What happens when you dare to think outside the juice box

This past spring we had a spirited social media discussion with a fine, dedicated dad over our mission. Among other things, this dad asked, “Who cares who juice boxes get marketed to?”

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He argued that only a small percentage of dads care, so small that it doesn’t justify considering dads as an ignored group. It was a bit surprising to hear these remarks from a father, so let’s take a moment to address this today.

There is power in marketing that can completely change society as well as societal views. If it were perceived through marketing that, an active and involved dad is “the norm,” it would make sense that a dad’s desire to be a more active and involved parent and shopper would increase.

Since the 1990s, fatherhood has evolved, and today an active and involved dad is, indeed, the norm. This evolution of fatherhood is a direct result of the changing workforce as more and more moms have taken up work outside of the home, more and more dads are cutting their hours or staying home part- or full-time with the kids; thus, moms are becoming primary breadwinners, too. This parental unit demographic desperately wants, and needs, to feel accepted for their decisions. As such, if dads are comfortable in the shopping and buying experience, they will do more of it voluntarily.juicyjuice34.jpg

In today’s modern family, dad is now also in charge of buying groceries, clothes, school supplies, and other products and services the family needs to exist. A dad also needs to see he is a trustworthy purchasing agent for his family. The best way to do this is to involve him in the marketing process and value him as an equal parent as well as a valued customer.

By marketing directly to moms as in, the “mom-tested” mindset, it reinforces an archaic stereotype and subliminally makes a dad feel that the mom is a better/leading parent. It also makes the mom feel as though she shouldn’t have re-entered the workforce, and by her doing so she is less of a mother. This is insulting to moms and dads, but yet it continues.juicyjuice35.jpg

Change is hard, especially if it’s an idea or venture one has never explored before, like marketing to dads. Changing the way we view, treat, and market to dads is necessary because there is a lot at stake.

Dads represent half the parenting population. That equates to a significant loss of revenue and profit for companies and businesses not catering to the dad demographic. Also at risk is the image of dads as parents for this and future generation of boys and girls who will eventually become parents and consumers.

Our mission here is encourage all of us to change the way we think about, view, and treat dads. It is our hope that we’ll help companies and businesses capitalize on the benefits of marketing products and services to today’s active, involved dads. The case to include dads in advertising goes far beyond monetary gain. Society stands to benefit from a world that acknowledges dads as equal, competent parents. In fact, children, marriages, and the entire parenting community will all reap the rewards of dad inclusion.

Just like the Mr. Mom label, all of this is a big deal when you look at the larger picture. No person should be subject to a label that implies incompetency or reduces his or her value as a person or part of the family. We’ve never heard workforce moms referred to as “Mrs. Dad.” If someone did, we’d also find that degrading to motherhood. One of our recurring messages is that words matter!

Simply put, we’re merely asking others to think outside the juice box.

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Properly reaching dads means using the right photos

Just as words are so crucial to showcasing the active role of today’s dads as true and competent parents in advertisements, so are images – and realistic images say it best. Smart brands should keep in mind authentic representations of dads in marketing. It’s true that those images of dads fishing, hunting, and working on cars are all fair and accurate, but so are those of dads cooking, shopping, and picking kids up from school.dadhug2.jpg

Even better images might be those of dad nurturing, holding, hugging, cuddling, and kissing – all semblances that portray relevance and authenticity of genuine, loving fatherhood. The latter are not just likenesses of what dads should become, nor do they represent a minority of dedicated dads – this is fatherhood today. It’s alive and well in every community around us.

The modern father views himself as skilled and devoted to his household in every facet of family life. He’s not trying to replace mom in the way society perceived him and labeled him as “Mr. Mom.” He is dad and equal parent. He identifies as a parent in the same way a mom does – sympathetic, caring, and wants to have stronger, intimate relationships with his children far more than the stoic, unresponsive dads portrayed in the media.

When marketers demonstrate these emotional bonds and challenges with parenting, it makes instant connections with customers. The need to reach a certain segment must be efficient.

Why does Claritin insist dads don’t take care of kids?

Who says dads don’t take care of kids’ allergies? Bayer Global, makers of Children’s Claritin – that’s who.

It doesn’t take long to figure out who Bayer wants as its customer base when you visit its gender-specific website which insists dads aren’t parents who buy or provide medicine. Bayer doesn’t just offer a Smart Allergy Mom Toolkit – they’re so convinced that only moms matter they trademarked it.

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But that’s not all. Bayer even offers the Claritin Mom Crew, which offers only moms free product samples and promotional items in exchange for positive reviews. Dads, it would seem, were not even given an opportunity to speak because the invite was never extended.

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It’s all a tough pill to swallow for dads who remain dedicated as part of today’s modern families. It’s these same dads who hear constant viral stories of mothers who complain about having to do it all, then get little by way of backup from ad agencies who insist just that – moms must do it all.

Of course, we all know this not to be true. Dads also seek assistance when looking to administer medicine to allergy-suffering children. Dads are every bit equal, competent parents who care greatly about their children.

These are not your dads of yesteryear, depicted in 1950s sitcoms as aloof, unemotional and neglectful. Nor are they the spoofed, incompetent 1980s fathers of “Mr. Mom” and “Vacation” who needed corrected by their more sensible wives.

Bayer’s approach is both disappointing and troubling. It’s effectively telling fathers everywhere – you don’t matter. It’s a surprising and unfair omission from a company whose mission is “to achieve and maintain leadership positions in our markets” and to “respect the interests of all our stakeholders.”

It’s hard to imagine how all of these ideals can be accomplished when it’s not aiming to reach the dad market, nor respecting the members of that market.

Bayer’s #BeAnOutsider social media campaign is a clever one that encourages Claritin users to start enjoying the outdoors again. But it also offers a heavy dose of irony to dads: they already are outsiders.

Perhaps someday Bayer will let dads in and make them to feel like the true, equal parents they are without any bias toward who they think cares for kids today.

If Bayer truly knew its customer base, it would know differently.

Yes, dads change diapers: why this degrading story needs to disappear from Huggies’ website

As dads continue to strive for equality in parenting, modern day media persists in poking fun at the so-called incompetency of bumbling fathers. We’re not talking about 1983’s “Mr. Mom,” but far more recent works.

You may recall that in 2012, Huggies started a marketing campaign titled, “Have Dad Put Huggies To The Test.” The series of ads portrayed dads as inattentive caregivers, and thus, propagated old-fashioned stereotypes. Huggies received a heavy dose of backlash from dads, who shared their disappointment over the ads.huggies7.png

The marketers at its parent company, Kimberly-Clark, were forced 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. Social media fervor grew – Huggies learned a quick lesson the hard way and swiftly pulled the ads.

Despite all the profuse and warranted apologizing that followed, Huggies didn’t seem to learn from its unfortunate experience. To this day, its website still contains maintains a “Mommy Answers” page with no comparable dad counterpart. Huggies print ads also continue to speak only to mom by name, and there’s gender biased language on its site throughout.

Yet, one of its worst jabs is even more recent – which harkens to its “dad test” campaign – and you can find it live at huggies.com.

There you’ll find an article offering the unabashed advice, “4 Ways to Get Dad to Do Diapers.”

It’s almost unthinkable to believe a headline like this could exist anywhere, but it does. Imagine seeing a story titled, “4 Ways to Get Dads to Cook,” if you’re looking for a comparable headline that would too cause an uproar.

Like so many other “parent/baby” companies, Huggies will claim to speak to both moms and dads. Huggies has even taken steps to sponsor the At-Home Dads Convention, donate diapers to the National Fatherhood Conference, and has an ongoing relationship with the City Dads Group – all noble and noteworthy causes.

Between Huggies’ generous donations and disparaging story – it creates a strong disconnect we can’t ignore.

Huggies’ lack to change its marketing strategy towards dads and genuinely embrace them as valuable shoppers is an example of how respect for dads seems to continue to take a massive backseat to the unwarranted stigma about dads.

Gender equality can never be achieved without dropping the sly innuendo that degrades and belittles the institution of fatherhood.

Right about now, dads could use a hug. What do you say, Huggies?

A quiz: what kind of magazine will it be?

whatkindofdad1Just when we think American Baby magazine is leaning toward doing something right by placing a dad on the cover of its June 2015 issue (no doubt a gratuitous Father’s Day nod), we turn inside to find an article trying to be humorous, and rather offends.

First of all, we know ABM is geared toward mothers, despite its name. The advertising and writing all fuel the bias that moms are the lead parent, and that dads don’t count. For a magazine to continue with a title name that truly suggests nothing otherwise (yes, both women and men have the ability to care for babies), this is wrong – but you have to remember this magazine’s mission as you proceed with this piece. After all, a quick flip through ABM’s pages indicate the heavily unbalanced photographic tally of 44 images of moms, compared to just 11 dads. It’s like this every month.

If language expresses intent, then what does that lopsided ratio suggest?

In case you still had some doubt in your mind, the article titled “What Kind of Dad Will He Be?” (available online here), should cement the fact that ABM disregards dads with nearly every step it takes. Again, we know the magazine and this particular story favors moms – of course, there’s a need for that in this world – but why not within this same issue or another one, have a similarly titled story written for dads asking “What Kind of Mom Will She Be?”

The flimsy bone that ABM offers dads on the cover is forcefully snatched away on page 3’s table of contents, after one quickly realizes that there’s not a single article in its so-called “Father’s Day issue” offering dads a way to better themselves as fathers, or why dads mean something to families, or how to plan for a fun Father’s Day, or even the social media loving “dad bod.”

We can even look past Sarah Schmelling’s humorous tone, which somehow finds a way to dig at men by using every possible sexist connotation imaginable. By comparison, do women really find it funny when men try to be comical and use the, “a woman’s place is in the kitchen” line?

Let’s forget all that for now, though, and look at two inconspicuous items of note:

  1. Check out the photo caption at the top of page 56 (pictured above). “He may not even need coaching to become your parenting team’s MVP!” Talk about incongruous writing – first AMB is acknowledging that dads are on the parenting team (and the possible MVP, no less!) – yet the rub is in the first six words:  “He may not even need coaching”?  That’s some seriously curious language, because mothers bear no more instinctive abilities to parent a child than fathers.  One can argue whether being a parent is an instinct or an acquired skill, but one parent doesn’t possess the skill more than the other simply by way of gender.  Although this website talks about a slightly different but related topic, here’s what one wise, hipster homemaker has to say about dads and babysitting.
  2. In the last section of the article under “MOSTLY C’S,” the author uses the phrase “Mr. Mom.”  Don’t get us started on the use of that term (because we already have), but in short, would anyone dare call a working mother “Mrs. Dad”?

It’s hard to give the author kudos for the wonderful, cute ending, “Few things are more fun for a child…” when the previous sentence exhausts the last of several tired, unflattering stereotypes, suggesting that every dad must live “The Hangover” lifestyle every weekend.

C’mon dadmarketing, you might say, have a sense of humor.

It’s scarcely amusing when ABM pushes the dads-don’t-matter-to-us agenda every month, and it’s in a supposed Father’s Day issue. Imagine if, for example, there was a dad-related food story with a photo caption that offered, “She may not even need coaching to start cooking like your own mom!”

With stereotypes, there’s always someone who isn’t laughing.

Hopefully by the next time ABM releases next year’s Father’s Day issue, we’ll have a magazine that helps celebrate, appreciate and thank dads for all they do, rather than create an unnecessary divide on the parenting team.

Why Amazon Mom is like a misshelved library book

A trip to the library is a lot like driving on a long-distance vacation.

It’s fun and fascinating, and whether you’re looking for a particular book or just browsing for whatever meets the eye, it’s a pathway to enjoyment that makes the journey as fun as the destination.amazonmom

One time, though, a friend of mine was cruising through the library, and on a mission.  He was looking for a particular book, and nothing else would do.  He visited the right floor, the right section and the right shelf.  The system said it was available, but it wasn’t.  Even the help of a kind librarian was to no avail.

As it turns out, he eventually found that book.  He said he remembers happily holding it, but also scolding it, as if to ask, “If I didn’t know where you were, how could I find you?”

A recent retail experience again reminded him of that misshelved book.

Amazon knows a thing or two about books.  It started as an online bookstore, and eventually diversified to sell nearly anything that can have a price tag placed on it.  It is the largest Internet based company in the United States, and it’s often our first stop shopping destination.

We love Amazon, and it loves us back.  With regular enticements like free shipping, discounts, Black Friday sales, and rewards programs, it’s everything we’d want in a shopping experience, even if we can’t touch and smell the item first.

Then, several years ago it introduced Amazon Mom.amazonmom2

For years, dads have been unfairly mislabeled “Mr. Mom” – a name they find both offensive and erroneous (would anyone dare call a working mother, “Mrs. Dad”?) – so it’s easy to make a sophisticated deduction about what Amazon Mom might entail.

But we don’t want to spoil the fun; here’s Amazon Mom’s own curious self-description:  “(It) is a prime membership program aimed at helping parents and caregivers in the prenatal through toddler years use Amazon to find and save on products that families need.  Amazon Mom is open to anyone, whether you’re a mom, dad, grandparent or caretaker.”

So let’s get this straight:  a dad can join a mom program?  The word mom has become a generic term for parent, like Kleenex is for facial tissues?

And then dads must stop to think:  realistically – as a dad – is Amazon Mom speaking to you?  Does this program’s name suggest something that you would want to browse?  Would you walk into a “mom” retailer, or down a “mom” aisle in a bricks-and-mortar store?

Also recently, we had a pleasant 140-character conversation with the friendly folks at 4moms, a baby robotics company founded in March 2006 which makes high-tech baby gear.

4moms enlightened us that its company name is derived from an initial focus group held that consisted of four mothers.

Cute and unique, indeed, but in a baby world where businesses purposely leave dads out of the parenting mix, it’s a saying that’s well-worn.

Had the name been 3moms or 5moms, we would have never taken issue with anything.  But imagine that the wildly-successful burger-maker franchise Five Guys had been named 4Guys – that means something else entirely, doesn’t it?  We’d all perceive them differently, and wouldn’t women be deservedly up in arms?

We’re sure the desire of 4moms to match true company history with the play-on-words was too good for them to pass up, but you know who gets passed up in the process?

Dads.

Dads are parents too, and it’s time businesses start listening to fathers everywhere.

Judging by its products alone, 4moms seems to have a bright future ahead.  And with a financial backing like no other in cyberspace, Amazon will probably carry on for a long time, that is, unless the recent uproar forces at least an overdue name change.

But like that lost library book, if my friend doesn’t know where these companies are or doesn’t notice them because they’re not speaking to him (he’s even a dad), then how can he find them?  They must not care about dads as customers, right?  If a product is not categorized and shelved properly like that book, do consumers stand a chance at ever finding it, enjoying it, or even using it?

If these companies really cared, perhaps they could start marketing their products to its true customers.

As in, all of them.

Making the headlines

This headline appeared in the Gainesville (Ga.) Times last month, and I suspect it went largely unnoticed across the nation.headline

Except at dadmarketing.

With this newspaper article is a headline which places a sexist stereotype on mom, and one that must surely offend both mom and dad in the process.

Is a mom’s place is in the kitchen?

Is it such that dads can’t cook, or manage to pack a lunch?

Everyone knows that the headline is the text indicating the nature of the article. The newspaper could have been more responsible with its duty and used a clearer, less offensive term, or rewritten it entirely. Who packs the lunch has nothing to do with the story’s main topic (which, by the way, is a good one), that schools are serving healthier meals than ones students bring from home.

Instead, we get a headline rich in stereotype.

We contacted the Times’ Life Editor, J.K. Devine, who kindly offered the following response: “The headline stemmed from an original Associated Press suggestion. It was chosen to show that lunches made at home are no longer healthier than schools. And for the majority of homes, I would say mother’s make the lunches.”

The second sentence really answers the question as to why it was chosen, but why use the mom reference? The third sentence explains that, which is an assumption based on old-fashioned labels society has created over time; it may or may not be true.

A better headline choice might have been: “School serving meals healthier than packed ones.”

All of this reminds me of the oft-used “Mr. Mom” title. Others seem to think it’s fine to typecast a stay-at-home dad as “Mr. Mom.” But no one would dare call a breadwinning, working mom by the title “Mr. Dad.” So why is it still fine to say that only moms make lunches? It’s not.

Finally, let’s not let the Associated Press off the hook. Its “suggestion” is one that categorizes, labels and stereotypes. It’s wrong.

The media plays such a powerful role in shaping our minds and attitudes, and it should know better.

And I always thought it was the media’s job to report the news, not create it.