Parental equality made easy

Dads are often told they’re inadequate in varied ways. They didn’t do the diaper correctly. They didn’t fold the laundry properly. The dishwasher wasn’t loaded right. And of course, the ever-popular dads don’t know how to cook.

Deep down, we all know this is absurd. When dads are “corrected” for doing things wrong, that’s unfair because they didn’t do it wrong; they may have done it different, but different isn’t necessarily wrong.

So now we have Unilever, the world’s largest consumer goods company and operator of Country Crock, telling us not countrycrock1.pngonly that dads can’t bake, but can’t even handle easy baking.

It’s true that home cooking is more often associated with women than men, but that doesn’t mean companies should exclude dads. If anything, there’s a missed opportunity to covet an untapped market. Companies would be wise to target fathers just the same.

Via stereotypes and old fashioned attitudes, home repair is more connected with men than women, but Lowe’s regularly employs women in its marketing. There’s not a single female player in the NFL, but the league still spends millions trying to reach women and moms. Harley-Davidson has benefited greatly by pursuing female customers.

Couldn’t the rest of the marketing world learn from these success stories and apply them to fathers?

Ironically, in the culinary world, professional, high-status cooking is a male-dominated sport. According to Ann Cooper, author of “A Woman’s Place Is in the Kitchen: The Evolution of Women Chefs,” 55 percent of people working in the culinary industry are men.

The dads can’t cook myth also does an equal disservice to women by inferring that a mother’s place is in the kitchen. The reality is that it’s really not that hard to follow a recipe. Yet countless food manufacturers refuse to include dad on their websites, in promotions, or on commercials. Even micro meals — arguably the easiest food prep of all — don’t speak to fathers.

countrycrock2.jpgWe implore Unilever and Country Crock to take a strong look at how dads are treated and used in their marketing. Now is the time for its creative agency to view dads with a clean slate by erasing all the myths and misguided labels, which drag fathers down from being viewed as equal and adept parents.

Companies who’d like to increase revenue and brand loyalty need to implement a different marketing strategy if they want to reach dads.

Women will never be treated with equality in the workforce until we start to treat dads the same at home. The two are intertwined. Exhibiting a gender bias in both is wrong, but the good news is that it’s fairly quick and easy to start making website edits. The rest of the company culture will follow and positively affect its other family of products.

You can make that happen today, Unilever. Families are watching.

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Marketers could learn a lot from the NFL

Statistics and ratings indicate that more men attend, watch and follow the NFL in greater numbers than women.  Take a casual look at fantasy football leagues, and those numbers widen even more.nfl

So if it were the case, you could forgive the NFL for targeting males in its advertising.  But being the wise, billion-dollar enterprise it is, you’ll hardly find its 32 teams (total worth: $63 billion) spending its marketing dollar only where the big money is located.

Rather, it places a strong emphasis on women, and wouldn’t dare make the catastrophic mistake of alienating an important part of its fan base.

So, no, the NFL won’t be unveiling new marketing slogans this season which focus on one gender, such as:

  • Choosy dads choose the NFL (Jif)
  • Kid tested, father approved (Kix)
  • Support for all dadkind (Boppy)
  • Welcome to the brotherhood of fatherhood (Similac)
  • #DadsKnow (Juicy Juice)
  • #DadWins (El Monterey)
  • Created by a dad for dads (Jesben)
  • For dad. For kids. From the beginning. (MyGerber)
  • Good for dads. Awesome for kids. (Capri Sun)

(You might note that none of these items referenced are feminine products.)

The NFL knows how to be popular and prosperous, so currently you see a successful, inclusive slogan like, “Football is Family.”

good2growAll of this makes the communication from good2grow so unusual, who claims to be “a family owned and operated company” with “one simple goal—creating wholesome, nutritious drinks in irresistible packaging kids love.”good2grow2

The juxtaposition is unusual, because families include dads, and in general, kids love their dads.  So if good2grow wants to create a product kids love, it should consider the other half of its customer base, which also includes boys, many of whom will eventually become dads.  Right now, it’s not speaking to dads in print, or on its website.

What do you say, good2grow?  Can dads be a part of your team?

At least Boppy acknowledged that boys exist — it’s a start

Boppy Company, why does it have to be this way?

We think you have a really nice product that works, but when you openly and actively market your product to the point of purposely excluding dads (note pictured ad) – well, that’s when we have to step in.boppy2

We don’t think anyone doubts that the Boppy is a “mom friendly” item by nature. Its frilly, cute patterns and soft, cushiony look will immediately appeal to a more feminine side. That’s perfectly ok, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Men/dads and women/moms are different – we say celebrate that, but don’t tell dads by your intentional exclusion that baby products aren’t for them.

Don’t tell dads that they’re less of a parent to their babies than moms.

Don’t exclude dads from the party.

Don’t make them feel left out.

Rather, use your business sense and marketing savvy by selling it to everyone humanly possible!

Are you really afraid that if you take the word “mom” off everything that women won’t notice you? Or that it won’t feel as personalized? Or that suddenly you’re letting in that rough, manly guy on the decision-making process who doesn’t have any business offering input, who doesn’t know anything about caring for babies, and who shouldn’t have any part of that exclusive shopping experience usually saved for the mom-to-be and her mom?

Comparisons can be helpful to illustrate a point. So, let’s take a look at the National Football League.

The NFL is one of the most wildly successful American ventures around, and it has been for decades: huge TV ratings, massive fan interest, tickets sold by the millions, team apparel worn by fans everywhere you look, fantasy leagues, its own TV network. It also has that little end-of-the-season championship game that a lot of people like to watch, sometimes its commercials even moreso.

Yet, there’s no doubting this is a man’s game. No female has ever played in an NFL game (though we’d like to see that change someday). The rough, tough nature of football appeals heavily to the masculine nature.

And that’s ok.

But does that mean that women can’t enjoy the game? Does that mean that women can’t be involved elsewhere?

Of course not. Throughout the NFL, we see female journalists, TV commentators, cheerleaders, front office executives, sideline personnel, and on and on. A female singer has opened one of network TV’s most popular shows — NBC’s Sunday Night Football — since its inception.

Now let’s take a look at its website, nfl.com. Do you see any slogan like, A Game for all Mankind?

A menu tab titled Dad Center?

Helpful Fantasy Football Topics from the Guy Center?

A special offer titled, NFLhood for Dad?

Do you see any special anniversary section that says, Thanks guys/men/dads – for supporting the NFL – we celebrate you!

Do you see any kind of female or mom exclusion going on anywhere? Didn’t think so. If anything, they strive to recognize women through its Pinktober accessories, a color normally associated with femininity.

Sure, the NFL has its share of Ray Rice PR nightmares and a long way to go toward acknowledging proper treatment of women. But this blog is specifically about marketing and advertising. When it comes to marketing, the NFL has a track record of phenomenal success, and advertisers pay big money to be a part of it.

Bobby, perhaps it’s time to take a serious look at your marketing message, and how you can better capitalize on selling to dads. Take a close look at the NFL and how it succeeds.

Better yet, take a moment to talk to some dads and ask how they feel. All too often, we hear from dads who feel left out of things, and miss special moments, and it’s time for the exclusion to stop at least in the ad world.

Try the shoe, er the Boppy, on the other foot.

Burned by Texas Toast

“Do you realize that toilet paper has not changed in my lifetime? It’s just paper on a cardboard roll, that’s it. And in ten thousand years, it will still be exactly the same because really, what else can they do?”

– George Costanza on Seinfeld

Later in this same episode, George’s friends Jerry and Elaine point out that toilet paper has become softer, there’s more sheets per roll and it comes in a variety of colors. Nevertheless, George is ultimately right. Despite some minor tweaks, there’s really not much that can be done with toilet paper; the basic concept has remained the same.

A magazine ad, however, has no limitation when it comes to creativity and reinventing itself. The beginning canvas of an advertisement starts as blank as Puddy’s mind, and the advertising agency has complete control to design and say whatever it pleases.

Why then, have we not advanced further when it comes to the way retailers sell their products?

Take, for instance, the two ads featured in this entry. The tie ad might have been socially acceptable at one time, but it is taboo now. If used texastoast vanheusentoday Van Heusen would surely get some icy stares from the media, public, and anyone with a pulse. That ad today might even be deemed illegal.

But what about Texas Toast’s humdinger? Just a harmless ad with cute girls giving thanks to mom for the delicious Texas Toast on their plates?

Hardly. The ad perpetuates the same stereotype existing at the time of the Van Heusen ad, that moms are the ones who take care of their kids. Why isn’t it taboo?

It’s because ad execs are still trapped in a bygone era where market research tells them moms buys the Texas Toast, not dads. Even if that were true, why slight dads and propagate the stereotype?

The NFL has only four black head coaches out of 32 teams, but does that mean blacks can’t coach? Of course not! And in other news, dads have reportedly been seen at grocery stores from time to time.

We here at dadmarketing think Texas Toast needs to revise their ads in the future, or we’ll tear them out of the magazine, and promptly put them in the same place we do toilet paper.

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.

I don’t cheer for Cheerios

The phrase “to those whom much has been given, more is required,” is best known for its origin in the Bible.

I think it applies to cereal, too — specifically, Cheerios — and we’ll get to that connection in a minute.cheeriosfrown

But let’s think about Cheerios first.  It’s one of the strongest brands around.  Its no-nonsense black serif font on the plain yellow box is iconic.  The circular shape is basic, pure and often imitated.  Its ingredients include whole grain oats and just one gram of sugar.  Nearly every off- and store-brand has made a knock-off version and given it a similar name.  The taste is simple and unchanged virtually since the beginning, unless you count the explosion of its flavored offspring, such as Reduced-Fat-Yogurt-Berry-Blast-Cinnamon-Coated-Sprinkle Cheerios (seriously, do we need this much variety?).

I would argue that Cheerios has been in every American home at least one point in time since its inception, and I doubt many brand names can proclaim that.  We eat it.  We make snack mixes with it.  We feed it to babies.  We feed it to birds.  We make crafts with it.  We give it to kids in church to keep them quiet.  We string it on Christmas trees.  We love it.  We trust it.  Its wholesome.  It sticks on noses (try doing that with Kix).  It’s certified by the American Heart Association!  It’s genius!Image

It’s just plain…perfect!

Or is it?

Their marketing folks nearly had me at hello, but as I went further into their website, discovered that it’s Mom’s Choice.  And that’s when I started thinking about the phrase, “to those whom much has been given, more is required.”

You see, we’ve made Cheerios a part of our lives and trusted it for years, and I always thought it was a decently mutual relationship:  General Mills kept making it, we kept eating it and everyone was happy.  But then they started saying that it’s the cereal which mom’s choose, and dads instantly became alienated and left out.  More should be required of one of the top cereals around.  They’re supposed to be an example for everyone else.  Do you ever see the NFL say, “It’s the sports league more dads watch with their boys than any other”?

Cheerios, I thought you were better than this.  We’ve all given you so much, and more should be required.

I have the last box I’ll ever buy in my cupboard, and I’m not even going to eat it.

But the birds will.