business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

Score one for the Dads.

While the all-powerful Mommy Bloggers have long dominated the social media scene, America’s fathers flexed their muscles on the internet this month.

The topic? Diapers. More specifically a Huggies “Dad Test” advertising campaign portraying fathers as inept, bumbling stooges. Dads were insulted by the outdated stereotype, and protested through blogs, Facebook, Twitter and an online petition.

Leading the charge was Chris Routly, blogging author of TheDaddyDoctrine and full-time, stay-at-home dad of two sons, age 1 and 3. He launched the petition “We’re Dads, Huggies. Not Dummies” and had 1,000 signatures in no time.

One of the ads in question featured a voiceover saying the Huggies are put “to the toughest test imaginable: Dads, alone with their babies, in one house, for five days."

To which Routly’s petition responded: “How are dads a test? As a dad, am I simply too dumb to use them properly? Why is a dad on diaper duty an appropriate or meaningful test of the product in any way a mom using them is not?”

He was joined by John Taylor of The DaddyYoDude blog, who wrote in an open letter: “How can you insult hundreds of thousands of dads, who serve as the primary caregiver, and in some cases THE ONLY caregiver, to their children?” The negative reaction lit up Huggies’ Facebook page and made national headlines.

Credit Huggies and parent company Kimberly-Clark for a quick response. The marketing team reached out to Routly and others, and immediately yanked a TV ad showing a Dad ignoring his baby (and overflowing diaper) for a game on television.

“The intention was not to pick fun at dads, but only feature real dads, with their own babies in real life situations putting our Huggies diapers and baby wipes to the test,” said the diaper giant’s spokesman Joey Mooring. “We have learned that our intended message did not come through and we have made changes.”

New commercials are in the works, and now the Dad on the Facebook page appears proud and confident holding a happy child. Readers are encouraged to nominate “great Dads to put our diapers and wipes to the test.”

Of course, not all the responses to the original campaign were critical. There were many “get a life” or “relax, have a sense of humor” comments – comparable to the debate over the controversial “Got Milk?/Prevent PMS” campaign or Dr Pepper 10’s “No Women Allowed” Facebook page.

I reacted the same way to all three campaigns. Not funny, and not smart to alienate one gender when attempting to appeal to another. This is not male vs. female, but rather marketing common sense.

Two lessons here:

• Swift response to a social media firestorm not only puts out the blaze, but also wins valuable loyalty from consumers such as Chris Routly and the Dads who responded, and presumably, their spouses.

Retailers and marketers need to realize that same socio-economic changes that have realigned shopping and parenting responsibilities present new challenges and opportunities. Forget the Mom buys the groceries, Dad buys the tools/car stereotype. Recent surveys have shown that in 39% to 51% of American households, the man was the primary grocery shopper. While diaper industry research shows that mothers still purchase the majority of diapers, both parents are using the product. The bottom line? Male or female, parents are demanding quality products, and they will use their smartphones to comparison shop and share their opinions on Mom and Dad blogs.

Yes, Dad Blogs. The timing of the diaper debacle was such that the Huggies team rushed to Austin, TX for the first-ever convention of some 200 Dad bloggers, called the Dad 2.0 Summit, to smooth over differences.

Score one for the Dads.

Kate McMahon can be reached via email at .
KC's View:
I agree with Kate completely on this one. One of the things that really used to annoy me when my kids were little was when I’d be alone with them for whatever reason, and someone would say that I was “babysitting.” No, I’d respond, I’m not. I’m just taking care of my kids.