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.

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Reel influence

For as many superhero movies as have been created in Hollywood, you’d think by now the industry might take heed of their own advice, “With great power comes great responsibility.”mrmom

The movie industry wields immense power in more ways than one because we love our movies. We watch them in the theater, we rent them, we buy them, we subscribe to them, we quote them, we wear them, we sleep on them, we tattoo them on our bodies.

Movies have huge fan-base followings with week-long conventions. Movies have specific theme park rides. Movies spend millions on advertising campaigns, in fast food restaurants, on billboards. 

Some movies will be eternally watched by the next generation on different formats, living on forever in pop culture fame. Others may never be watched again.

Most are probably in between, but their influence remains.

Take “Mr. Mom,” for instance, and the lasting legacy it has left on dad stereotypes.

The film was made 31 years ago, enjoyed quite decent success, and was clearly a product of its times. In the early 1980s women were making fantastic strides in various arenas. Sandra Day O’Connor was named the first woman justice of the Supreme Court. Sally Ride became the first U.S. woman in space. Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman nominated by a major political party to run for vice president of the United States.

These historic events brought about major changes to women. It opened up doors to professions that had normally belonged to men, and demanded equality in nearly every walk of life. It wasn’t perfect and still isn’t, but the gender balance was becoming more balanced.

Given all these events, it was no wonder that famed movie writer John Hughes came up with a mom-dad role reversal movie that many found hilarious. Three decades later, stay-at-home dads are still not the norm, but it’s easy to find humor in the storyline.

The name itself is so self-explanatory, that one hardly needs to see the movie poster or even watch a clip to wonder what it might be about. Its title has been used over and over so many times that it alone demonstrates the power of the movie industry, and overall media influence.

Nearly any reference to a stay-at-home dad, whether in media or informal conversation references the movie title. A label was born, and it will never go away. “Back to the Future” is another over-referenced movie title that comes to mind, and seems to work its way into language anytime someone needs a catchy reference to the future.

If the “Mr. Mom” movie had been given a different title, say, “Switcheroo,” would the movie have slipped out of our pop culture consciousness a long time ago? If Hughes were able to bring back the original cast for a sequel, would a title and premise such as “Mrs. Dad” have the same effect?

I have no issue with the “Mr. Mom” movie concept. But we must all remember the thought, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Truly, the next time you’re ready to tell a story – dear movie industry – and spend money on actors, sets and marketing, consider that you’re not only investing in millions of dollars, but also into the human psyche, for which there is no price tag.

And the only sequel to that is the next generation of consumers, of whom you apply great influence.