Where are the dads in the Disney galaxy?

For all the positive mojo Disney cranks out on a regular basis, it appears to have a genuine problem with finding – how shall we say it – balance.

Last week a story circulated on the Internet titled, “Where Are the Moms in the Star Wars Galaxy?”  The writer argued that while mothers do play a role in the Star Wars universe, they don’t receive as much thematic prominence as father-son/child relationships.  It’s a thought-provoking piece with strong merit – highly recommended.

Then, just two days later, Disney Parks revealed the members of its 10th annual Moms Panel – an online forum for everyday people to share helpful tips and vacation planning advice.disneymoms6.png

The problem is, the panel isn’t a representative sample of everyday peopleit’s overwhelmingly comprised of only moms.  Of course, this is not a bad thing, but the imbalance is; it’s important to remember that dads are part of families, and vacation planning involves them, because they too have plenty to share with potential travelers about the topic.

But Disney awkwardly placed a lone dad on this year’s Moms Panel, thereby disrespecting and ignoring his parental title and thus cutting last year’s dad total – if you can believe it – in half.

Its actions disregard fathers as fully competent, equal parents, much in the same vein that Jif Peanut Butter’s long-standing catchphrase excludes dads as dedicated customers.disneymoms1

We wrote about the Disney Parks Moms Panel last fall and received positive feedback from readers who also implored Disney to catch up with the modern world and to better represent what families mean today.

We realize that equality takes time, so we didn’t expect Disney to instantly even out the number of women and men on the panel, although doing so would rightfully provide a true representation of all parenting travel issues.  However, we thoughtfully anticipated a name change in the spirit of authentic, modern parenting.

Unfortunately, Disney let us all down, because it’s not just dads that end up on the short end of the stick.  It’s the kids and the spouses who deserve a vacation planned at least partly through a fatherly perspective.  But they’ll hardly get that, because instead, dads are being treated like second-class parents who simply don’t matter.

Hilton also operates a similar travel panel with a comparable name – Hilton Mom Voyage – and it has a mere three dads among 30 panelists.

Echoidisneymoms4ng the words of the Star Wars column, dads deserve better.

The members of next year’s Disney panel will be announced soon enough, but why wait that long to properly rename the panel?

Disney, let’s make things right, because families are stronger – and vacations are more magical – when we’re united as parents.

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Why is Disney making dads out to be moms?

Sometimes it appears as if Disney can do no wrong.

Most of its movies are hits.  Disney TV is generally squeaky clean and safe.  Media acquisitions seem to be financial steals.  Its merchandising knows no bounds.  And a visit to one of its theme parks has become a consensus family destination of a lifetime for many.

But at least one part of it is a major letdown.

That’s because Disney Parks, a subsidiary responsible for the conception, building and managing of its theme parks and vacation resorts, offers a rather dad exclusionary feature on its website, disneyparks.com.

Click on the Vacation Planning menu tab, and you’ll find a section offering a Moms Panel, an inexcusable practice that leaves dads out in name, and in other unfortunate ways.disneymoms1.png

First, Disney Parks offers no Dads Panel counterpart, thus ignoring a father’s contribution and unique perspective for vacation planning.  By presenting no voice for dads and the viewpoints they might lend while families prepare for a dream destination, it directly ignores the indispensable influence of fathers.  Disney is also clearly saying that dads don’t handle this vacation planning facet of family life, and that dads don’t matter.

But wait – you say – there are some dads on the panel.

And therein lies problem number two, where it uses the term “mom” as an equal synonym for “parent” – a faulty, exclusionary approach when marketing to families, families which include dads.  There are very few products exclusively intended for one gender as parents, and vacation planning certainly is not one of them.

Alas, the term gender bias comes to mind.

Disney makes matters worse by trying to rationalize its practice of replacing the word parent with mom:

We understand that the role of “mom” is met differently from family to family, so we made sure to fill our panel with enthusiastic, dedicated and diverse individuals—moms, dads and other in the know family members—to help guide you with your vacation planning.

Note how the word mom is placed in quotes.  Here, at least in Disney’s world, all dads are no longer equal parents, they’re moms!

Let that sink in for a moment:  Disney is calling dads, moms.

Don’t dads matter to Disney more than this?  Must dads’ presence as equal parents be demeaned, it not outright ignored?  It’s wrong.  Dads matter every bit as moms.

Now take a look at those actual dads serving as Moms Panelists:  don’t these dads have a problem with this concept?  If one was called a mom at a public function, wouldn’t he correct the speaker?  Let’s hope so.  So why let it persist online, in print, for the entire world to see?  disneymoms2.jpg

This whole discomfiture is not just literally inaccurate – it’s gauche, inappropriate and disrespectful.

And ignoring the contribution of a father by way of exclusion in its name – Moms Panel – doesn’t exactly feel welcoming to fathers seeking information.  It leaves them out of the discussion, and makes them feel like outsiders – that is, if they even bother to find and examine the site in the first place.

What’s more, among its entire 27 panelists only two are dads?  That’s hardly representative of the population, nor its customer base.disneymoms3.jpg

Third, it’s beyond disappointing that the Moms Panel was unveiled in 2008, during these politically correct times.  It’s not like we excuse Jif for prolonging use of its old fashioned motto, but at least it was born during a time where its slogan was representative of a bygone era.  That slogan, too, is inappropriate and Jif is taking steps to minimize (perhaps eliminate) its use.

But 2008?  That’s a mere eight years ago.  In this so-called modern, gender sensitive, all-inclusive, equality-seeking world, doesn’t Disney have some high level PR officer who would’ve screened this before it even happened?

This entire Moms Panel endeavor reflects a huge lapse in judgement for a global mass media and entertainment conglomerate that considers its parks “the Happiest Place on Earth.”

Dads can’t be happy with this kind of treatment.disneymoms4.jpg

Whether or not you’ve made it to Disneyland or Disney World before, at least we can all say we’ve enjoyed its movies over the years, and we continue to be enthralled with its new Star Wars handiwork and future plans.

But that’s what makes the rub hurt even more, because with Disney, we expect more.  We don’t just want our expectations met, we want them to be exceeded.  Sure, that’s a lofty desire, and maybe a bit unfair, but that’s the standard Disney has set.  We expect greatness.  Perfection.  Happiness.

All of it makes Disney’s use of the Moms Panel name indefensible.

Not long ago, Amazon – the largest Internet-based retailer in the United States – finally responded to the PR nightmare known as Amazon Mom by quietly and suddenly changing its name to reflect dads’ contributions as parents.

Let’s hope Disney can make a swift change, too, and thereby stake its claim as the Happiest Panel on Earth.

Search your feelings

So many people had been waiting for this weekend all year.

The anticipation was high, many combed the Internet first, and when the moment finally arrived, it was met with great enthusiasm – if not simultaneous screaming heard across the land – at the instant when people were finally allowed to obtain what they desired all along.

The new Star Wars trailer was unveiled.

In my circle of life, I don’t know any mothers who care about Star Wars. There must be plenty of fanmoms out there, but I think it’s a safe bet that they’re in the minority.starwars

The Star Wars culture is especially dominated by men and boys who grew up emulating Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Yoda.

Let’s face it, you’re far more likely to find a boy wearing a Star Wars t-shirt than a girl, and theater seats at next December 18’s midnight showings will mostly be males, many of whom dads who will no doubt bring their sons and impart lifelong movie fandom to their younglings.

Yet, is it not interesting how movies like Star Wars don’t try to market solely to dads?

Of course, the film’s inherent aggressive tone will appeal to a more masculine side, but movie marketers aren’t trying to seal the deal with forced pleadings to dad in the same way Jif and Kix think that shopping and feeding children must be mom’s solitary birthrights.

A mega-successful franchise like Star Wars certainly has its chances.

For sure, its movie marketers have multiple opportunities to play the father-son card with Luke Skywalker supposedly taking on the wise Obi-Wan-type master role, its interminable Jedi master-student themes, and the ever-quotable “I am your father.”

Rather, Star Wars appeals to everyone with a trailer that does not disappoint and leaves fans of all genders and parental entities feeling a part of the Force.

This Black Friday will go down as the best in history thanks to Star Wars, for it didn’t even involve the overused and illogical term doorbusters, nor did it disrupt and creep into anyone’s Thanksgiving.

And Star Wars didn’t make dads look or feel like turkeys.

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.