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.

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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.