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.

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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.

What happens when you dare to think outside the juice box

This past spring we had a spirited social media discussion with a fine, dedicated dad over our mission. Among other things, this dad asked, “Who cares who juice boxes get marketed to?”

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He argued that only a small percentage of dads care, so small that it doesn’t justify considering dads as an ignored group. It was a bit surprising to hear these remarks from a father, so let’s take a moment to address this today.

There is power in marketing that can completely change society as well as societal views. If it were perceived through marketing that, an active and involved dad is “the norm,” it would make sense that a dad’s desire to be a more active and involved parent and shopper would increase.

Since the 1990s, fatherhood has evolved, and today an active and involved dad is, indeed, the norm. This evolution of fatherhood is a direct result of the changing workforce as more and more moms have taken up work outside of the home, more and more dads are cutting their hours or staying home part- or full-time with the kids; thus, moms are becoming primary breadwinners, too. This parental unit demographic desperately wants, and needs, to feel accepted for their decisions. As such, if dads are comfortable in the shopping and buying experience, they will do more of it voluntarily.juicyjuice34.jpg

In today’s modern family, dad is now also in charge of buying groceries, clothes, school supplies, and other products and services the family needs to exist. A dad also 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 as in, the “mom-tested” mindset, it reinforces an archaic stereotype and subliminally makes a dad feel that the mom is a better/leading parent. It also makes the mom feel as though she shouldn’t have re-entered the workforce, and by her doing so she is less of a mother. This is insulting to moms and dads, but yet it continues.juicyjuice35.jpg

Change is hard, especially if it’s an idea or venture one has never explored before, like marketing to dads. Changing the way we view, treat, and market to dads is necessary because there is a lot at stake.

Dads represent half the parenting population. That equates to a significant loss of revenue and profit for companies and businesses not catering to the dad demographic. Also at risk is the image of dads as parents for this and future generation of boys and girls who will eventually become parents and consumers.

Our mission here is encourage all of us to change the way we think about, view, and treat dads. It is our hope that we’ll help companies and businesses capitalize on the benefits of marketing products and services to today’s active, involved dads. The case to include dads in advertising goes far beyond monetary gain. Society stands to benefit from a world that acknowledges dads as equal, competent parents. In fact, children, marriages, and the entire parenting community will all reap the rewards of dad inclusion.

Just like the Mr. Mom label, all of this is a big deal when you look at the larger picture. No person should be subject to a label that implies incompetency or reduces his or her value as a person or part of the family. We’ve never heard workforce moms referred to as “Mrs. Dad.” If someone did, we’d also find that degrading to motherhood. One of our recurring messages is that words matter!

Simply put, we’re merely asking others to think outside the juice box.

An open letter to dads – the problem with influencer marketing

Back in the spring – March 7 to be exact – National Cereal Day was celebrated from sea to shining sea.

OK, that’s exaggerating. Our entire nation didn’t honor it. It was largely done so by Twitter users. And it’s not really National Cereal Day, it’s more like #NationalCerealDay.

These aren’t real holidays – they’re hollowdays – they’re empty, there’s not much to them. They’re days often set up by marketers to help sell industries or products, and they’re primarily celebrated only on social media. If your workplace, school, or home isn’t really celebrating and you’re spending more time tweeting about it than actually observing it, then it’s a hollowday.kix9.jpg

Still, they serve a purpose and can be a lot of fun on social media. We sometimes join in the fun ourselves. And while this obscure cereal occasion was celebrated, we noticed a disturbing trend: dads advertising for companies like General Mills and Kellogg’s, companies who have a regular history of ignoring fathers through slogans, general marketing and even on cereal boxes.

So why would dads plug a company that doesn’t place value in them?

Who’s an influencer?

Influencer marketing can be powerful and it certainly has its place. We all know how it works: companies identify individual “influential” people – rather than a certain market – and intentionally use those people by controlling the content of their blog stories, testimonials, social media posts and photos.frostedminiwheats2.jpg

These companies are asking those people to purposely write about a brand in order to exert influence over possible buyers. Along the way those influencers gain income, kickbacks and plenty of attention – that is, adulation in the form of likes/follows. It’s true that all of it can result in an inflated ego, but welcome to the world of influencers.

Is influencing always what it seems?

At the same time, influencer marketing can also offer deceit. It’s common practice for influencers (though, not all) to buy followers that represent bots to make profiles appear more impressive. Most people don’t buy it, but interestingly, a lot of companies overlook it all in the name of numbers.

Some influencers have real followers and they worked hard to gain every one of them. So, it’s easy to see that dad bloggers have sway more than ever before, but with great power comes great responsibility.

If dads want to be recognized as fully competent parents and equal to their parental counterparts in the world of influencing, spending, retail and commerce, know this: they’re contributing to the problem.

Dads can’t be supporting dad-unfriendly companies in the name of freebies, likes, media attention, more followers, or even in the name of fun. That’s called selling out.cheerios.jpg

If you’re a dad helping to promote, say, General Mills, have you thought about what you’re helping to endorse? Some of its brands, for example, continue to ignore and discount you with exclusionary messages and slogans stamped on the front of every box.

So when you plug these companies, you’re offering a stamp of approval to what they do – and that’s wrong.

Self-respect is key

If men truly want to be valued as prime influencers and be treated equally everywhere they go online and in person — schools, doctor offices and even by the children in their own homes — it’s time to speak up and take a stand.quakeroats3.jpg

All of those goodies, swag and likes aren’t worth it if they’re feeding the monster. Those companies who disregard fatherhood will continue to get away with exclusion and won’t value true purchasing and parental power if influencers give in.

Being an influencer carries weight, and if dads really want to influence someone, stand up and speak out. Tell them that not all parents are moms. Tell them that you matter as a parent and a customer. Hollowdays aren’t worth it.

 

Properly reaching dads means using the right photos

Just as words are so crucial to showcasing the active role of today’s dads as true and competent parents in advertisements, so are images – and realistic images say it best. Smart brands should keep in mind authentic representations of dads in marketing. It’s true that those images of dads fishing, hunting, and working on cars are all fair and accurate, but so are those of dads cooking, shopping, and picking kids up from school.dadhug2.jpg

Even better images might be those of dad nurturing, holding, hugging, cuddling, and kissing – all semblances that portray relevance and authenticity of genuine, loving fatherhood. The latter are not just likenesses of what dads should become, nor do they represent a minority of dedicated dads – this is fatherhood today. It’s alive and well in every community around us.

The modern father views himself as skilled and devoted to his household in every facet of family life. He’s not trying to replace mom in the way society perceived him and labeled him as “Mr. Mom.” He is dad and equal parent. He identifies as a parent in the same way a mom does – sympathetic, caring, and wants to have stronger, intimate relationships with his children far more than the stoic, unresponsive dads portrayed in the media.

When marketers demonstrate these emotional bonds and challenges with parenting, it makes instant connections with customers. The need to reach a certain segment must be efficient.

All things being equal, some campaigns aren’t

There’s a lot of talk about equality these days, and with good reason. Exclusion is on the rise. People are being left out. Groups are ignored.p&g11.jpg

It’s no wonder that the mega, multi-national consumer goods corporation P&G started a #WeSeeEqual campaign, a push well-timed in today’s society of #MeToo and #TimesUp.

The campaign aims for a world free of gender bias that offers equal representation and voices for both women and men. It’s a powerful message that deserves praise and attention. Frankly, it’s hard to argue with or dispute any of its pleas. You can debate a lot of things in life, but equality isn’t one of them – it’s necessary and needed in a world filled with exclusion.

p&g8.jpgBut the campaign runs a bit contradictory when compared to another P&G effort, “Thank You Mom,” which resurfaces during each Olympics, as it did again during last month’s Winter Games. In it, we see an effort aimed at celebrating just one half of the parenting duo.

It’s one thing to market to a certain segment – as it’s doing with the “Mom” promotion – but another to want it both ways, as P&G emphatically implores us that “a world free from gender bias is a better world for all.”

Imagine what sports-loving dads were thinking when they watched regular nightly exclusion during the 17-day PyeongChang Games, as only mothers were thanked for helping athletes achieve their dreams. Meanwhile, these same dads would simultaneously encounter the #WeSeeEqual declaration, and another occasional P&G effort, #LoveOverBias – both exhorting humanity to treat everyone equally. Everyone, that is, except customers.p&g3.jpg

These conflicting messages aren’t just confusing, they’re actually illogical; it’s impossible to pair the word “equality” with brands that concurrently exclude fathers, but P&G has indeed done the impossible.

Media writers have praised the effort of #WeSeeEqual – and rightly so. On its own, it’s an incredibly commendable campaign and well-executed. But there’s no denying the mixed message it sends to dads and the parenting community.

If equality is going to mean something, the corporate world needs a genuine effort with a real, authentic backing – in word and in deed.

Otherwise a company is just selling products on a shelf, not a mission.