Corp speak, runarounds and talking the talk

Have you ever contacted a company only to get the runaround?

We do every day. The problem with our interactions is that they involve a little more than a faulty product, damaged good, or spoiled food. Those problems can be corrected on the spot.

Ours involve changing a mindset, a company culture and attitudes about parenting.

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What we often experience is corpspeak and a serious case of talking a good talk, yet never really walking the walk. When we point out to companies their exclusion of fathers in advertising and marketing, we hear a response that lacks of clarity and offers tedium that never results in succinct answers or change. They’re generally vague on timing, which usually means there will be no change.

Check out the following responses we’ve received in the past month or so from four prominent brands.

Baby Jogger:
“Thank you for reaching out to us. We believe that all parents and caregivers are capable of providing excellent care for their little ones. Consumer feedback is important to us and we take it very seriously. We have shared your comments with our marketing team.”

Fresh Market:
“Hi there! We love Dads too! They are mentioned on this sign as well. Just follow the asterisk! We understand, however, that their mention is not as noticeable and will share your feedback with our team!:”

Rite Aid:
“We value your feedback and we appreciate you reaching out to us. We will forward your feedback to our Leadership team for review. Thank you!”

Mott’s
“You are absolutely right. Thanks for catching a really old portion of our site that needs to be updated. Our team is working to make this correction because we love moms AND dads! It takes a village to raise a child, and we appreciate the reminder. Thanks for keeping us honest.”

Mott’s offered the most promising response, but even with that, not in any single instance did a representative make a promise or even correct the problem on the spot. Instead, the buck was passed and the complaint was temporarily pacified by ensuring us that our feedback was “valued.”

Companies love to talk about exceptional customer service, but few really back it up.

At the same time, we’ve successfully lobbied other major brands to make changes – and they did. We’ve influenced the likes of Kix, Jif, Cheerios, Pampers, Huggies, Luvs and the New York Times. It worked by simple, old-fashioned persistence.

If you’re a parent who cares about inclusion and equality, our suggestion is to remain persistent and enlist other like-minded parents to help with the cause.

Many consumers win their battles, and there’s a good chance you will, too.

This company needs to stop calling dads, moms

Recently we noticed a Disney Moms post which identified a dad as a mom, so we shared that inaccuracy with the Twitterverse.

A handful of Disney supporters offered comments. In fact, they told us not to worry, to direct our energy toward other things and offered assurance of respect for dads.

That was nice, but it offers plenty for discussion.

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It’s great to hear that Disney Moms appreciate dads. In previous posts we’ve regularly lauded the program’s intentions and agree that dads comprise a valuable part of the group. If you’re planning to visit a Disney park, this program does offer great advice. There’s little doubt in our minds that dads are indeed loved and appreciated by participants on the panel.

Well, mostly. If they were truly and fully appreciated, dads wouldn’t be excluded from the program’s name. As for respect? Not completely.

One definition calls respect “a feeling of deep admiration for someone elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” It’s hard for dads to feel fully appreciated when the most honorable title achieved upon the birth of one’s child isn’t stated – or even acknowledged.

The dismissal of our concerns, however, is cause for disappointment. When those commenters asked us to direct our energy toward other matters and not to worry – it made us feel like our concerns didn’t matter, rather than acknowledging them and admitting the obvious discrimination.

We’ll admit it’s hard for anyone on the panel to do this. Those members are getting nice perks and probably aren’t even allowed to voice displeasure over the current Disney Moms name. If they did, it might mean the end of extras and incentives.

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Hey, we get it. No panel member is going to bite the hand that feeds them.

One woman commented, “it never really was much of an issue.”

Perhaps from her perspective. But she’s not a dad. Ask the millions of dads elsewhere who don’t sit on that panel and only see a major brand name ignore their very being. Most dads live their lives as secondary parents to moms. Just ask Huggies. Or watch videos. Or read magazines. Or follow our Twitter page.

The fact of the matter is, it’s not only odd to see dads being called moms – it’s wrong and unfair. It devalues who they are – equal, competent parents. We don’t believe women’s basketball teams should be called men. Congresswomen shouldn’t be called men. Policewomen shouldn’t be called men.

Language is one of the most powerful means through which sexism and gender discrimination are carried out.

This is no different.

No mom would like being called a dad, right?

We successfully lobbied Kix, Jif, Cheerios, Pampers, Huggies, Luvs, the New York Times and other major brands to make changes, and we’ll continue to advocate for equality and inclusion.

The awkwardness of having Disney call a father a mother – and seeing men accept that – isn’t bound to last forever.

It’s time for Disney to make everyone feel like true guests. Dads are waiting.

Is laundry only a mother’s job?

Laundry.  It comes in heaps and never stops, and this week we found a few items in need of a good washing.

First, let’s take a look at the latest Arm & Hammer ad, which offers something both endearing and cautionary about the way it positions its brand.armandhammer1

On one hand, A&H takes a clever, charming approach by using generational ties as laundry solutions.  We can certainly appreciate the appeal of doing things the way our parents did them.  Passing down advice from one generation to another offers a timeless sentiment that pulls at our emotions.  That aspect is nice.

But on the other hand, with piles of laundry comes great responsibility.

That laundry room in your home – yes, that one over there – must be handled with extreme caution.  It’s dangerous to assume that it’s mom’s domain. That would be inconsiderate, old-fashioned and passé, sort of like saying a mother’s place is in the kitchen.  Frankly, it would have been better had A&H had not even gone there and employed this motherly theme.

We acknowledge that sometimes an idea can be too good to pass up, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t.  Look at the incongruity the New York Times offers in name with its Motherlode section – a section which supposedly covers the issues of parenting.

So, by A&H using mom as the focal point, we’re all led down a path to believe that laundry is the mother’s duty.  That creates perceptions that aren’t necessarily true, especially in today’s modern, dual-income, gender-lines-have-been-blurred, and everybody-takes-on-different-roles world.

ariel1Which brings us to the peculiar ad unveiled by Indian detergent maker Ariel.  In it, Ariel offers an apology to moms everywhere, on behalf of dads, for guys not helping with the laundry.

Admittedly, we’re somewhat ill-equipped to analyze this ad, as we have no awareness of Indian culture.  However, for the purposes of this column, we’ll probe within an American context.

The Ariel ad is admirable for encouraging everyone to help around the house, but sadly, it’s at the expense of dads.

Once again, dads are made out to be the bad guy – the lazy spouse – and coerced into apologizing unnecessarily.  Let’s put this ad in perspective:  you have to remember that in days past, when the dad traditionally went to a job all day and was the sole breadwinner, it was the mom’s duty to run the household – and there’s nothing wrong with that scenario even today.  Both roles contribute to a family and household, even if they’re held by opposite parties nowadays.  No job is more important than the other.

The older father in the ad shouldn’t have had to apologize for anything, unless he wasn’t carrying his load and doing his part in life.  The younger father in the background, clearly isn’t – at least for the brief period shown in this elongated ad.

A&H curiously has an ad of its own, and not once is a male of any age shown.  Perhaps these laundry detergent makers could have compared notes, rather than send conflicting messages that only leave dad caught in the middle of two contradictory campaigns:  one that puts dad at fault, another that says it was never dad’s job in the first place.

So when the A&H ads are stacked up next to Ariel’s apologist campaign, it’s more than a little disconcerting to see the commercial’s closing question:  “why is laundry only a mother’s job?”

I think we all know the answer to that question:  it’s not.

But, maybe, just maybe, that question is better posed directly to A&H.

Tell us, A&H, why is laundry only a mother’s job?

Times for a change

I’ve had a lot of ideas over the years.motherlode

Once I pitched a newsletter idea for a sanitation company in a town called White. My original thought was to name it “White Trash.”

Okay, okay, confession: that story and pun was made up.

But even though a pun may fit and might sometimes even seem too good to pass up, it doesn’t make it right.

Consider the New York Times and its Motherlode site. Its goal is “to cover the ways our families affect us, and the ways the news affects our families.”

We love the play on words if it were a moms-only site, and bear with us – we’re not comparing a term like white trash to Motherlode – we’re only using an analogy to make a point. Even its url is listed in web language as http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/.

Note the first word used is parenting, as in moms and dads.

Obviously, families include dads, and with a title like Motherlode, how can it possibly make dads feel welcome, or even make them want to check out the site?

Not surprisingly, the writing you’ll find there is fantastic – very fit to print.

After all, this is the New York Times, otherwise known as media royalty. Everyone in the newspaper world wants to be like the New York Times, winners of a record 114 Pulitzer Prizes. It has been the standard in journalism for 163 years, and of course, it is a wonderful act to follow.

Hardly anyone should ever question what they do because they’re as good as it gets, right?

In that vein, does it not seem like everyone’s giving the Motherlode name – surely a discriminatory one – a free pass, just because it’s the New York Times? As readers, do we even recognize its name’s chauvinistic tone, or have we become immune to the exclusion of dad in its title?

In the last 30 days, I counted just one Motherlode news story directed explicitly at dads and fatherly issues (while the “Deployment Diary” is excellent and referred to dad a lot, it’s not a dad-specific issue). And I only noticed three male writers. So, if “families” is its goal, it’s missing the mark in more ways than title alone.

NBC News, another highly reputable media source, became all the wiser when it suddenly renamed its TODAY Moms to TODAY Parents in June, a far more inclusionary and correct name for the news affecting, well, parents.

As it stands now, the New York Times would rather use the word mother as a generic term for parent, like Kleenex is for facial tissue.

Do you ever ask someone, can you please hand me a Puffs?

In the same way, let’s not let this attitude lead to a society where office forms simply state “mother,” but we have to assume the office wants us to list both the mom’s and dad’s name.

Dads know this oft-forgotten tale all too often.

After all, it was only two generations or so ago that dads were not even allowed in the delivery room. While that practice has changed for the better, let’s be honest, doctors still mostly speak only to moms at child well checks as if they’re the lead parent, making dad to feel like an assistant at best, nonexistent at worst.

Being one of the leaders in journalism means setting an example and acting like it, from top to bottom, side to side, and tiny little bit to Motherlode.