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.

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.

Don’t formula makers realize that dads feed babies, too?

No matter how often we view it, it’s always a surprise to see formula makers ignore dads as equal parents. Dads can’t physically breastfeed, but they certainly can formula feed. And they buy formula. A lot of it.

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As such, one would think dads should be huge targets for laser-focused marketing that capitalizes on the influence of fathers and formula feeding. Dads could be the primary ambassadors for a product that formula makers could woo in order to assist them in promoting healthy formula feeding.

Nope. Almost every formula manufacturer still disregards dads as parents who feed babies. Take a look at the site revamp of Enfamil, where you’ll find a bit of irony on its Better Together page.

First, it exclaims: “The world outside is full of things that divide us.” Yep, things like websites — and marketing campaigns, hashtags, imagery and menu tabs. In fact, there isn’t much to find that’s inviting on its site for fathers looking for content about the products they’re using to feed their children.

Second, it indicates that “…we are raising the next generation of extraordinary men and women.” Also true. But these eventual extraordinary men will be disregarded upon becoming dads by the very company that celebrates them.

Third, it speaks of “uniting” throughout its website. Um, right. Most of it looks like a divide. Dads are creating, expecting, growing, feeding and nurturing babies every bit as moms, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at the Enfamil site.

Perhaps Enfamil could invite some of its paying customers to talk about their experiences as parents.

Enfamil won’t have to look far. Those customers are the same ones who get up in the night and take on feedings whenever needed. They’re the ones who read nutrition labels and care about exactly what they’re feeding their children. They’re the ones who want support and want to share it. They’re the ones who work at a job that helps to pay for the formula.

They’re dads.

Marketing innovation starts with acknowledging the modern world

Company evolution and innovation is the hallmark of any successful operation, but such progress is muffled when weighed down by a tagline that harkens to a bygone era. While companies create slogans to market their products, many remain convinced that dads haven’t changed, and so the simple solution is to keep the communication the same. dadcooks.jpg

The message never changes.

Therein lies the problem: society has changed and today’s dad is an involved consumer like never before. More importantly, he’s an active parent. With that brings a vocational conviction that stretches beyond serving merely as a breadwinner and secondary parent. Dad is an equal family player and meaningful parent in every way, shape, form and instinct – every bit as mom.

As a result, the consequences of ignoring dad as an equal and competent parent are catching up to the corporate world. While competitors offer new brands that speak to evolving and discriminating purchasers, companies are realizing that they cannot rest on the laurels of past success and generations of loyal customers. Customers are changing, both in terms of age and demographics. It’s clearly a different ballgame now, and a failure to keep up with today’s modern parenting realm means a loss of precious revenue and market share.

There are also unintended negative effects on the matron targets of current corporate campaigns. The harm here is that it places unwanted pressure on mom, who of course is now increasingly found in the workforce. No, she doesn’t want to have to place her stamp of approval on everything. She doesn’t want to be the sole decision-maker, nor does she want to be forced into the habit of thinking that becoming a better mom involves choosing the proper peanut butter.

While the 1950s mom ran the household almost entirely alone as dad provided the monetary support, the world is different now. Today, mom has a balanced counterpart in the parental world. Neither is in the lead or usurps the other.

This person, of course, is dad.

Another consequence of ignoring dad in marketing is not only the degradation of fatherhood, but also motherhood and parenthood. Continuing to portray dads as incompetent shoppers, substitute parents for moms, or part-time sidekicks is an insult to moms. It questions the mom’s choice she made to become a professional woman. It’s she who desires to focus on providing the best for her family and reach her utmost career potential instead of staying at home with the kids. It also belittles her decision to marry the man she chose to be her husband and father of their children. No matter how you add it up, the commutative law of addition still yields the same result. Motherhood + fatherhood or fatherhood + motherhood – both equal parenthood.

The good news is company and marketing executives have the power to change how they view dads as parents, as well as consumers of products and services. Even better news is that dads continue to be an evolving and growing target market.

How ‘mom panels’ only tell half the story

Everyone keeps telling us the days of traditional gender roles are long gone.

They say men care for and nurture children, just as women work outside the home. Both parents contribute no matter what task needs done, because the lines are blurred and times are different now.

Ask around your circle of family and friends, and chances are those perceived dynamics match the real world. Moms and dads do indeed share responsibilities, but that’s not how the corporate world sees it. There, particularly in the realm of marketing and media, you’ll find a different story where stereotypes are held onto, where there’s a belief that only mom runs the show.chickfila2.jpg

That’s never been more evident than with the Chick-fil-A Moms Panel, a corporate initiative which works to bring moms news and announcements, gather feedback on future programs, and provide exclusive opportunities and gifts.

The program is driven through BSM Media, a marketing and media company that specifically focuses on connecting brands with moms.

The Chick-fil-A Moms Panel is believed to have close to 1,000 moms on this year’s panel. That’s a lot of moms who can help Chick-fil-A learn more about their offerings and the way they address customer service.chickfila3.jpg

The only problem? It’s forgetting half of the parenting equation.

Last year’s industry-first book, “DADLY Dollar$,” revealed several interesting facts about dads. A 2015 qualitative study by consumer insights firm iModerate indicated that dads make impromptu purchases first based on price. But there are other reasons. One reason is that they want to reward their children for good behavior, accomplishments, or even to avoid an in-store meltdown. In addition, they also like to give their families treats, either to celebrate events, reduce home tension, or indulge loved ones. They also do so out of convenience, for the sake of planning, and to anticipate items they might need.chickfila4.jpg

If money issues are often at the root of couples’ arguments, it may not prove who is right or wrong, but it at least proves this: dads have a hand on how money is spent.

Operating a moms-only panel isn’t only about ignoring half of its customers, it’s about losing out on potential revenue and the opportunity to learn how today’s modern families spend money.

Company founder Truett Cathy insisted, “We should be about more than just selling chicken. We should be a part of our customers’ lives…”

Rather than focusing on missed opportunities, we see Chick-fil-A as having a new opportunity to be a part of dads’ lives. In fact, there’s no better way for this family-owned business to remind everyone that families also include dads.