The case for marketing to dads

Marketing to dads is a way to motivate and challenge dads to create a higher standard of parenting involvement with their children.

As the expectations for greater parental involvement increases in professional and personal lives, dads will also spend more time with children. A prime example is the participation in dads’ clubs. Dad’s involvement at school does not diminish productivity and/or quality of work at the dads’ place of employment. A happy dad makes for a more productive and happy employee.

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A dad’s involvement also means less time that children remain supervised by a television, video game, or worse, surfing the Internet alone. Instead it means more time in the care of a dad who loves them.

The truth is that the current generation of children are the future business professionals who will champion marketing messages, journalists who will shape our attitudes, teachers who will instruct the next generation, doctors who will perform surgeries years from now, and leaders who will be voted upon someday. These children will more than likely also become parents. This makes this task of marketing to dads both very public and very necessary to building stronger families. And today’s generation of parents are their role models!

The case can be made that our very health depends on it, too. Health and wellness begins with parents at the birth of their children. When health care professionals consider dads as equal parents, they allow dads to get even more immersed in their child’s well-being. This could be as simple as calling dads by name in waiting rooms, speaking to and making eye contact with dads in appointments, or reminder calls that address both parents. It could also mean that companies allow employees greater flexibility for both parents to simply attend child well-check visits.

The overall parenting community itself also stands to benefit greatly by including dads in marketing. Rather than pitting one parent’s expertise as superior to another, parents will see each other as allies and not as adversaries who are competing with one another. Dads won’t feel like outsiders, and that improved unity means everyone will work together more effectively and learn from one another. Unity between moms and dads will also help online parenting websites expand and deepen their discussions about store brands, schooling, medicine, nutrition, or simply seeking general parenting advice.

It’s a positive sign when moms and dads work to build greater unity and more cohesive parenting – and it will leave a better parenting legacy for children.

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Is NUK failing dads?

If you’ve ever brought a child into the world, chances are you’ve used NUK products. Whether it’s bottles, teethers or tableware, NUK is easy to be found in the childcare world.nuk2.jpg

Yet for a company that’s been around for almost 60 years, NUK doesn’t appear to be listening to its customer base.

That’s because its marketing team has positioned its business as one of the more dad exclusionary companies around. On its website – nuk-usa.com – you’ll find repeated instances of an unrepresentative approach:

  • A trademarked “You’ve nuk3.pngGot This” slogan which offers wonderful parental assurance, but only for mom. Observe its one-sided slogan description: “Congratulations, mom! You just did the amazing and brought a beautiful baby into the world.” Wording like this ignores the indisputable fact that dad also just did the amazing and brought a beautiful baby into the world.
  • There you can also view a brief, inspirational video that expands on the “You’ve Got This” notion by not only repeatedly speaking to mom in name, but forgets to include even one moment of footage of a father in action.
  • NUK employs use of the exclusionary hashtag #NUKMoms.nuk4.jpg
  • It offers the “More for Moms Rewards Program.” And just in case you missed the program’s logo on the front page, there’s a box on the bottom right corner of nearly every page offering “Exclusive Savings Just for Mom.”

Interestingly, if not predictable, you won’t find a single image of a dad anywhere on its site, nor on social media. That’s where unquestionable irony sinks in. There are numerous cute faces of male babies and young boys used to sell NUK products. But then consider how those same faces will be ignored by the very company they represent once they become fathers later in life.

Its Twitter feed reinforces the notion that moms are its intended audience by insisting, “With some patience, creativity and expertly engineered products from NUK®, you can nuk.jpgtackle this mom thing.”

Imagine you’re a dad and reading, “…you can tackle this mom thing.”

If there were any further doubt as to whom it wants as customers, NUK seals the deal on its About Us page by declaring, “And we listen to the real world experts – moms just like you – to meet and exceed your needs.”

Dad knows what he’s doing every bit as mom. In today’s online shopping world where customers are sometimes only known by credit card numbers, it’s time that NUK takes a moment to embrace the other parent who knows a thing or two about nurturing.

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.

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.