A fine ad, but what’s with Walmart Moms?

mixedsignalsIf you’ve been following this website since the beginning, you know we’ve focused on a variety of ways in which dads are portrayed in marketing, advertising and media.

We’ve featured companies, media channels, sports, entertainment avenues, service organizations, as well as some general ideas of our own.

When it comes to the products we buy and consume every day, it is the retailers who exert immense power. Their prices affect our overall budget. They decide what’s on sale. They decide where it’s placed in the store. They shape our buying habits, and often turn items that “I want” into “I need.”

The retailer at the top of the list, of course, is none other than Walmart. With 4,779 stores nationwide, it’s responsible for $482 billion in annual sales, and no other store comes even close.

When we wrote about Walmart on January 7, we were disappointed by an ad featured in the October 2014 American Baby magazine.

walmart2But now, almost one full year after that magazine ad we discover a change in Walmart’s ways with an advertisement so impressive (featured left), it will no doubt get everyone’s attention in the retailing world. Hopefully it will turn heads and change the way others operate and market their products and services.

Check out this list of the top retailers from last year.  If you’re reading this Kroger, Costco, Target, Home Depot, et al, your friends at Walmart have officially raised the bar.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Walmart is officially the leader in dad-friendly marketing. This ad was a hit, but another part of its portfolio is a clear miss.

That’s because it still insists on offering “Walmart Moms,” a practice that wouldn’t seem so sexist if it offered a dadly counterpart. The old fashioned use of this biased name fosters the misbelief that mom is the lead parent, and dad is merely an assistant.

We call for an end to this chauvinist exercise by renaming the program “Walmart Parents.”

What do you say Walmart?

walmart5Walmart’s approach shows that it’s at odds with its own self. By offering a fantastic ad showing dad in a positive light as an involved parent, and then disregarding dad’s parental abilities through the exclusionary Walmart Mom program, it’s sending mixed signals to dads everywhere.

We’ve debunked the moms are the lead shoppers fallacy so many times over it’s hardly worth doing again, so we’ll let another group do it.

Again, Walmart here offers one quality ad and a fantastic step in the right direction. But as for Walmart Mom, it reminds us of another dad exclusionary marketing campaign that’s taken a beating this year.

Perhaps it’s time for Walmart to be proactive (like the Today Show), rather than reactive, and let dads know that they matter as consumers.

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Ashton Kutcher: a dad’s best hope

They say ‘good things come to those who wait,’ but it’s likely Ashton Kutcher never listened.kutcher

Upon leaving the University of Iowa in 1996, Kutcher rose to meteoric fame by immediately modeling, and then landing on Fox’s long-running “That ‘70s Show” by 1998, where he gained his instant stardom.

He appeared in his first film by 1999, and deftly spread his wings by starring in and producing a varied mix of shows, including the clever “Punk’d,” the cult film “Dude, Where’s My Car?,” and the psychological thriller “The Butterfly Effect.”

And his acting accomplishments may seem like nothing compared to his prowess on social media, particularly Twitter, where he became the first user to reach one million followers in 2009.

Yet as he reaches a nearly 20 years of work in Hollywood, Kutcher is taking on his biggest role yet: dadvocate.

Last October, he and Mila Kunis gave birth to daughter Wyatt, and just a few months later, Kutcher had become victim to dad exclusion like so many fathers before him. So, this past March, Kutcher complained about the lack of pubic diaper changing stations on his Facebook page, a post that went viral and caught the attention of a New York state senator, Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan).

Hoylman’s proposed an amendment would change the New York Civil Rights Act and require many newly constructed or renovated public buildings to provide diaper-changing rooms in men’s rooms where they are also present in kutcher2women’s rooms.

Kutcher, meanwhile, launched a change.org petition intended to have Target and Costco offer changing stations to both moms and dads in their stores.

How this plays out remains to be seen, but for now, both Kutcher and Hoylman should be enthusiastically lauded for their efforts.

With all due respect to our lawmakers and government, Kutcher, in particular, carries a lot of weight and power, and he may be a key figure in putting dads on a rightful equal ground.

However, real change isn’t going to happen in a restroom, it’s going to happen when perception shifts – and that can only occur when principal influences begin to treat dads like they count as much as moms when it comes to parenting.

Those influences are in the marketing and advertising of the products and services we use, in the media which shapes our attitudes, and in how Hollywood portrays the dad character.

As long as Jif Peanut Butter trumps its one-sided marketing slogan, and Kix cereal speaks only to moms, and American Baby magazine employs old fashioned writing that ignores fathers, and writers slap unfair and embarrassing stereotypes on dads which only apply to a minority – and thus we keep reading, and buying and using these products – diaper changing stations for dads will be merely pacifistic tools demanded by law.

And only fathers would see the change anyway; indeed, it would be a welcoming and needed change in law, but only dads would benefit and see the restroom modification.

Instead, if Kutcher could really get to the heart of the matter, and use his influence to encourage others to include dads in positive ways through marketing, media and entertainment, the “#1 Dad” mug he receives from his daughter on his first Father’s Day this June will be more valuable than any acting honor he’s ever accepted.

And letting everyone see it would make for the best tweet ever.

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.