Don’t Call Him Mom, or an Imbecile


The hapless, bumbling father is a stock character in product marketing. He makes breakfast for dinner and is incapable of handling, or sometimes even noticing, a soggy diaper. He tries desperately to hide the crumb-strewn, dirt-streaked evidence of his poor parenting before the mother gets home.

This is an image that many fathers who attended the Dad 2.0 Summit — a meeting of so-called daddy bloggers and the marketers who want to reach them — have come to revile. They are proud to be involved in domestic life and do not want to serve as the comic foil to the supercompetent mother.

In the past, consumer-product marketers weren’t all that concerned with what fathers thought — women, after all, make the majority of purchasing decisions for households. But men are catching up: In 2012 men spent an average of $36.26 at the grocery store per trip, compared with $27.49 in 2004, according to data from Nielsen. Companies see an opportunity to reach a new demographic.

The bloggers, for their part, are using their influence to change the way marketers portray them. “The payoff is huge if you get dads right,” says Jim Lin, vice president and digital strategist at Ketchum Public Relations in San Francisco, a blogger at The Busy Dad Blog and a father of two.

To put it another way, while the mom space is crowded with players, the dad space has room for more. So there is big money to be made, both by companies looking at fathers as consumers and by daddy bloggers looking to ride a wave of brand sponsorship just as mommy bloggers have……

…..Last year, the daddy blogosphere erupted when Huggies released a commercialthat showed a group of fathers and their babies, with a voice-over that said, “To prove Huggies diapers and wipes can handle anything, we put them to the toughest test imaginable: Dads, alone with their babies, in one house, for five days.”

The daddy bloggers were led by Chris Routly, 37, a stay-at-home father in Portland, Ore., who blogs at The Daddy Doctrines. He started a petition calling on Huggies, which is owned by the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, to pull the ad.

“The verbiage was implying that dads need the help of a special product to overcome our incompetence,” says Mr. Routly, whose sons are 4 and 2.

The petition on drew 1,300 signatures, but Mr. Routly closed it after a Huggies representative called him to solicit advice about making the company’s marketing more acceptable to fathers.

Huggies replaced the commercial with a spot that had already been shot, with a different voice-over: “To prove Huggies diapers can handle anything, we asked real dads to put them to the test — with their own babies, at naptime, after a very full feeding.” The subtle difference in wording implied that fathers were discerning diaper experts, rather than neglectful idiots….

….To capture that growing market, brands face a challenge: How do they appeal to fathers’ competence without making them look like mothers?

Some daddy bloggers grumbled over a 2011 ad for Procter & Gamble’s Tide detergent that showed a stay-at-home father folding laundry and referred to him as a “dad-mom.” The National At-Home Dad Network, a nonprofit group that had a booth at the summit, puts it this way in its literature: “Dads do not parent like Mom, nor are a replacement for her when she’s not home.”

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