Consistently inconsistent

If every baby company could produce an ad as good as this one from SwaddleMe, think how the parental community would be that much more unified as one.swaddleme.jpg

Here we have both a mom and a dad featured not once, but twice. And it utilizes words like love, hold and swaddle prominently — accurate terms (unfortunately) not often associated with fathers. The multiple use of mom and dad imagery means this is one of the rare instances we’ve seen where an equal numbers of dads featured with moms.

However, SwaddleMe’s keen eye on parental equality seems to end with its print ad. Once you take a visit to its website, you’ll find a site that portrays a different approach:

  • Its About Us page declares its real intent: “At Summer Infant, we strive to delight moms and babies, and walk beside you in your parenting journey…”  It should be noted that this goal seems rather conflicted when considering that the company was founded by a devoted dad.
  • It offers a Mommies Melodies Lamb, which hardly appears to be anything exclusive or reserved solely for moms.
  • Regularly utilizes phrases likeswaddleme2.jpg, “Other products moms love” and “What moms love.”
  • Even its product testing page assumes that everyone visiting its site is a mom! (right)

It won’t take much to achieve greatness, SwaddleMe. Here’s hoping you can match your website with an outstanding print ad. We’ll be cheering for you.

We’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is dad inclusion

For decades, health and wellness product marketers have placed mom in the lead when it comes to taking care of sick children. For example, it’s commonplace to see children’s medications employ the phrase “mom recommended” or “used by more moms.” The concept is based on the notion that mom is the nurturer and caregiver, and the only one who nurses a sick child back to health while dad is not involved.exergen3.png

We all know that times have changed, and that today’s modern family is different from those of yesteryear.

Thermometer-maker Exergen has been circulating a promo lately that continues with this same premise. Yet it takes the gender-biased language even further by creating what it calls a “Mother’s Rebate.” This, of course, creates the awkward situation where a dad could plausibly apply for and receive a rebate that supposedly was not intended for him.

It’s difficult to accept this slanted name for a variety of reasons, not the least of which that it discounts fathers as true parents. exergen.jpg

This makes the irony just that much greater when you visit its website, where it proudly boasts that Exergen is “changing the way the world takes temperature.” However, dads are a part of this world, too. In our estimation, Exergen’s promo is only perpetuating old-fashioned stereotypes that squarely disregard dads as nurturers and caregivers.

Let’s hope Exergen can get it straight before its self-made dad-exclusion-fever reaches new levels. After all, there are other brand name thermometers out there.

Cleaning up diapers: why the race for dads is on

In the world of diapers, there seems to be a sudden race to reach the long, undervalued segment of dads.

Although in some respects, the race might resemble that of a slow crawl.

Within the past month, we’ve seen the big three diaper makers – Pampers, Huggies and Luvs – all take intriguing steps toward speaking to the parent other than mom. Of course, that would be dad, the other parent who’s curiously inconspicuous from most diaper websites.

Pampers seems to be in the early lead, having quietly updated its prominent menu tabpampers2.jpg with little fanfare:  “Mommy Corner” was switched to “Parent Corner.”  Of course, Dad Marketing Headquarters noticed the change, and gave instant kudos for the fantastic, albeit minor one-word upgrade.  Fresh off its successful #PampersBabyBoard event, several dads there and elsewhere noticed the improvement and too offered their appreciation via social media.  Pampers still has a way to go to reach full parental inclusion, but tweaking a prominent communication tool like a website menu is a positive start.

Huggies, on the other hand, maintains its long-standing “Mommy Answers” menu tab, a huggies2section which ignores fathers as equal parents in more ways than one.  We’ve been in communication with its PR agency, who assures us that changes are on the way this summer.

Huggies is no stranger to controversy. Its 2012 “Have Dad Put Huggies to the Test” campaign backfired, causing its marketing team to embark on some serious damage control after one father started a “We’re dads, Huggies. Not dummies,” petition that garnered more than 1,000 signatures in less than a week.

huggies7And just this calendar year it maintained a web page at huggies.com offering the unabashed advice, “4 Ways to Get Dads to Do Diapers.”  That piece has since been removed.

Luvs also made a significant change last week:  one of its front page web sliders at luvs.com was altered after repeated nudging from our office.  It only took a simple edit to make dads everywhere feel included with its new self-proclaimed slogan:  “The Official Diaper of Experienced luvs7.pngParents.”  The only problem is, there’s other sliders on its landing page that contain other mom-only references, as well as others on its site that need updated, too.

These easy fixes are often at the core of the problem.  So often it’s a matter of a quick edit – many times a mere one word – that would make a noticeable difference.  In today’s ease-of-use content management world, they’re the kind of changes that anyone could make quick and painless within minutes.  While Huggies’ changes seem to be part of a full site-wide revision and overhaul, why wait to make uncomplicated, one-word adjustments?  Those straightforward, obvious fixes should be made right now.  All of this is part of a slow, drawn-out process and it doesn’t need to be this way.  Equality shouldn’t wait.

For now, at least a word of congrats to these diaper makers is in order.  But at the same time, no parent would let a child sit for days with an oopsie in its diaper.  So why should an exclusionary website sit unattended to, just the same?

The race is on to capitalize on the spending power of dads.  Who will win?  Keep up-to-date with this site and also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, where you can be certain we’ll stay on top of it.

Baby food is important – and so are dads

Could it really be the business model of Beech-Nut to exclude dads as part of its beechnut1.pngcustomer base?

It’s a fair question when you visit beechnut.com and read its content.  After all, what else is one to think when you see a website which speaks only to moms and ignores dads as fully competent and equal parents?

Having a practice like this would be like showing up at a party where the host only speaks to your partner and completely ignores you.  Doesn’t talk to you.  Doesn’t even look at you.

It was a little like that with Beech-Nut’s CEO Jeff Boutelle, who used the word “moms” 18 times during this 2014 interview with Grocery Headquarters, with nary a mention of “dads.”

beechnut2.jpgNo one likes to be left out, but sadly, this belief is penned right within its mission, where it insists only moms prepare food for families.

Yet even if Beech-Nut claims that research proves the majority of its customers are moms, why exclude the dad segment as if it doesn’t matter?  Stereotypical dad-products (e.g., tools, cars), or even sports, doesn’t hone its marketing exclusive to men.  So why must Beech-Nut craft its message to the exclusion of equally capable parents like dads?beechnut3.png

It’s a gender bias, which is sexist and wrong.  Dads cook.  Dads buy baby food.  Dads feed children.

We’re calling for Beech-Nut to treat dads like true parents and make some quick edits to its website and social media.  If its values include “real food for everyone,” then it must think not only about current dads, but the future ones who are eating its product right now – and will want to be valued as consumers someday when they become dads, too.

Where are the dads in the Disney galaxy?

For all the positive mojo Disney cranks out on a regular basis, it appears to have a genuine problem with finding – how shall we say it – balance.

Last week a story circulated on the Internet titled, “Where Are the Moms in the Star Wars Galaxy?”  The writer argued that while mothers do play a role in the Star Wars universe, they don’t receive as much thematic prominence as father-son/child relationships.  It’s a thought-provoking piece with strong merit – highly recommended.

Then, just two days later, Disney Parks revealed the members of its 10th annual Moms Panel – an online forum for everyday people to share helpful tips and vacation planning advice.disneymoms6.png

The problem is, the panel isn’t a representative sample of everyday peopleit’s overwhelmingly comprised of only moms.  Of course, this is not a bad thing, but the imbalance is; it’s important to remember that dads are part of families, and vacation planning involves them, because they too have plenty to share with potential travelers about the topic.

But Disney awkwardly placed a lone dad on this year’s Moms Panel, thereby disrespecting and ignoring his parental title and thus cutting last year’s dad total – if you can believe it – in half.

Its actions disregard fathers as fully competent, equal parents, much in the same vein that Jif Peanut Butter’s long-standing catchphrase excludes dads as dedicated customers.disneymoms1

We wrote about the Disney Parks Moms Panel last fall and received positive feedback from readers who also implored Disney to catch up with the modern world and to better represent what families mean today.

We realize that equality takes time, so we didn’t expect Disney to instantly even out the number of women and men on the panel, although doing so would rightfully provide a true representation of all parenting travel issues.  However, we thoughtfully anticipated a name change in the spirit of authentic, modern parenting.

Unfortunately, Disney let us all down, because it’s not just dads that end up on the short end of the stick.  It’s the kids and the spouses who deserve a vacation planned at least partly through a fatherly perspective.  But they’ll hardly get that, because instead, dads are being treated like second-class parents who simply don’t matter.

Hilton also operates a similar travel panel with a comparable name – Hilton Mom Voyage – and it has a mere three dads among 30 panelists.

Echoidisneymoms4ng the words of the Star Wars column, dads deserve better.

The members of next year’s Disney panel will be announced soon enough, but why wait that long to properly rename the panel?

Disney, let’s make things right, because families are stronger – and vacations are more magical – when we’re united as parents.

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.”

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.