Clorox has become the latest brand to learn that you just don't insult fathers. Or parents. Or your consumers in general.
Within one 24 hour window this week, the company posted, and then removed, an essay titled "6 Mistakes New Dads Make" -- a rambling description of fathers as amusing at best and dangerous at worst. "Like dogs or other house pets, new dads are filled with good intentions but lacking the judgment and fine motor skills to execute well," it read.
The response was fast and absolutely furious. After the essay appeared on the Clorox website, Twitter, Facebook, and all manner of parenting blogs quickly filled with denunciations.
Soon the piece was gone, and, like Huggies before it, the company found itself scrambling, deploying spokespeople to proclaim deep respect for Dads. In this case, Clorox says that the (anonymous, unbylined) piece was written by a father, who had meant it to be funny.
So far Dad bloggers don't seem inclined to forgive and forget. On 8BitDad, Zach Rosenberg points out that this is not the first time Clorox has created ads that include a clueless father. Back in 2011 he says, there was this one, where father and daughter make a huge, juvenile mess and Mom is shown sighing and cleaning up. Last year there was this mixed message, showing fathers at the park with their kids (good image), but more or less ignoring them to talk about cars. And earlier this year there was this, insulting men in general, showing them, Rosenberg writes, as "sloppy, stupid guys who can’t caulk a window, frost a cupcake, wash a dish or urinate in the toilet."
So what's wrong with all of this? Everything, says Armin Brott, the parenting columnist and author, who is known as "Mr. Dad" on his website of the same name. In a post there yesterday, which he has agreed to allow us to republish here today, he analyzes the business argument against treating fathers like idiots.
7 Colossal Mistakes Clorox Made By Publishing That Article
They’re alienating potential consumers. With $5.5 billion in annual sales, you’d think that Clorox would have noticed that men –- especially dads -– are accounting for a growing share of household purchases. That’s true in traditional households (whatever that means), but it’s doubly true in households where at-home dads are making the majority of day-to-day purchasing decisions, and in single-dad-headed households–a fast-growing demographic–where dads are making 100 percent of the purchases. Even if Clorox used the ridiculously outdated statistic that women account for 80 percent of purchasing, that still leaves 20 percent -- a whopping $1.1 billion worth of Clorox products that men are buying. $1.1 billion that Clorox is apparently willing to walk away from. I’m sure Clorox shareholders aren’t going to be too happy that the company just played Russian Roulette with a fifth of its annual sales. And lost.
They’re alienating existing customers. I’ve done a lot of research and writing about the portrayals of fathers in the media. And a number of advertising execs told me that they ridiculed dads because women don’t like to be ridiculed and would never stand for it. There’s another factor at work here, too. Fatherhood is a women’s issue. Moms want their partners to be more involved and they want to see images of involved men. Women, probably more than any other group, understand the power of media messages and advertising to shape our consciousness. Many countries have banned ultra-thin models because there’s a direct connection between images of the “ideal” woman and eating disorders. the words “mailmen” and “policemen” have been replaced by “mail carriers.” We talk about “the men and women of the armed forces,” despite the fact that women account for less than 20 percent of military. We do all this because we want our daughters to grow up knowing they can be and do anything that boys can. Bottom line, women are going to be pretty ticked that Clorox is telling everyone that dads are useless and stupid. Useless, stupid dads aren’t involved dads. And women want involved dads.
They’re falling back on old, old, old (and never accurate) stereotypes about men. According to Clorox, we’re too dumb to take their babies in from the rain. We’re so out of touch with life that we can’t tell whether our children’s clothes fit. We’re so blind that we won’t notice “the caked-on layer of dried yellowish crust (applesauce? sweet potato? Play-Doh?) surrounding Baby’s mouth and spattered baby food onto her bib.” And we’re so irresponsible that we’ll pop open a cold one, plop the baby down to eat dinner off the floor, and watch endless hours of inappropriate TV. (We’re also apparently so illiterate that we’d never think to “embrace parental sacrifice and crack open a book”).
They’re incredibly sexist. Imagine an article on a major financial services company’s website that spent a few hundred words talking about how girls aren’t good at math, how women can’t park cars or balance their checkbooks, that diamonds are a girl’s best friend and how all they want in life is to marry a rich guy, and how life was so much better when females were in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant.
They don’t understand irony. The idiot who wrote that article -- and the team of even bigger idiots who signed off on it -- clearly understand the power of media messages: Dads, they say, “have been inspired by raunchy comedies to bring babies to inappropriate places like casinos, pool halls, and poetry readings. None of these places are healthy for baby.” Okay, let’s assume that’s true. Wouldn’t it follow that those same dads might be so disturbed by how they’re being portrayed on the company’s website that they’d never want to buy a Clorox product again? Hmm.
They assume that all dads behave the same way and that all readers of their web content will find humor where there really isn’t any. It doesn’t take a marketing genius to tell you that treating a group as large as fathers or mothers or men or women as a single demographic is incredibly naive–and incredibly bad for the bottom line.
They underestimated how offended people would be. And by “people” I mean everyone except employees of Clorox. Thanks for the memories, Clorox, because as of right now, any of your products I might have around the house are going to be exactly that. Tossed out and replaced with the Costco brand.