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.

This company needs to stop calling dads, moms

Recently we noticed a Disney Moms post which identified a dad as a mom, so we shared that inaccuracy with the Twitterverse.

A handful of Disney supporters offered comments. In fact, they told us not to worry, to direct our energy toward other things and offered assurance of respect for dads.

That was nice, but it offers plenty for discussion.

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It’s great to hear that Disney Moms appreciate dads. In previous posts we’ve regularly lauded the program’s intentions and agree that dads comprise a valuable part of the group. If you’re planning to visit a Disney park, this program does offer great advice. There’s little doubt in our minds that dads are indeed loved and appreciated by participants on the panel.

Well, mostly. If they were truly and fully appreciated, dads wouldn’t be excluded from the program’s name. As for respect? Not completely.

One definition calls respect “a feeling of deep admiration for someone elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” It’s hard for dads to feel fully appreciated when the most honorable title achieved upon the birth of one’s child isn’t stated – or even acknowledged.

The dismissal of our concerns, however, is cause for disappointment. When those commenters asked us to direct our energy toward other matters and not to worry – it made us feel like our concerns didn’t matter, rather than acknowledging them and admitting the obvious discrimination.

We’ll admit it’s hard for anyone on the panel to do this. Those members are getting nice perks and probably aren’t even allowed to voice displeasure over the current Disney Moms name. If they did, it might mean the end of extras and incentives.

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Hey, we get it. No panel member is going to bite the hand that feeds them.

One woman commented, “it never really was much of an issue.”

Perhaps from her perspective. But she’s not a dad. Ask the millions of dads elsewhere who don’t sit on that panel and only see a major brand name ignore their very being. Most dads live their lives as secondary parents to moms. Just ask Huggies. Or watch videos. Or read magazines. Or follow our Twitter page.

The fact of the matter is, it’s not only odd to see dads being called moms – it’s wrong and unfair. It devalues who they are – equal, competent parents. We don’t believe women’s basketball teams should be called men. Congresswomen shouldn’t be called men. Policewomen shouldn’t be called men.

Language is one of the most powerful means through which sexism and gender discrimination are carried out.

This is no different.

No mom would like being called a dad, right?

We successfully lobbied Kix, Jif, Cheerios, Pampers, Huggies, Luvs, the New York Times and other major brands to make changes, and we’ll continue to advocate for equality and inclusion.

The awkwardness of having Disney call a father a mother – and seeing men accept that – isn’t bound to last forever.

It’s time for Disney to make everyone feel like true guests. Dads are waiting.

‘Twas the night before marketing to dads

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‘Twas the night before marketing to dads,
When all through the house,
Dad was excluded,
By an iconic brand mouse.

It’s hard to know why,
A travel program is named,
Disney Moms and not “Parents,”
Dads should be treated the same.

But they’re not all around.
Dads are left out of the talk.
Take a look at some ads,
It’s all quite a shock.

In the blink of an eye,
And a twist of your head,
Soon will give you to know,
You have plenty to dread.

“Choosy Moms Choose Jif,”
Peanut butter will say,
That’s only the beginning of,
The dad-parent downplay.

Formula, diapers,
Medicine, more.
Dad’s always left out,
By marketing lore.

Look at formula ads,
We’re talking bottles, not breastfeeding.
Dad’s a perfect consumer,
Why isn’t Similac heeding?

You’d also think Boppy,
Would market to men.
It’s a pillow for propping,
Read its history again.

And mmm, Texas Toast.
It’s a garlicky love-in,
Yet notice the ad,
Dad can’t handle an oven?

When a child is sick,
Dad will manage the fever.
But Exergen thinks,
He’s an underachiever.

Even medicine makers,
Insist dad can’t administer.
Mom wouldn’t be happy,
If Dr. Cocoa dismissed her.

Diapers are often a point,
Of daddy exclusion.
It’s hard to know why,
It’s such a confusion.

Oh, Huggies! Not Pampers!
Luvs, too. Earth’s Best?
Dad deserves better,
This must be addressed.

We’ll admit some have changed,
Like Amazon and Kix,
But there’s still work to do.
It doesn’t take tricks.

So just when you think,
One parent is in charge.
Think again! Think equally!
Dads are parents – supercharged!

Consider how you treat them,
Don’t drive dad out of sight,
Don’t leave him left out,
And you’ll have a good night.

With great ‘Power Up’ comes great responsibility

Over two years ago, Jif started to let go of one of the most recognizable and old-fashioned, exclusionary slogans marketing has ever seen.

That slogan – “Choosy Moms Choose Jif” – was beginning to disappear from television ads, print material and its website. Specifically, the removal from its main menu and relative prominence of the website offered a powerful sign that Smucker’s, its parent company, might actually be eliminating a sexist vibe from its messaging.

The switch was a positive implication to dads that they finally mattered as parents and customers, and that the company was at last recognizing today’s modern family. The shuttering of the slogan indicated that Jif was serious about modernizing, catching up to the times and maximizing profit.jif22.jpg

But then it introduced a new product, and how easy it went back to its old ways. Behold Jif Power Ups, a bite-size snack that’s portable and convenient. It looks tasty enough, but taste can be a funny thing when it’s genderized. Then it’s just in poor taste.

That’s because Jif went back to its old ways by declaring the product offers “the goodness moms want.” While leaving dad out may seem like an innocent omission, the fact remains that Jif has a history of targeting who it wants as customers, and it’s sliding back to its old routine. It’s an unfortunate truth, especially as dads remain ever viable as parents and shoppers in a crowded field of grocers. Dads want to be treated as a member of the family, and they will when advertisers begin to use their power to exert control and influence over behavior in a positive fashion.

Until then, society has to wait while Jif trumpets the old-school notion that mom is the lead parent, with reality constantly proving otherwise.

If you head over to its Power Ups product page, you’ll surprisingly find some much needed inclusive language, plus humor from famed funnyman Neil Patrick Harris — who just happens to be a dad. If he knew of Jif’s marketing exclusion, it’s doubtful he’d be laughing, nor wanting to sponsor a product that doesn’t even consider him a primary target audience.

Dads are a crucial and equal part of the family, and they want goodness as much as anyone. It’s time for change, Jif.

Beware of the unconscious bias

To see food products like Jif and Kix hold on to their timeworn, stereotypical catchphrases — all of it has reached a state of comicality. It certainly suggests absurdity and irrationality. We’re talking about peanut butter and cereal. Those products are specific to moms?

But then there are those items related to babies, and less people seem to notice the exclusionary practices tied to its marketing. Boppies were never invented solely for mothers, but they’re regularly positioned to exclude dads from messaging and thus, demote dads to secondary parental status. Similac offers baby formula – a surefire product for dads if there ever was one – yet its makers go out of their way to reject dads in messaging.

drbrowns4All of this is detrimental to families, of course, because it impedes the family from flourishing as it should without recognizing fathers as equal, competent parents.
Dr. Brown’s can now be grouped with the Boppy and Similac. They’re all products that owe us a little more, that need to try a little harder, that have a responsibility to go out of their way to ensure that dads don’t feel left out. They’re products that should regularly feature dads and speak to them in all that they do.

Go ahead and try to find a single image of a dad on the Dr. Brown’s site. Is there even one? That’s hardly representative of today’s modern families, or even families of yesteryear.

The current actions of companies like Dr. Brown’s, Boppy and Similac would be a little like Lowe’s only using men in its ads and scripting slogans and ad copy that only speaks to that one gender. And imagine the uproar if they did! Rather, they know that home improvement is hardly a gender-specific thing, even though common stereotypes indicate that power tools and outdoor work is supposedly for men.

But instead, Dr. Brown’s takes the old-fashioned route and tells us that dads don’t take drbrowns2.jpgcare of babies, or can’t bottle feed, or don’t want to. It’s all very troubling for a company that prides itself on innovation and support. And check out the disconcerting use of moms as a synonym for parent. Sorry Dr. Brown’s, but not all parents are moms, and thus, those terms can’t be succinctly substituted without leaving someone out.

Also take note of its Ambassadors program. Not only does it exclude fathers, it behaves as if they don’t exist.drbrowns5

Dr. Brown’s Twitter bio promises that its focus is “to create innovative feeding products to promote good health and optimal nutrition for baby.” If that’s true, then it’s time to make several revisions to its website and social media.

Dads want to deliver those things, too, and if someone tells him he can’t, he’s going to look elsewhere for someone who believes in him.

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?

Why is Disney making dads out to be moms?

Sometimes it appears as if Disney can do no wrong.

Most of its movies are hits.  Disney TV is generally squeaky clean and safe.  Media acquisitions seem to be financial steals.  Its merchandising knows no bounds.  And a visit to one of its theme parks has become a consensus family destination of a lifetime for many.

But at least one part of it is a major letdown.

That’s because Disney Parks, a subsidiary responsible for the conception, building and managing of its theme parks and vacation resorts, offers a rather dad exclusionary feature on its website, disneyparks.com.

Click on the Vacation Planning menu tab, and you’ll find a section offering a Moms Panel, an inexcusable practice that leaves dads out in name, and in other unfortunate ways.disneymoms1.png

First, Disney Parks offers no Dads Panel counterpart, thus ignoring a father’s contribution and unique perspective for vacation planning.  By presenting no voice for dads and the viewpoints they might lend while families prepare for a dream destination, it directly ignores the indispensable influence of fathers.  Disney is also clearly saying that dads don’t handle this vacation planning facet of family life, and that dads don’t matter.

But wait – you say – there are some dads on the panel.

And therein lies problem number two, where it uses the term “mom” as an equal synonym for “parent” – a faulty, exclusionary approach when marketing to families, families which include dads.  There are very few products exclusively intended for one gender as parents, and vacation planning certainly is not one of them.

Alas, the term gender bias comes to mind.

Disney makes matters worse by trying to rationalize its practice of replacing the word parent with mom:

We understand that the role of “mom” is met differently from family to family, so we made sure to fill our panel with enthusiastic, dedicated and diverse individuals—moms, dads and other in the know family members—to help guide you with your vacation planning.

Note how the word mom is placed in quotes.  Here, at least in Disney’s world, all dads are no longer equal parents, they’re moms!

Let that sink in for a moment:  Disney is calling dads, moms.

Don’t dads matter to Disney more than this?  Must dads’ presence as equal parents be demeaned, it not outright ignored?  It’s wrong.  Dads matter every bit as moms.

Now take a look at those actual dads serving as Moms Panelists:  don’t these dads have a problem with this concept?  If one was called a mom at a public function, wouldn’t he correct the speaker?  Let’s hope so.  So why let it persist online, in print, for the entire world to see?  disneymoms2.jpg

This whole discomfiture is not just literally inaccurate – it’s gauche, inappropriate and disrespectful.

And ignoring the contribution of a father by way of exclusion in its name – Moms Panel – doesn’t exactly feel welcoming to fathers seeking information.  It leaves them out of the discussion, and makes them feel like outsiders – that is, if they even bother to find and examine the site in the first place.

What’s more, among its entire 27 panelists only two are dads?  That’s hardly representative of the population, nor its customer base.disneymoms3.jpg

Third, it’s beyond disappointing that the Moms Panel was unveiled in 2008, during these politically correct times.  It’s not like we excuse Jif for prolonging use of its old fashioned motto, but at least it was born during a time where its slogan was representative of a bygone era.  That slogan, too, is inappropriate and Jif is taking steps to minimize (perhaps eliminate) its use.

But 2008?  That’s a mere eight years ago.  In this so-called modern, gender sensitive, all-inclusive, equality-seeking world, doesn’t Disney have some high level PR officer who would’ve screened this before it even happened?

This entire Moms Panel endeavor reflects a huge lapse in judgement for a global mass media and entertainment conglomerate that considers its parks “the Happiest Place on Earth.”

Dads can’t be happy with this kind of treatment.disneymoms4.jpg

Whether or not you’ve made it to Disneyland or Disney World before, at least we can all say we’ve enjoyed its movies over the years, and we continue to be enthralled with its new Star Wars handiwork and future plans.

But that’s what makes the rub hurt even more, because with Disney, we expect more.  We don’t just want our expectations met, we want them to be exceeded.  Sure, that’s a lofty desire, and maybe a bit unfair, but that’s the standard Disney has set.  We expect greatness.  Perfection.  Happiness.

All of it makes Disney’s use of the Moms Panel name indefensible.

Not long ago, Amazon – the largest Internet-based retailer in the United States – finally responded to the PR nightmare known as Amazon Mom by quietly and suddenly changing its name to reflect dads’ contributions as parents.

Let’s hope Disney can make a swift change, too, and thereby stake its claim as the Happiest Panel on Earth.