An open letter to dads – the problem with influencer marketing

Back in the spring – March 7 to be exact – National Cereal Day was celebrated from sea to shining sea.

OK, that’s exaggerating. Our entire nation didn’t honor it. It was largely done so by Twitter users. And it’s not really National Cereal Day, it’s more like #NationalCerealDay.

These aren’t real holidays – they’re hollowdays – they’re empty, there’s not much to them. They’re days often set up by marketers to help sell industries or products, and they’re primarily celebrated only on social media. If your workplace, school, or home isn’t really celebrating and you’re spending more time tweeting about it than actually observing it, then it’s a hollowday.kix9.jpg

Still, they serve a purpose and can be a lot of fun on social media. We sometimes join in the fun ourselves. And while this obscure cereal occasion was celebrated, we noticed a disturbing trend: dads advertising for companies like General Mills and Kellogg’s, companies who have a regular history of ignoring fathers through slogans, general marketing and even on cereal boxes.

So why would dads plug a company that doesn’t place value in them?

Who’s an influencer?

Influencer marketing can be powerful and it certainly has its place. We all know how it works: companies identify individual “influential” people – rather than a certain market – and intentionally use those people by controlling the content of their blog stories, testimonials, social media posts and photos.frostedminiwheats2.jpg

These companies are asking those people to purposely write about a brand in order to exert influence over possible buyers. Along the way those influencers gain income, kickbacks and plenty of attention – that is, adulation in the form of likes/follows. It’s true that all of it can result in an inflated ego, but welcome to the world of influencers.

Is influencing always what it seems?

At the same time, influencer marketing can also offer deceit. It’s common practice for influencers (though, not all) to buy followers that represent bots to make profiles appear more impressive. Most people don’t buy it, but interestingly, a lot of companies overlook it all in the name of numbers.

Some influencers have real followers and they worked hard to gain every one of them. So, it’s easy to see that dad bloggers have sway more than ever before, but with great power comes great responsibility.

If dads want to be recognized as fully competent parents and equal to their parental counterparts in the world of influencing, spending, retail and commerce, know this: they’re contributing to the problem.

Dads can’t be supporting dad-unfriendly companies in the name of freebies, likes, media attention, more followers, or even in the name of fun. That’s called selling out.cheerios.jpg

If you’re a dad helping to promote, say, General Mills, have you thought about what you’re helping to endorse? Some of its brands, for example, continue to ignore and discount you with exclusionary messages and slogans stamped on the front of every box.

So when you plug these companies, you’re offering a stamp of approval to what they do – and that’s wrong.

Self-respect is key

If men truly want to be valued as prime influencers and be treated equally everywhere they go online and in person — schools, doctor offices and even by the children in their own homes — it’s time to speak up and take a stand.quakeroats3.jpg

All of those goodies, swag and likes aren’t worth it if they’re feeding the monster. Those companies who disregard fatherhood will continue to get away with exclusion and won’t value true purchasing and parental power if influencers give in.

Being an influencer carries weight, and if dads really want to influence someone, stand up and speak out. Tell them that not all parents are moms. Tell them that you matter as a parent and a customer. Hollowdays aren’t worth it.

 

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Is NUK failing dads?

If you’ve ever brought a child into the world, chances are you’ve used NUK products. Whether it’s bottles, teethers or tableware, NUK is easy to be found in the childcare world.nuk2.jpg

Yet for a company that’s been around for almost 60 years, NUK doesn’t appear to be listening to its customer base.

That’s because its marketing team has positioned its business as one of the more dad exclusionary companies around. On its website – nuk-usa.com – you’ll find repeated instances of an unrepresentative approach:

  • A trademarked “You’ve nuk3.pngGot This” slogan which offers wonderful parental assurance, but only for mom. Observe its one-sided slogan description: “Congratulations, mom! You just did the amazing and brought a beautiful baby into the world.” Wording like this ignores the indisputable fact that dad also just did the amazing and brought a beautiful baby into the world.
  • There you can also view a brief, inspirational video that expands on the “You’ve Got This” notion by not only repeatedly speaking to mom in name, but forgets to include even one moment of footage of a father in action.
  • NUK employs use of the exclusionary hashtag #NUKMoms.nuk4.jpg
  • It offers the “More for Moms Rewards Program.” And just in case you missed the program’s logo on the front page, there’s a box on the bottom right corner of nearly every page offering “Exclusive Savings Just for Mom.”

Interestingly, if not predictable, you won’t find a single image of a dad anywhere on its site, nor on social media. That’s where unquestionable irony sinks in. There are numerous cute faces of male babies and young boys used to sell NUK products. But then consider how those same faces will be ignored by the very company they represent once they become fathers later in life.

Its Twitter feed reinforces the notion that moms are its intended audience by insisting, “With some patience, creativity and expertly engineered products from NUK®, you can nuk.jpgtackle this mom thing.”

Imagine you’re a dad and reading, “…you can tackle this mom thing.”

If there were any further doubt as to whom it wants as customers, NUK seals the deal on its About Us page by declaring, “And we listen to the real world experts – moms just like you – to meet and exceed your needs.”

Dad knows what he’s doing every bit as mom. In today’s online shopping world where customers are sometimes only known by credit card numbers, it’s time that NUK takes a moment to embrace the other parent who knows a thing or two about nurturing.

Beware of the unconscious bias

To see food products like Jif and Kix hold on to their timeworn, stereotypical catchphrases — all of it has reached a state of comicality. It certainly suggests absurdity and irrationality. We’re talking about peanut butter and cereal. Those products are specific to moms?

But then there are those items related to babies, and less people seem to notice the exclusionary practices tied to its marketing. Boppies were never invented solely for mothers, but they’re regularly positioned to exclude dads from messaging and thus, demote dads to secondary parental status. Similac offers baby formula – a surefire product for dads if there ever was one – yet its makers go out of their way to reject dads in messaging.

drbrowns4All of this is detrimental to families, of course, because it impedes the family from flourishing as it should without recognizing fathers as equal, competent parents.
Dr. Brown’s can now be grouped with the Boppy and Similac. They’re all products that owe us a little more, that need to try a little harder, that have a responsibility to go out of their way to ensure that dads don’t feel left out. They’re products that should regularly feature dads and speak to them in all that they do.

Go ahead and try to find a single image of a dad on the Dr. Brown’s site. Is there even one? That’s hardly representative of today’s modern families, or even families of yesteryear.

The current actions of companies like Dr. Brown’s, Boppy and Similac would be a little like Lowe’s only using men in its ads and scripting slogans and ad copy that only speaks to that one gender. And imagine the uproar if they did! Rather, they know that home improvement is hardly a gender-specific thing, even though common stereotypes indicate that power tools and outdoor work is supposedly for men.

But instead, Dr. Brown’s takes the old-fashioned route and tells us that dads don’t take drbrowns2.jpgcare of babies, or can’t bottle feed, or don’t want to. It’s all very troubling for a company that prides itself on innovation and support. And check out the disconcerting use of moms as a synonym for parent. Sorry Dr. Brown’s, but not all parents are moms, and thus, those terms can’t be succinctly substituted without leaving someone out.

Also take note of its Ambassadors program. Not only does it exclude fathers, it behaves as if they don’t exist.drbrowns5

Dr. Brown’s Twitter bio promises that its focus is “to create innovative feeding products to promote good health and optimal nutrition for baby.” If that’s true, then it’s time to make several revisions to its website and social media.

Dads want to deliver those things, too, and if someone tells him he can’t, he’s going to look elsewhere for someone who believes in him.

Newsflash: dads are parents, too

Lately, our inbox has been hit daily with an email that defines everything wrong with dad exclusion.bestdeals4moms.png

Best Deals 4 Moms is a site which claims to offer the best deals around. It contends to be the “go-to place for the latest and greatest free stuff, deals, special offers and sweepstakes for mom and baby.” All in all, not a bad concept, except there’s just one problem: the deals aren’t exclusive to moms.

No, the offers don’t involve breastfeeding pads, feminine products, or even perfumes. The discounts featured are for items like books, groceries and restaurants.

All of it is a bit absurd, as it harkens to old-fashioned beliefs that dads aren’t involved with home life and raising children. We’ve seen these type of promotions before, but it still seems hard to believe that this organization places a focus solely on mom, passing up on the purchasing power of fathers. Studies routinely show that fathers are just as interested in deals and saving money as moms.

For having been around on Twitter since 2014, it has meager support; just 30+ people follow it on the popular social media site. And although it wouldn’t move the needle dramatically, we know one way that Best Deals 4 Moms could instantly double that figure.

Try talking to the other parent.

Is Rice Krispies really intended for only kids and moms?

Makers of breakfast foods have long been known for innovation.  New cereal and frozen foods hit the shelves regularly.

But it would seem that not everyone’s invited to the table.

Pick up any cereal box and you’ll often discover a world that speaks only to moms.  Despite all the newfound innovations in the grocery store, marketers remain convinced that the family dynamic hasn’t changed – that dads don’t take care of children, don’t tend to the home, or even spend their morning ritual with the family.ricekrispies.jpg

The Rice Krispies Twitter page reinforces this outdated stereotype with a Twitter bio (right) that excludes dads from the outset.  The exclusion is particularly surprising for a brand that’s well accepted and loved by families everywhere — families which include dads.

Its approach is surprisingly consistent with a few of its iconic shelf mates.  It wasn’t until 2015 that Cheerios changed its webpage touting itself as “Mom’s Choice.”  Kix defers to mom in both slogan and message on every box.  Even the back of Frosted Mini-Wheats exhorts kids to specifically ask mom for more.  And El Monterey has long used the hashtag #momwins throughout its social media.

Our tweets on the Rice Krispies bio recently caught the attention of Kellogg’s, but the communication fell flat when subsequent tweets weren’t returned.  We’re still waiting for what could be a quick fix and thus restore balance to the cereal shelves.

Of course, this particular cereal stretches far beyond the bowl.  The oft-duplicated rice puffs are a virtual kitchen staple, useful in many recipes around the kitchen.  Its Twitter page frequently touts its popular endearing spinoff, the Rice Krispies treat. Even its venerable mascots Snap, Crackle and Pop resonate with everyone.

Given its prowess in our daily lives, let’s hope Rice Krispies can turn things around soon and become close with dads again.

Like super close.

Like white on rice.

Cleaning up diapers: why the race for dads is on

In the world of diapers, there seems to be a sudden race to reach the long, undervalued segment of dads.

Although in some respects, the race might resemble that of a slow crawl.

Within the past month, we’ve seen the big three diaper makers – Pampers, Huggies and Luvs – all take intriguing steps toward speaking to the parent other than mom. Of course, that would be dad, the other parent who’s curiously inconspicuous from most diaper websites.

Pampers seems to be in the early lead, having quietly updated its prominent menu tabpampers2.jpg with little fanfare:  “Mommy Corner” was switched to “Parent Corner.”  Of course, Dad Marketing Headquarters noticed the change, and gave instant kudos for the fantastic, albeit minor one-word upgrade.  Fresh off its successful #PampersBabyBoard event, several dads there and elsewhere noticed the improvement and too offered their appreciation via social media.  Pampers still has a way to go to reach full parental inclusion, but tweaking a prominent communication tool like a website menu is a positive start.

Huggies, on the other hand, maintains its long-standing “Mommy Answers” menu tab, a huggies2section which ignores fathers as equal parents in more ways than one.  We’ve been in communication with its PR agency, who assures us that changes are on the way this summer.

Huggies is no stranger to controversy. Its 2012 “Have Dad Put Huggies to the Test” campaign backfired, causing its marketing team to embark on some serious damage control after one father started a “We’re dads, Huggies. Not dummies,” petition that garnered more than 1,000 signatures in less than a week.

huggies7And just this calendar year it maintained a web page at huggies.com offering the unabashed advice, “4 Ways to Get Dads to Do Diapers.”  That piece has since been removed.

Luvs also made a significant change last week:  one of its front page web sliders at luvs.com was altered after repeated nudging from our office.  It only took a simple edit to make dads everywhere feel included with its new self-proclaimed slogan:  “The Official Diaper of Experienced luvs7.pngParents.”  The only problem is, there’s other sliders on its landing page that contain other mom-only references, as well as others on its site that need updated, too.

These easy fixes are often at the core of the problem.  So often it’s a matter of a quick edit – many times a mere one word – that would make a noticeable difference.  In today’s ease-of-use content management world, they’re the kind of changes that anyone could make quick and painless within minutes.  While Huggies’ changes seem to be part of a full site-wide revision and overhaul, why wait to make uncomplicated, one-word adjustments?  Those straightforward, obvious fixes should be made right now.  All of this is part of a slow, drawn-out process and it doesn’t need to be this way.  Equality shouldn’t wait.

For now, at least a word of congrats to these diaper makers is in order.  But at the same time, no parent would let a child sit for days with an oopsie in its diaper.  So why should an exclusionary website sit unattended to, just the same?

The race is on to capitalize on the spending power of dads.  Who will win?  Keep up-to-date with this site and also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, where you can be certain we’ll stay on top of it.

If we’re in this together, you’ll have to unblock our Twitter account

Gerber has an unfortunate history of excluding dads in its direct mail pieces, on its website, and in its My program.  But things could be improving – that looks like a man’s hand feeding the baby on its website.

And a recent magazine actually acknowledges that the featured baby is a “him,” a possible future dad that will eventually be disregarded by the very company using his likeness to sell its products.

It’s another piece of a portfolio that’s confusing and erratic.

gerber4

Just look at the front page of Gerber’s website as it stands today.  If you’re a dad and reading the left side of the page, it exclaims, “We’re in this together.”  But glance to the right and you find a site that indicates it’s only “For mom.”

(sigh)

However, to top it off – at least for our staff – Gerber has blocked us from following its company on Twitter.

Now, Twitter blocking certainly has its place in life, but to prevent one entity from communicating with another?  Why?

The words close-minded and censorship come to mind.

Hey Gerber, we’re only trying to help.  Factual proof created by your very own marketing team indicates you have a practice of excluding dads, and that’s wrong.

Dads buy your products.  Dads care for children.  Dads count too.

We’d love to chat, but it’s kind of hard to do that right now.  Drop us a note.

Just some food for thought.