants to be perceived as the leader in lunch meats for the next 133 years.

Even if its marketing research suggests a majority of women purchase its products, there’s no point in senselessly alienating the other part of its customer base, and being perceived as a company who places a greater value in one gender – thus creating a bias, and all over useless, old fashioned stereotypes.

Besides, we all know sexism is wrong.

Oscar Mayer may have a way with b-o-l-o-g-n-a, but it also has a regrettable way with excluding dads.  Let’s hope that practice comes to a quick end before the next school year rolls around, because dads do indeed get kids ready for school and pack lunches, too.

And they love their kids every bit as moms.

 

Here’s a case for combining Mother’s and Father’s Day into one holiday

family2Last month on Mother’s Day, we overheard a young dad offering well wishes to a fellow friend, an elderly mom.  The mom extended a kind “thanks” in return, and then shared with a smile:

“Mother’s Day, Father’s Day – they’re really the same thing.  We should just have one ‘Parents Day,’ because parents raise kids together these days.  Everyone has the same job.  We’re all celebrating today, and I hope you have a great day, too!”

That’s some seriously wise knowledge from a veteran mother.

This mom was probably born about a decade after women finally gained the right to vote, so she’s seen changing societal roles and struggles for equality – all while being raised during a time when women didn’t typically work outside the home.

If any person has a reason to be set in her ways or subscribe to old-fashioned thinking, it would be her.

Yet instead, she has it all figured out.  She gets it.  She knows parenting isn’t a one-sided affair where one gender takes the lead, the other serves as an assistant or part-time helper.  She knows dads are just as competent, instinctual, effective and equal as moms when it comes to parenting.

Why don’t companies and their marketing employees think the same?

Technically, there is a Parents’ Day in the United States, held on the fourth Sunday of July.  However, that holiday hardly has the traction of its individual counterparts.

The truth is, we need holidays to celebrate each parental unit.  Moms and dads are different, and they parent different – and we say celebrate that.

So, let’s keep things the way they are, but recognize that no holiday is more important than the other.  We all have a father and a mother, whether we know them or not.

They deserve a day to be honored individually.

And they’re equal parents in every way.