Dads deserve better

There’s a great deal of misinformation about dads, and – ironically – it starts with the very groups and organizations who purport to uphold fatherhood.

While we appreciate the efforts of fatherhood organizations like the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) and National Center for Fathering (NCF), we question the level of father absence that they claim exists in America, as well as campaign strategies from similar fatherhood organizations who continue to highlight father absence as a growing problem in America.

In the 1990s, the NFI and NCF established campaigns to build society-wide movements to reverse father absence, initiated by a growing body of social science research that showed there were record numbers of American children living in father-absent homes.

Three decades and hundreds of millions of dollars later, both organizations proclaim that father absence has reached “epidemic” and “crisis” proportions.

In fact, the following statements are posted on their websites.
“According to the national surveys conducted by the National Fatherhood Initiative, 9 in 10 parents believe there is a father absence crisis in America.”
“If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency… In short, fatherlessness is associated with almost every societal ill facing our country’s children.” – National Center for Fathering

How is it possible that after three decades of working to reverse father absence, these organizations can claim there is a fatherlessness crisis in America? This question prompted us to raise even more questions about father absence that pundits have failed to address. To help us find the answers, we contacted the Pew Research and asked:
1. Is there a clear definition of father absence?
2. Do you know if anyone has conducted research on what causes father absence?

Although we’re grateful for their prompt reply, we’re also very frustrated that they never answered the questions. Instead, we received two links to reports with the same old song and dance about father absence. Much of it was stereotypical, based on attitudes and tradition from yesteryear, similar in vein to the slanted and subjective messages that continue to describe a dad’s parental inadequacy and how he’s lacking in paternal deeds – and how there is a connection between father absence and an increase in social problems in America.

We reviewed both reports and found no definition of father absence, nor research on its causes. We also conducted our own investigation and could not find answers to our questions.

Why are the questions we presented important? How is it possible to conduct research without a clear definition of “father absence or what causes father absence?”

Sadly, most people mistakenly assume only a dad causes father absence when the truth is that there are many other origins.

Physical absence also doesn’t necessarily mean a dad is emotionally absent. And who should have the power to decide if a dad or mom is emotionally absent?

The reports also raised questions with respect to gender equality. For example, the report reveals that more moms are in the workforce and that the divorce rate is up.

Could we consider a mom who chooses a career over staying home as an absent parent? Could we consider a mom who does not have full custody after a divorce as an absent parent? Could we consider a mom who is in prison as an absent parent?

The report also admits that mothers are more overprotective than fathers, which many mental health experts define as maternal gatekeeping. Maternal gatekeeping can sometimes become an intimidating force. Even fathers who desire to be active and involved with their kids often drift away in the face of persistent maternal advice. Usually the way a dad parents is viewed as being wrong, when in truth, it’s simply different – each parent, regardless of gender, brings value to their children.

As such, more questions abound.

Where is the study on how maternal gate keeping prevents a father’s involvement or how it negatively affects children and causes social ills? Where is the study on mother absence? If one has not been conducted, why not? And if there is, did the researchers use the same rules and criteria as father absence? Did they spend the same amount of time analyzing mother absence?

One might also logically ask, where are these national organizations’ counterparts? Every parent can become better versions of him or herself, yet we do not see a National Responsible Motherhood Clearinghouse and slogan like “Take time to be a mom today.” What message does this send to dads toward being respected as equal, competent parents?

It strikes us as odd that these academic experts are held in high regard, yet create their own rules/definitions – or in the father absence case, yield no definitions or common sense upon which to conduct their research.

What we find even more frustrating about one of the reports is how it was conducted by telephone as stated on page 8 of “Parenting In America.” If researchers are directing a report of this much social and cultural significance, could it not have been done by observing and questioning actual parents in their respective communities?

Yes, it would require more work. However, it also might divulge some truths about fatherhood the public doesn’t want to hear, such as: fathers are every bit equal, are more active and involved, and are just as competent parents as moms – even in the primary caregiver role. The latter is a fact supported by the increased population of dads who choose to be the primary caregiver for their families.

Unlike the NFI, NCF and other fatherhood organizations who continue to play the father absence card, we are more optimistic about the state of fatherhood.

We wholeheartedly believe there are far more good people than bad people in this world. Therefore, we also believe the responsible, active dads far outnumber the irresponsible, absent dads. And we believe this to also be true with moms!

To prove our claim that the responsible, active dads far outnumber the irresponsible, absent dads, we propose a new “Fatherhood is Alive and Well” campaign. This endeavor shares real facts on how much growth has occurred with the active role dads have played as parents in the last three decades.

Our proposal is not just for dads, but moms too. Why? Because when business and organizations devalue a dad’s role as a parent, it also insults a mom – that’s the husband she chose to marry and serve as the father of their children.

It is time to stop the dad bashing and gender war in the parenting community. Let’s focus on finding ways to encourage dads and moms to create and model a loving parenting community for the kids!

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Welcome to the ‘hood

similac9Overly drenched in heaping layers of crippling irony is the headline from Similac’s latest display ad (right) which preaches, “There’s no ‘one-formula-fits-all’ for babies, or for parenting, either.”

Calling this marketing-speak odd would be an injustice to the word odd, instantly giving it a meaning never originally intended. It might just make something we all currently agree upon as odd, say, Miley Cyrus’ antics, seem almost girl-next-door normal.

Thus, we here at dadmarketing can’t call this latest advertisement odd. Rather, Similac’s ad proclamation is off-the-charts anomalous.

Here’s why: Similac, by way of its marketing message, slogan and ad copy (below), is saying that only moms are parents, yet its headline (above) tries to tell us something otherwise.

Again, did you notice the slogan from which it can’t seem to let go? “Welcome to the Sisterhood of Motherhood”? There’s nary a dad in the universe who can relate to that, and we’re talking about a product called baby formula, not breastfeeding, nor a feminine item. Dads should be every formula makers’ dream, a sure-fire built-in customer for life, but Similac doesn’t seem to want it that way.

Abbott, makers of Similac, has been touting this exclusionary “Sisterhood/Motherhood” slogan for several months now, and by it saying “there’s no one-parenting-fits all,” it sure seems to want it both ways: mild use of the word “parent” hidden behind its unilateral, sexist slogan.

Besides, check out the exhortation at the end of the ad: why would dads even bother taking Similac up on its invitation to visit Facebook?similac10

Dads aren’t moms!

It’s time to give this old-fashioned slogan a rest, and for Similac to consider that dads just might be part of its customer base, too. It’s no fun for dads to get ignored month after month. It’s campaign preaches a non-judgmental approach, but it has judged dads loud and clear:  they don’t count.

When it comes to taking care of babies, it’s not just a motherhood. It’s also a fatherhood.

And above all, it’s called parenthood.

DadsR’ntUs

babiesrusIt’s one thing to diss dads throughout fatherhood, but it takes real chutzpa to do it while the baby hasn’t even come out of the mother’s womb.

And that’s exactly what BabiesRUs accomplished as they effectively discounted at least 18 million dads with one swift blow.

We recently came across the The Big Baby Book from BabiesRUs (Winter 2013/14 edition), a self-promotion sales catalog disguised as a magazine.

The odd thing is, it starts off so amazingly, refreshingly strong with a super cool image and ad copy to back it up. Note the inside cover showing a photo of both mom and dad with the words, “Congratulations! You’re having a baby!”

Here we’re obligated to extend extra bonus points to BabiesRUs for getting it right on at least one page (pictured). Because mom carries the baby, so often those you’re having a baby words are only directed to her, leaving the dad behind and made to feel like he’s not a part of the pregnancy. It was neat to babiesrus2see an ad extend congrats to both parents for once, especially the words, “You’re having a baby!”  Nice to see a company make a dad feel like a part of the pregnancy.

Well done, Backwards R.

However, it goes downhill from there. Turn the page and you’ll find a special pull-out page with the words, “Moms’ #1 Baby Registry.” If you missed it there, don’t worry, the words are repeated a few pages later. And throughout the 98 pages you’ll encounter a total of 20 images of moms compared to a mere five dads. Dads care for and raise kids, so why the off-balance ratio? It’s just not right, BabiesRUs.

Finally, if that isn’t enough to make dads shoulders feel a little cold, the back cover slams home with certainty who exactly BabiesRUs wants to shop with them as they pronounce, “BabiesRUs registry: Chosen by 18 million moms…and counting!”

Over on our Twitter site we often use the hashtag #dadscounttoo.

Yes indeed, BabiesRUs, dads do count, too. Hopefully you’ll start counting them as a part of your customer base someday soon.

You can lead a marketing department to a fruit flavored beverage, but you can’t make it drink

According to the Tum-E Yummies, “moms see goodness” and “kids see fun,” but you know what dadmarketing sees?tumeyummies

Complete senseless and meaningless dad exclusion.

The image pictured is a screen shot from the webpage of BYB Brands, a company that hasn’t quite figured itself out yet, nor its product. Or, perhaps it hasn’t really proofread its own work. In either case, it doesn’t excuse this stereotypical, stuck-in-the-past marketing disarray.

Take a look at their slogan: Create and sell brands people want!

How can this be? Their web copy doesn’t even back it up, for BYB isn’t marketing their brands to people – only mothers. Over and over on the BYB website, and at the Tum-E Yummies website, they merely address moms, not even giving dads the time of day.

There’s also a trite For Parents section, a true anomaly that could only be fashioned by a marketing department at odds with its own self. Here again, this predictable segment solely speaks to moms, a divide they created themselves by neglecting dads everywhere.

Part of their copy includes the oddities, “A mom-approved escape from the routine,” and “It’s not everyday you get to be a good mom and a fun mom,” and “Fun hydration moms and kids can agree on” – quirks by way of featuring boys on the site, future men that will be completely disregarded upon fatherhood by the very company whose drinks they enjoy.

That’s some business plan for future success, huh?

BYB apparently holds dear to the timeworn marketing impulse that moms still handle the kids, cook the meals, provide the snacks, and dads basically don’t shop.

Fortunately, poor execution (and websites) can be corrected easily.

Is BYB and Tum-E up to the task?