Let’s stop telling dads they’re not parents

A clear shortcoming of excluding dads from marketing is how it diminishes his ability as a capable consumer.dadshops6

Of course, moms possess no more instinctual ability to purchase items than dads, who are fully fit shoppers. The current message and stigma about dads, however, has trained us to think otherwise. It’s that same messaging that influences moms while they shop on their own. It’s curious to contemplate that while some people believe everything outside the home is a man’s world, the marketing community firmly believes otherwise when constructing messages in relation to everything inside the home.

With all of the emotion, empowerment, and authenticity of advertising directed toward mothers, how constructive are advertisements which speak only to them?

armandhammer1.jpgIn other words, is society really taking mothers seriously when all the focus is placed on them to the exclusion of fathers? Do mothers really want this heap of responsibility when scores of moms incessantly plead for help in the home and caring for children? Do mothers really want it all, as ads so often suggest: motherhood, career, and control of the household and family? Is it fair to portray women solely as happy homemakers in half of the ads and as sex objects in the other half?

Viewed collectively, these ads seem to be at odds with how women are regarded in society and inadvertently places unwanted labels on them.

The subjective conception of such marketing means that women pay a price beyond labels and undesirable pressure.

Humanity will never achieve overall equality for women, particularly at work, until the same equality for men is achieved as parents. The two are intertwined.

When gender stereotypes unfairly discount men as true parents and view women as instinctual caretakers of children, it conveys a message that it’s a man’s world everywhere but home.

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Ever since Dad Marketing was founded, we’ve always preached that it’s both the mom and dad who are expecting, not just mom. newyorkbabyshow2.jpg

That might sound strange to some, not just because it’s women who physically carry children, but it’s also because of the way media and marketing shape our thoughts. They’ve conditioned us via advertising imagery and word choice that moms are primary parents:

“More Moms choose the Similac Brand.”
“Thank You Mom by P&G.”
“Moms around the world trust Johnson’s to safely care for their babies.
“See what Moms are saying about the Gerber Grow-Up Plan.”

These words are prominent messages in the public eye telling us that moms are the full-time parents, and dad is merely a part-time helper, at best.

newyorkbabyshow.pngAnd yet, every so often we encounter an organization who Gets It, who realizes that dads matter every bit to the parenting world as moms – and the idea speaks to dads, and markets to them, and listens to them. Suddenly, dads matter and are valued as true parents and customers.

We offer our highest Seal of Approval to the New York Baby Show, who fully acknowledges dads as equal parents. There they exclaim that “parents” are expecting, not just mom.

Keep up the good work New York Baby Show. People notice your inclusion, and someday, everyone will want to be a part of it.

Seahorse of a different color

Every good invention is born out of necessity.

So when Don Hudson created Seahorses – America’s first and only retail store geared toward fathers – nothing surprised him about the process, his concept and its need. What surprised him was that no one had ever thought of it before.seahorses4.JPG

“That’s what blows my mind,” he said. “That no one has done this before. How am I the first? That no one noticed this huge, gaping market before?”

That huge, gaping market – as Hudson knows all too well – belongs to dads.

“When you market to that dad like he’s a mom, you build up a wall,” said Hudson. “He doesn’t want to talk to you.”

Yet every bit an equal parent who nurtures, raises, feeds, shops and provides for his family, dad remains ignored by marketers who either don’t know how to reach him, or purposely avoid his presence based on habit. Old fashioned stereotypes and labels may die hard in the world of marketing and media, but it’s ancient history at Seahorses in Portland, Ore., where Hudson’s progressive shop has skyrocketed to notoriety since opening in June 2015.seahorses1.JPG

His shop celebrates the unique needs and challenges of parenting as a father in a world that traditionally caters to mothers.

What makes men uncomfortable in stores? Not having products with which they can’t relate as fathers. At Seahorses, you’ll find plenty of baby, child and parental items necessary for raising a family – but with an eye on dads.

So while big box baby stores have nursing equipment, Seahorses offers Leatherman multitools and shaving kits. Traditionally diaper bags are frilly and pink; no dads want to carry those, and some moms don’t either. Hudson curated diaper bags that are masculine and stylish enough for fathers to sport. Other baby stores offer organic clothing, but dads don’t care about that; they want things to last. So, Seahorses offers Carhartt kids clothing. No maternity tops here – try matching dad and child shirts.

seahorses6.jpgA lack of those items meaningful to fathers, combined with a prejudice toward dads, is what drove Hudson to bring his idea to fruition. He experiences a bias all too often while together with his wife, raising their four children.

“Dads are (treated like) a sideline parent, and they are not marketed to,” he said. “And let me tell you, I did all the shopping when I was stay-at-home. When you walk in to these baby stores, they’d say, ‘What did mom send you in for? Where’s her list?’ It’s a turn off. Has no one noticed that dads are being alienated? You’re creating a subconscious culture of bias toward dads.”

His store even reaches beyond tangible products and the overall shopping experience by serving as equal part gathering space. There you’ll find an enclosed play space with seating, free Wi-Fi and a community meeting area for classes, workshops and events. And there’s even free coffee.

“It’s a space for anybody,” Hudson said. “The idea is that it’s more of an atmosphere that’s comfortable for dads. I have darker wood and subdued colors. It’s a masculine and man-cavey kind of feel so you’re like, ‘This is a baby store, but it’s for dads.’”seahorses2.JPG

Hudson assures his store is for both moms and dads, and gets plenty of customers of each, along with some hesitancy. Moms sheepishly ask if they can come in, while dads’ tendency leans toward tentative, mostly due in part to other store experiences, but also because of how they’re treated as second-class parents in stores of any kind.

“(Dads) come in and look around and say, ‘This is really cool; this is my place,’” Hudson said. “You can see this weight melt off of them when they walk halfway through the store.”

Hudson gets a lot of dads and moms who come in to hang out, work on their blog or social media, or just want a simple five-minute break. His intimate, personal community has even helped nurture some lifelong friendships, which he loves to see.seahorses7.jpg

As the business grows and soon-to-be e-commerce takes off, Hudson hopes to expand his concept further:  “I think this kind of resource needs to be available for every community and every parent, where moms and dads are both allowed.”

His store’s name is derived from the sea creature who takes care of its offspring entirely. Male seahorses undergo pregnancy and care for the young as they grow.

“In nature, I think the seahorse is probably the world’s most perfect father,” he said. “If you’re a seahorse, you’re a perfect father.”

Unfortunately, society and commerce tend to alienate dads before they even become one. So, Hudson is just happy to be offering a place to help dads become better dads, because he knows that process is shaped well before the actual birth.

“Moms have plenty of places to go, dads don’t,” he said. “Having dads marketed to properly and involved in the marketing process give them that foundation for being involved with kids.”

Words matter: why ignoring dads in ads is baloney

Nearly every day, words spoken by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump make national headlines.  Of course, some quotes are more shocking than others, and yet the level of scrutiny is often over a few select words.

Why the fuss?

Because words matter.oscarmayer4.png

Oscar Mayer recently introduced an ad about sending young children to school for the first time.  At first glance, it’s touching.  It looks great.

Note we said looks, because if you re-watch the ad with the volume muted, most everything looks good.  It looks like a touching ad involving the entire family, even if dad plays a rather minor role.oscarmayer1.png

But cue back the volume and notice the complete omission of “dad” in speech, and that changes the ad’s marketing breadth entirely.  No longer is dad playing a token cameo at best, but rather, he’s been excluded from the message – a sad, recurring theme among lunch makers who only believe mom’s pack lunches.

Oscar Mayer’s eschewed use of the word dad is an unfortunate practice for a company with dads at its roots.oscarmayer3.jpg

After all, what does this ad say to the late Richard Trentlage, the man who created the venerable Oscar Mayer Wiener song, who died Sept. 21 at age 87?  As a dad, Trentlage used his living room as a recording studio and had his children sing audition tapes.

It’s part of a rich Oscar Mayer legacy, which was founded in 1883 (perhaps Mayer was a dad?).  But 1883 is a whopping 133 years ago.  It’s high time this prominent company gets back to the basics if it wants to be perceived as the leader in lunch meats for the next 133 years.

Even if its marketing research suggests a majority of women purchase its products, there’s no point in senselessly alienating the other part of its customer base, and being perceived as a company who places a greater value in one gender – thus creating a bias, and all over useless, old fashioned stereotypes.

Besides, we all know sexism is wrong.

Oscar Mayer may have a way with b-o-l-o-g-n-a, but it also has a regrettable way with excluding dads.  Let’s hope that practice comes to a quick end before the next school year rolls around, because dads do indeed get kids ready for school and pack lunches, too.

And they love their kids every bit as moms.

 

Someone needs to tell Luvs that dads change diapers

When Huggies unveiled its infamous Dad Test campaign in 2012, the negative reaction was swift enough for Huggies to make an immediate change in its marketing approach.  The ripple effect was wide, as plenty of ad agencies learned an abrupt lesson:  dads are not buffoons.

But just because dads were being used less and less as the butt of advertising jokes doesn’t mean they had instantly achieved equal footing with moms.  Nearly five years after the Huggies debacle, dads have yet to be treated like true parents in the world of marketing.

luvs2.jpgTake a look at the website of Luvs diapers, which unveiled material putting the emphasis on mom as the lead parent.  In today’s modern, dual-parenting, two-parent-working-world, it’s hard to imagine Luvs would actually relegate dads to the backseat quite like this.

luvs1.jpgLuvs’s website speaks only to moms on exactly three of its front page sliders by excluding dads as equivalent, equal, identical parents in more ways than one – even to the startling point of exclaiming its diaper as the “Official Diaper of Experienced Moms.”

None of this comes as much of a stretch when you realize that its parent company – P&G – also brought us the highly exclusionary Thank You Mom Olympic campaign, which no doubt made dads cringe while being disregarded as equal child-raising parents during the world’s largest athletic competition. More likely, it sent shockwaves down the spines of dads, who like moms, spent many late afternoons, evenings and weekends shipping their children to incessant practices and games.

luvs5.jpgThe exclusion continues on its Facebook page, where it gracelessly invites only mothers to join in on the Luvs conversation, leaving dads everywhere in the dust.  Moreover, it offers Momojis as part of its “Official Keyboard of Experienced Parents.”  Here Luvs makes the unpleasant mistake of insisting that mom is an exact literal synonym for parent, when we all know that parents luvs4include both moms and dads.

In other words, all parents aren’t only moms.

With competitors Huggies and Pampers also offering mom-only sections on their respective websites with no comparable dad counterpart, they too insist that only moms change diapers, leaving dads to wonder what it takes to get respect in the parenting world.

It’s a surprising slow-to-change world when it comes to marketing to parents, but here’s hoping Luvs will make some quick and easy edits by spreading equal amounts of its name to both genders before its curious approach reaches Huggies proportions.

luvs3.jpg

Is that dad? In a breastfeeding ad? It’s no fad

Although the basic concept of breastfeeding will never change – yes, it’s still exclusive to women – Medela feels the industry is ripe for reinvention. medela1

As one of the global leaders in breastfeeding technology, Medela recently strengthened its industry mettle by spending the past 10 months doing something many firms thoughtlessly overlook:  communicating with customers.

However, Medela didn’t simply monitor various social media sites – it actually conversed, interacted and listened.

The result was a wildly successful “Through It All” campaign that revealed something else companies also fail to notice:  dads matter, even when it comes to breastfeeding.

“We really wanted to make sure our fathers were a part of this,” said Kim Aasen, director of marketing. “Even though (dads) can’t physically breastfeed, (they’re) an important part of that conversion. They’re important to the breastfeeding circle.”

An idea is born

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Kim Aasen, Medela

 

Last September, Medela started asking moms on its Facebook community one straightfoward question:  when it comes to breastfeeding, what would you share with another new mom? Aasen said the response was overwhelming, as many talked of a network, or community of breastfeeding support that might include a spouse, grandma, or friend.

After those key months of taking valuable customer inventory, Medela revealed its marketing idea complete with a print campaign and series of videos which tell the story of real people and their breastfeeding journey.

“We made sure we featured those people along the way, and you can see those people featured in the (print) ad,” Aasen said, who also noted that Medela overwhelmingly heard from moms who insist dads play an integral role in breastfeeding success. “We listened to make sure we are reflecting who our Medela communities are. (Fathers) are caregivers and part of the breastfeeding experience, so we want to make sure that everyone is represented.”

Let reality dictate strategy

Although society encapsulates the topic via the word breastfeeding, that equally applies to one who is breastpumping – which, of course, allows other people to feed the child.

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Behind-the-scenes at a “Through It All” campaign video shoot. Copyright Medela 2016.

 

“We want to make sure that we don’t think there is one right way to do it,” Aasen said. “We want to make sure moms and dads and families – whatever that family looks like – that there is no one perfect way to do it.”

Medela also let the customer feedback drive the campaign. It wasn’t intent on following societal norms, advertising history, stereotypes, or even demographic models – it simply felt its campaign should reflect reality.

“By listening to our community’s focus groups, dads are a part of the picture,” Aasen said. “For us, we feel like it’s reflecting reality. We’re just sharing their words back. The pictures you see online shows everyday life.”

Dads count too

As for the future, Aasen said its current campaign is squarely in phase one, which was “different than anything Medela had ever done.” Plans moving forward will continue to include a reflection of what real, modern families look like and how they make breastfeeding work for them.

On the flip side of breastfeeding is formula feeding, where some of its makers exclude fathers from its messaging.

Aasen believes companies who don’t include dads in ads should take heed:  (Those) companies are missing out. It’s not cookie cutter; (families) comes in all shapes and sizes, as do responsibilities.”

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Video crews record footage for Medela’s “Through It All” campaign.  Copyright Medela 2016.

 

 

Can’t dads put sunscreen on kids?

aveenobaby2It’s ironic how there are some who admonish dads for their lack of parental involvement, and some who spend their time furthering that notion through advertising.

Take, for instance, this parent magazine ad for Aveeno Baby, produced by a company who believes that it’s only mom’s duty to handle a child’s skin protection.  That company may argue that “market research indicates…” or “readers prefer…” or “our focus groups suggest…” – but the fact is that it’s furthering a perception which is unfair, sexist and wrong.

Dads shop.  Dads parent.  Dads care.  And, well, dads apply sunscreen.

If you aren’t bothered by this chauvinistic ad, you should be for more reasons than one.  Not only does it disregard and intentionally exclude dads, it also uses the image of a boy to sell its product, the very product that will one day ignore this same boy should he become a father someday.  Spouses, too, should be bothered by this gender annexation:  that person they’re ignoring is your partner, your equal, your helpmate in this adventure called parenting.

Interestingly, last week we received a note from @KnowYourObama, who said, “Marketers don’t market to dads as parents because, mostly, they’re not.”

There’s no telling why this person believe this, but we wanted to chat a little more, and the following brief conversation ensued:

@dad_marketing:  “I think you might have offended Obama, plus a lot of other dedicated dads.”

@KnowYourObama:  “Obama’s a good dad, yes. But good dads – dads – are hard to find. Yay for the good ones.”

Here at DM Headquarters, we have no hard data to prove that there are more dedicated dads than uninvolved dads, but there should at least be some protection against libel, or perhaps some rules which guide what marketers can or can’t say.aveenobaby

Marketing departments have been saying or doing whatever they wanted for years, sometimes with little adaptation for societal changes – all in the pursuit of the almighty dollar.  It takes some real honorable companies to take a stand and do what is right and not just offer lip service (check out Jif-maker Smucker’s, and its “promise” page).

And who – you might ask – makes Aveeno Baby lotion?  None other than Johnson & Johnson, who has a history of waffling on gender equality.

To quote a word from Aveeno’s own ad, parents (dads included) have “trusted” Aveeno Baby and Johnson & Johnson for years.  When will that trust be returned?