In his regular column for insideMAN, UK daddy blogger, John Adams, explains how big brands ignore dads—and why it matters.
I’ve been blogging about parenthood and fathers’ issues for almost two years now. In that time I can honestly say I have seen increased recognition of the contribution fathers make as parents from retailers and manufacturers of parenting products.
I am, however, staggered at how wrong some organisations still get things. There’s a common bug bear you’ll hear from my dad blogging chums. It’s the arrival of a media release promoting an amazing, gender-neutral product that omits fathers altogether or addresses it solely to women. Interestingly, I find it’s often the bigger, more established brands that are guilty of this behaviour.
It really isn’t that uncommon to walk into a store specialising in parenting and childhood products and find all sorts of gender neutral toys on the shelves. You know the type of thing; building blocks for girls and boys, toys that are in red of purple instead of pink and blue. Look around the store, however, and you’ll see every publicity photo features images of mums and children without a dad anywhere.
I won’t name it, but one of the UK’s biggest retailers in this sector makes an amazing claim on its corporate website. According to its own bumph, it exists to provide; “products and services for mothers, mothers-to-be, babies and young children.” An odd statement for a store selling prams, car seats, changing mats, potties, baby baths and all manner of gender neutral items.
Not all brands are bad with dads
Before I go on, let me just say some brands excel at engaging with dads and including fathers in their marketing. I want to make that point because some brands do, in fact, get the importance and relevance of fathers.
That said, a classic example of poor practice arrived in my inbox the other day. It was from a media release from a major, internationally recognised brand seeking to promote a new range of baby skincare products. The marketing bumph made no mention of fathers whatsoever and inferred that only mums deal with such issues.
When my first daughter was born, she developed a dry skin issue. I was the one to ask the health visitor what we should do about her skin, not my wife. My wife was completely committed to our child and would probably have dealt with it, but I felt this was my responsibility. After all, my other half was either attempting to breastfeed or hobbling round the house recovering from the physical trauma of a difficult birth. She wasn’t really in a state to walk to the local pharmacy so she could buy medication.
Defying gender stereotypes
I exaggerate slightly. The health visitor advised us to use olive oil and it worked perfectly. Just bear that in mind next time your new born develops dry skin. You don’t need to buy the latest product from a sexist, global pharmaceutical giant. If, however, my daughter had needed a more specialist treatment, well, it would have been me that ventured out the house to get it.
I quite often write about this kind of casual sexism towards fathers. Despite this, I can’t deny that, as part of a married couple, I am supported.
I am fortunate enough to be married to an amazing woman. I’m not the only one defying gender stereotypes in this relationship. My wife tells me she often gets strange looks and is made to feel like she’s letting her family down because, as a woman, she hasn’t sacrificed a career and continues to work full time.
Even though I’m a rarity for being male and fulfilling the main childcare and household management roles, I am not in any other kind of minority. When I speak up about the sexism I encounter as a dad that holds the babies, I’m often not thinking of myself. As I say, I have the support to deal with these situations.
Not all dads are straight and married
I’m usually thinking of the gay, adoptive dads, the widowers, the divorcee dads or dads that are non-resident for some reason. I have the greatest respect for all of these men (as I do single mothers regardless of their situation and sexuality).
I’m not saying these men require sympathy or special treatment, but they seem to be completely invisible to the big parenting brands. Even those brands that do engage with us dads tend to automatically assume we’re part of a happy, heterosexual couple. Widowers and divorcees generally don’t have that luxury.
As for gay couples, I’m staggered at how little attention parenting brands seem to pay to this demographic, especially since gay marriage was legalised. I recall once being in a room full of marketeers discussing the latest parenting trends and how to market products to mums and dads. I mentioned gay parents and there was shuffling of feet, downward glances and utter silence. The concept was clearly foreign to them.
When retailers and manufacturers pretend I don’t exist, I get annoyed. When I think of these other guys, I think the continued, mum-focused marketing of parenting products is nothing but offensive.
If you enjoyed this article, then find out what advertising expert, Tim Downs, has to say to big brands about advertising to fathers.
More about the author:
John Adams is a married stay at home dad with two young daughters. He was previously a journalist and PR / communications professional but gave this up in 2010 to be a homemaker and look after the children.
In 2012 he launched a parenting blog focused on his experiences as a “man that holds the babies” called Dadbloguk.com and he now writes for a variety of different publications in addition to his own blog.
Also on insideMAN:
- Why it’s time for advertisers to go father
- Early Learning Centre apologises for sexist tweet ridiculing dads
- How I became one of the UK’s top daddy bloggers
- Why you must never treat a man with a pram like a lady
- I wonder if my dad knew how much I loved him
- Finally a British advert to make us proud of dads, if you’ve got a heart you’ll love this
- Are you a masculine or feminine father and which one is best?