Ashton Kutcher: a dad’s best hope

They say ‘good things come to those who wait,’ but it’s likely Ashton Kutcher never listened.kutcher

Upon leaving the University of Iowa in 1996, Kutcher rose to meteoric fame by immediately modeling, and then landing on Fox’s long-running “That ‘70s Show” by 1998, where he gained his instant stardom.

He appeared in his first film by 1999, and deftly spread his wings by starring in and producing a varied mix of shows, including the clever “Punk’d,” the cult film “Dude, Where’s My Car?,” and the psychological thriller “The Butterfly Effect.”

And his acting accomplishments may seem like nothing compared to his prowess on social media, particularly Twitter, where he became the first user to reach one million followers in 2009.

Yet as he reaches a nearly 20 years of work in Hollywood, Kutcher is taking on his biggest role yet: dadvocate.

Last October, he and Mila Kunis gave birth to daughter Wyatt, and just a few months later, Kutcher had become victim to dad exclusion like so many fathers before him. So, this past March, Kutcher complained about the lack of pubic diaper changing stations on his Facebook page, a post that went viral and caught the attention of a New York state senator, Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan).

Hoylman’s proposed an amendment would change the New York Civil Rights Act and require many newly constructed or renovated public buildings to provide diaper-changing rooms in men’s rooms where they are also present in kutcher2women’s rooms.

Kutcher, meanwhile, launched a change.org petition intended to have Target and Costco offer changing stations to both moms and dads in their stores.

How this plays out remains to be seen, but for now, both Kutcher and Hoylman should be enthusiastically lauded for their efforts.

With all due respect to our lawmakers and government, Kutcher, in particular, carries a lot of weight and power, and he may be a key figure in putting dads on a rightful equal ground.

However, real change isn’t going to happen in a restroom, it’s going to happen when perception shifts – and that can only occur when principal influences begin to treat dads like they count as much as moms when it comes to parenting.

Those influences are in the marketing and advertising of the products and services we use, in the media which shapes our attitudes, and in how Hollywood portrays the dad character.

As long as Jif Peanut Butter trumps its one-sided marketing slogan, and Kix cereal speaks only to moms, and American Baby magazine employs old fashioned writing that ignores fathers, and writers slap unfair and embarrassing stereotypes on dads which only apply to a minority – and thus we keep reading, and buying and using these products – diaper changing stations for dads will be merely pacifistic tools demanded by law.

And only fathers would see the change anyway; indeed, it would be a welcoming and needed change in law, but only dads would benefit and see the restroom modification.

Instead, if Kutcher could really get to the heart of the matter, and use his influence to encourage others to include dads in positive ways through marketing, media and entertainment, the “#1 Dad” mug he receives from his daughter on his first Father’s Day this June will be more valuable than any acting honor he’s ever accepted.

And letting everyone see it would make for the best tweet ever.

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Search your feelings

So many people had been waiting for this weekend all year.

The anticipation was high, many combed the Internet first, and when the moment finally arrived, it was met with great enthusiasm – if not simultaneous screaming heard across the land – at the instant when people were finally allowed to obtain what they desired all along.

The new Star Wars trailer was unveiled.

In my circle of life, I don’t know any mothers who care about Star Wars. There must be plenty of fanmoms out there, but I think it’s a safe bet that they’re in the minority.starwars

The Star Wars culture is especially dominated by men and boys who grew up emulating Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Yoda.

Let’s face it, you’re far more likely to find a boy wearing a Star Wars t-shirt than a girl, and theater seats at next December 18’s midnight showings will mostly be males, many of whom dads who will no doubt bring their sons and impart lifelong movie fandom to their younglings.

Yet, is it not interesting how movies like Star Wars don’t try to market solely to dads?

Of course, the film’s inherent aggressive tone will appeal to a more masculine side, but movie marketers aren’t trying to seal the deal with forced pleadings to dad in the same way Jif and Kix think that shopping and feeding children must be mom’s solitary birthrights.

A mega-successful franchise like Star Wars certainly has its chances.

For sure, its movie marketers have multiple opportunities to play the father-son card with Luke Skywalker supposedly taking on the wise Obi-Wan-type master role, its interminable Jedi master-student themes, and the ever-quotable “I am your father.”

Rather, Star Wars appeals to everyone with a trailer that does not disappoint and leaves fans of all genders and parental entities feeling a part of the Force.

This Black Friday will go down as the best in history thanks to Star Wars, for it didn’t even involve the overused and illogical term doorbusters, nor did it disrupt and creep into anyone’s Thanksgiving.

And Star Wars didn’t make dads look or feel like turkeys.

An unfair lady

You may have noticed the recent headline about the University of Tennessee athletic department dropping the “Lady” volunteersportion of its Volunteers nickname from all sports, except basketball.

I vividly remember the first time I was introduced to the word lady and its association with a sports team – at my local high school. Frankly, I couldn’t believe my eyes, and I had questions. Lots of them.

Why was a girls team purposely making themselves out to be different than the boys (and as a result, giving them a lesser-than feel) by putting this unnecessary word on their jerseys?

Did the athletic director or the coach dream up this humiliating way of separating the girls from the “official” sports teams otherwise known as the boys? (That was the message it appeared to send to myself, and others.)

At the very least, why couldn’t they be identified as girls, instead of such a formal word like lady, which really has more of an adult connotation?

Why use a prim and proper term like lady anyway? That implies refinement and politeness, hardly qualities I’d want in a sports team. (Then, that made me wonder if, during games, these female athletes would really sweat, or rather glow?)

And, treating all things equally, why then, didn’t the boys team use the moniker “gentlemen” on theirs?

It was as if the girls team was intentionally signaling everyone in attendance with a madcap scarlet letter and caution label right on their jerseys: no, we’re not the real sports team, we’re just the ladies sports team. If you want to see the official sports teams, you’ll have to watch the main event, the boys.

I’m all for recognizing two different genders and giving each their due, but this deliberate separation by way of a simple term left the entire situation feeling so unnecessary, cruel, unfair and demeaning.

The Academy Awards doesn’t call it a Lady Oscar for the actress; it’s just an Oscar.

We don’t have teachers, and lady teachers.

There aren’t parents, and lady parents.

All male cats aren’t just cats, with the others being called female cats.

Sure, there’s still plenty of absurdity in our world. Seeing a female city council member categorized as a councilman looks as inane as it is literally inaccurate.

Yet even other parts of the sports world have been slow to embrace equality. Despite the effects of Title IX, sports has taken a long time to get with the program.

For example, why must the men’s NCAA basketball logo be branded “Final Four” while the women’s logo states, “Women’s Final Four”? Shouldn’t the former be called “Men’s Final Four,” making all things uniform?

And speaking of uniforms, isn’t that what sports clothing is supposed to do – make things alike, as in unified? If you let one team wear “Volunteers” on a jersey, and their counterpart wear “Lady Volunteers,” does that really send a message of togetherness and harmony among the entire Tennessee athletic department?  And its women’s teams even have their own blue accent color to create a further divide.  Talk about a silent, unspoken rebellion.

Then you have the NBA. Yes, the NBA came first, but why is the women’s league deemed the WNBA? Shouldn’t the men’s league be rebranded the MNBA, or at least give the women’s league a name with a less secondary feel to it, such as the Liberty Basketball Association, or American Basketball Association?

What about the PGA vs. the LPGA? Are not the women golfers of equal stature? The “L” makes it seem like the lesser league that it’s not. When Michelle Wie played on the PGA tour from 2004-2008, did it not seem like the media had promoted her to the main/real/top league? NASCAR doesn’t have a special WNASCAR for female drivers like Danica Patrick.

What surprised me the most about Tennessee’s announcement was how some former female athletes felt they were losing their identity with the loss of the word lady.

Those athletes might read this post and charge us with political correctness gone too far. But this has nothing to do with political correctness. The term “PC” describes the attitude of being careful not to offend any group of people in society believed to have a disadvantage.

One could accurately argue that women have disadvantages in a variety of ways, but using the nickname Lady Vols certainly doesn’t create any advantage; it belittles, demeans and unnecessarily separates.

I suspect the athletes, fans and those around Tennessee athletics had become desensitized to a term that was so commonplace and deeply rooted in sports culture at their university. The winning ways of the successful hoops team no doubt made it famous and celebrated.

The term had grown and became its own separate brand with no one ever stopping to question how silly it looked in the first place. Can’t see the forest for the trees, kind of comes to mind here.

It’s a bit like Jif’s “Choosy Moms Choose Jif” saying, or Kix’s “Kid-Tested, Mother-Approved.” Frankly, I’m surprised more dads aren’t up in arms over them. But both moms and dads have probably become deadened to the phrases. Those old-fashioned sayings have been around for decades and after all, many people enjoy the products anyway, so the slogans go unnoticed, and in the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it vein, most really don’t ask questions.

But questions are important.

As for my original questions, no one’s really ever been able to succinctly answer them. I doubt anyone associated with Tennessee can either, especially those who strangely want to continue with the Lady Vols nickname for basketball only.

But our country was founded on dignity and equality, and dadmarketing will keep searching for it in our corner of the world.

We hope the folks at Tennessee do in theirs, too.

Pillow talk

If you’ve never heard of a Boppy, it’s a unique product that was originally created as a baby support pillow, but also can be used to prop a baby during feedings.boppy

The concept is wonderful, and during its brief history has enjoyed a great deal of national publicity through TV shows, magazines and celebrity plugs.

The company appears knows a thing or two about creating a good product that works, but when it comes to marketing, they’re one of the worst offenders we’ve seen when it comes to some serious, major league dad omission.

In the Boppy’s world, dads are not present, plain and simple. Mothers should be greatly offended by this extreme, unwarranted dad exclusion, for it’s their husbands whom Boppy is shunning. Let’s take a look at how they reached this woeful state.

Slogan

Support for all Momkind? We could see a motto like this making the grade, even being somewhat acceptable, at least two or more generations ago. Take Jif and Kix – it’s not like their slogans are proper or right or appropriate, because they remain 100 percent offensive and outdated. But even though they’re both like the Washington Redskins (refusing to change out of stubbornness) at least those old school slogans were born during an era when saying those things might have been customary once upon a time (like using a name such as Redskins).

The Boppy was invented in 1989! How can a company actually make this an official slogan in this modern era, let alone copyright it, all against better judgment in a world that demands equality? Boppy manages to downgrade fatherhood with a simple four word slogan, if not completely banish it, from their one-sided marketing mission. That’s one giant leap backward for all of humankind.

Mom Center

Here we have yet another website with a “moms-only” section. We get the fact that men and women are different as parents, but why exclude dads? Can’t dads feed babies with Boppies, too? Sure they can.

We’ve sent similar thoughts to other companies who respond with things like, “Yes, dads are our heroes too and we’ll take a look at it,” or “Check out this special dad section we created for Father’s Day.”

Why a special section? Why do something only once a year when the calendar tells you to think of dads in June? How about just calling it a “For Parents” section?

25th anniversary

Take a look at the “25 Years!” menu tab on the website, which doesn’t invite dads to the celebration in any way. There you’ll find a giant photo of mom with baby and the script, “We’re celebrating 25 YEARS of supporting mom & baby.”

As long as Boppy thrives on stereotypes, we’ll offer one as we pose this question: if dads are supposedly the providers and earned the money to buy the Boppy, can’t the company at least acknowledge this notion and offer a simple “thanks” for purchasing it in the first place?

Apparently not, because…

There are no dads anywhere

You can’t find even one dad photo anywhere at boppy.com, unless you consider the degrading drawing of ignorant Abe Lincoln putting the Boppy on his head like some clueless dad. And no, we don’t count the guy in the Martha Stewart photo or the two male employees – who knows if they’re dads? We’d like to see an even 50-50 ratio of dad stock photos with moms.

Aren’t dads equal parents, too?

Would Lowe’s or Home Depot ever dream of featuring all dads/men on their site accompanied by a sexist slogan like, “Support for all dadkind”? Of course not, there’d be a mom uprising, and rightly so. It wouldn’t be right.

So why does Boppy get away with it the other way around?

All the baby boys pictured on the site had better enjoy the attention while they can, because they’ll be ignored and forgotten the moment they become fathers by the very company who once featured them.

The numbers don’t lie

Boppy claims to be “beloved by over 15 million moms worldwide!” That’s an amazing statistic which should make Boppy very proud. But you know how many dads (who are potential customers) they’ve managed to ignore?

About 15 million.

Cake loss

Trying to rid the world of dad exclusion regarding anything kitchen related is like asking a Kardashian to stay away from a camera lens.

It’s a challenge, but dadmarketing came into being just for this.

(The dad stuff, not the Kardashians.)bettycrocker2bettycrocker1

Our latest offender is Betty Crocker, which should not come as all that surprising. But what is surprising is how Betty Crocker did it, and so very unnecessarily.

A quick look at the ad reveals nothing glaringly wrong. There aren’t any Kix-like, dad-excluding slogans plastered front-and-center. There aren’t any “Attention Mom” banners adorned at the top. The word “mom” really isn’t anywhere noticeable.

For a few brief moments we were actually overjoyed about the possibility of a column lauding Betty Crocker for not pushing the “baking is only for moms” agenda.

But then we read the fine print.

If you took the time to dig all the way through this copy-heavy, two-page spread from the September 2014 American Baby magazine, you’ll find that it’s really not directed at dads whatsoever, because Betty Crocker assures that after a day of baking, “you will look like Wondermom!”

How’s that for a red-spooned slap in the face, dads?

You see, venerable Betty Crocker, you may be surprised to know that some dads like to bake for their families. Dad doesn’t come home from work with mom waiting there and hot food on the table like it happened a few generations ago. What’s more, boys like to bake too, and you could learn a lot from Hasbro, makers of the Easy Bake Oven, who developed a boy-friendly version of their classic toy after one young girl simply spoke up.

Betty Crocker has been around for almost 100 years, and has been moderately progressive in modernizing their female likeness over time. But their treatment of dads in today’s modern world where fathers clearly do more than past generations makes them look stuck in the past.

No one should know better than Betty Crocker how the tiniest ingredient can alter an entire recipe. That’s exactly what happened in BC’s latest ad blunder.

We’ll be surprised if we ever hear from Betty Crocker, seeing how they’re operated by General Mills, makers of two of the most dad unfriendly brands around: Cheerios and Kix. We’ve tweeted them before, and they’ve ignored us like a stale cookie crumb.

Still, we’ll keep trying, because a small change in marketing approach would require “no superpowers needed,” and then we can all celebrate together with a Betty Crocker dessert.

Until then, we’ll just keep using another brand actually created by a man who knew a thing or two about cakes.

Let’s fix it in a Jif-fy

Some say there isn’t any common sense in Washington, but dadmarketing would argue otherwise. The year was 1995 when the NBA’s Washington Bullets changed its nickname to the Wizards. Apparently then-team owner Abe Pollin decided the Bullets name carried violent overtones, especially in a city with a high homicide and crime rate. And apparently he was jifright.

One can certainly argue the eventual new name – how it hasn’t caught on, how it carries other negative undertoneshow it is a product of a fad at the times – but that would be missing the point. “Bullets” simply wasn’t appropriate anymore. It didn’t take the action of one owner to spur it along, because many realized it. The change was long overdue.

And then you have Jif Peanut Butter’s slogan: Choosy Moms Choose Jif.

It’s not just in Jif’s latest TV ad, it’s plastered all over their website, and it’s been a part of the brand for a long time.

I can hear people already (both moms and dads), because many of them spoke out when we discussed Kix’s outdated motto:

  • Chill out, it’s just a slogan.
  • Everyone has to be so “PC” nowadays.
  • Much ado about nothing.
  • There’s more important things to worry about.

We here at dadmarketing like to think of the Jif slogan as SWASFTSOI: Staying With A Slogan For The Sake Of It.

To explain further, imagine for a moment, that the United States government had a slogan before 1919 (like the Army’s “I Want You” slogan) which read, “Real men vote.” It might have been a decent slogan back in the day and worked well at the time, because after all, only men could vote then. However, let’s pretend they kept using that slogan to this very day, and we all saw it when we entered voting precincts. Of course, it would seem a tad outdated because we all know that women can vote, but wouldn’t it yet sting a little to both women and men? Wouldn’t it seem a little offensive? “Real men vote” wouldn’t take anything away from the fact that females could still walk in and exercise their right to vote, but it would just seem old, tired, antiquated – even silly and useless.

That’s all we’re saying about Jif. We get the fact it’s your long-standing company slogan/brand/wordmark, but it’s time to move on and find some other way to market your product (which tastes good, by the way). Change with the times. Jif is like the Washington Redskins of sandwich spreads: an entity that refuses to change out of stubbornness. Their attitude could also be filed under the dreaded, this is the way we’ve always done it.

And yes, Jif, we’ve noticed the latest add-on to your TV commercial which states audibly, though not in print, “Choosy moms and dads choose Jif!” This hardly solves the problem. In fact, it exacerbates it. It’s kind of like saying, “Gosh, I barely notice that huge wart on your nose.” It makes the slogan even more old-fashioned laughable, drawing attention to the fact that Jif has excluded dads for years, if not decades.

It’s the same way that your local high school has had the embarrassing nickname “Lady Bears” for all of its girls sports teams? Why not just “Bears” for both genders, or at least “Gentlemen Bears” for consistency? Ugh. Another topic, another time.

So Jif, let’s get down to business and fix it, the right way, once and for all. Show moms and dads that common sense is alive and well. Dads mean a lot to you, right?

Let’s hope so, because dads have a choice in what peanut butter to buy, and choosy dads choose ________________.

If everybody else gets to write a list, we can too

Why bother?

ImageWhy would any company waste time marketing to dads?

Marketing to dads matters. Let us count the ways, and since lists seem to make the Internet go ‘round, here’s ours:

  1. It’s not about who uses the card, but about everything before the credit card is swiped – Anybody can put a Star Wars t-shirt in a shopping cart, but more went into that decision than you think.  What, or who, influenced it?  Maybe it’s dad’s love of the movie franchise that rubbed off on their kids.  Maybe it was a commercial the family saw while watching a hockey game together.  Maybe it is dad’s influence on a certain store the family frequents.  Maybe dad researched everything about the product online for the mom.  Maybe dad simply looks good in the shirt.  Any marketer can sit all day long in a store and prove that it was mom after mom who swiped that credit card in Target, but a wise researcher will investigate the whole story.
  2. No matter how small the slice is on the pie chart, it’s still a slice, and it still tastes like pie – I heard a weathercaster once say, “Even though there’s a 70% chance of rain today, remember that there’s a 30% chance it won’t.”  So, let’s say for example, that moms handle 70% of the purchasing.  Is a company really doing to ignore that potential 30% of dads who buy stuff?  Cereal makers do all the time, and if I was their CEO, I’d start looking for a new marketing team, and fast.
  3. Isn’t equality a goal? – When you alienate someone and make them feel left out, you’re bound to really turn them off.  What’s wrong with marketing to both mom and dad at the same time?  Nothing!  You’ll still have the mom in your good graces, and the dad will feel like he was included, too.  The good baby websites, I’ve found, are the ones that use the word “parent” and have photos of the newborn baby with both mom and dad.  Isn’t that a cool thing to see?
  4. Loyalty is king – If you become friends with someone at work or school, that’s nice.  If that friend invites you to their home, your friendship suddenly deepens, and you’ve formed a bond that makes you feel even more connected.  You’ve become loyal to them.  The same connection happens with retailers, and it means far more than customer satisfaction.  Dads are loyal people.  As author and speaker Jeffrey Gitomer once said, “Customer satisfaction is worthless.  Customer loyalty is priceless.”
  5. The Internet still is a game changer – Unless you’ve been living under a rock for say, the past 25 years, you’ve heard of the Internet.  It’s a marvelous tool used to gather information fast from all around the globe.  As far as I know, dads have used it to gather information, read and write reviews, and purchase things.  Lots of things.  Take the “zo” out of Amazon and you have “A man.”
  6. Look no further than sports – If you don’t follow sports, check out the power of the NFL, NASCAR, or any other sports league, and you’ll find it dominated by dads who have an allegiance to athletes and their games like no other.  It’s a gazillion dollar industry that continues to grow and expand with time.
  7. Dads eat and buy cereal – I think June Cleaver gets a bum rap.  Everyone likes to make her the poster child for old-fashioned, outdated behavior. Leave it to Beaver was a good show with wholesome characters, simply a product of its times.  Cereal is notorious for neglecting dads.  Kix is a product of its times too, but even a Beaver sequel in the ‘80s didn’t keep using the same formula – it updated for the times.  Read our December 17, 2013 entry if you want to learn more about Kix’s useless and archaic orange box.  It really isn’t the 1950s anymore, Kix, so hop on board the 2014 bus with the rest of us.  If I was Doc Brown and I had some plutonium, I’d so throw you into a DeLorean and send you “Back to the”…well, you know where.
  8. Credit card companies know better – Credit card companies know that their pocket-sized flat payment tools are used by dads, too.  That’s why they have dudes in their ads.  I’d even go as far to say that credit cards were inherently designed for dads:  they’re lightweight and flat since dads don’t like to carry things; they have cool pictures on them; they’re durable; they’re largely free to get (dads like free things); even acquiring one is easy to do.  Leave it to Jedi Master tough guy Mace Windu to set the record straight:  men do indeed use credit cards as he asks the question to which he already knows the answer, “What’s in your wallet?” Dads carry wallets.  Moms carry purses.  Closed, the case is.
  9. Dad, meet Internet; Internet, meet Dad – Dads and computers met a long time ago, and they realize how to use them.  Even if dads don’t always make the final purchase, they’re surely reading about the product beforehand.  They’re commenting on it.  They’re reviewing it.  And did you see that Amazon is starting an online grocery store?  Frankly, dads are probably purchasing things more and more off the Internet, because every good marketer claims knows that dads don’t like to shop in stores, right?  So, watch it marketers, because the slightest misstep and you’ll have more than one dadmarketing site broadcasting it to the world.
  10. Step up right here and behold, the spectacle! – The way dads get dissed everywhere, it seems like marketers make them out to be some kind of mythical creature that doesn’t exist.  In that vein, I have channeled my inner Dr. Seuss:

Dads move, dads think, they eat, they blink.

Dads stand, dads sit, they throw, they hit. 

Dads run, dads fly, they drive, they buy. 

Dads can do lots of things, you see. 

So don’t deny their authority.