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Jim Joseph Headshot

Male Bashing in Marketing

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I will admit that I may be a bit sensitive about this topic, but I honestly thought that as a society, we had moved past this. There was a time when it was fashionable for a brand to show bumbly, fumbly, dumbly men in their advertising and marketing. I guess it was a way to appeal to their female targets by giving them something they could relate to. I guess.

As a very involved dad -- very involved -- I could never personally relate. When my kids were young, I was the one grocery shopping, changing diapers and taking them to doctor's appointments. For some of that time I was a single dad, but for all of it I made career decisions, and personal decisions, based on my children's lives. So, I always found it insulting to show men as disengaged, absentee husbands and fathers. It just wasn't reality in my world.

I guess in some ways it was working for some brands. But the tide recently started to turn, even for Tide, who now regularly portrays men doing the laundry.

There was a wave of male bashing last year, including an online campaign from Ragu featuring mommy bloggers talking about making the family meals. When asked about dad doing the cooking, the conversation turned to discussing what a fool he is in the kitchen. The daddy bloggers didn't take to it favorably and the public agreed. There are many men in the kitchen, both personally and professionally. Ragu apologized.

Huggies found themselves in similar hot water when they depicted dad as a all thumbs when changing the baby's diaper. Big mistake. Huggies apologized.

Many a brand is now trying to reverse the stereotype by including men in their story lines. Pine Sol did an entire viral video campaign featuring only men trying new household cleaning products. Bravo.

While P&G was the proud sponsor of moms at the Summer Olympics, in reality, there were a lot of dads who spent years supporting and raising their Olympic hopefuls. Since more men are home taking care of the kids then ever before -- according to U.S. census data, 32% of men married to working women do in fact take care of their kids at least one day a week and among those with children under 5 home, 20% of those men are the primary caregiver -- more brands should acknowledge fathers alongside mothers.

We can thank the recent economic downturn for one thing: Men got hit a lot harder and have rebounded a lot slower, keeping them at home and allowing them to more naturally take on household tasks while their female counterparts are at work.

So, I was a bit surprised at the latest digital engagement from Clorox titled, "6 Mistakes New Dads Make." Now, don't go try to find this little piece, because the brand has since taken it down.

I guess they didn't realize that we've moved past this stereotype. Or the humor was just way too subtle and got perceived the wrong way. Either way, it didn't work.

I've always believed that as marketers, we should be both reflective of pop culture and aspirational in our voice. I honestly don't think there are many women around who aspire to have men in their lives who are that disconnected. Quite the contrary: Showing men who are in the moment with their families I would think would be far more motivating. A turn on, really. For the men too. Men are every bit a part of the household as women are. They are cooking, cleaning, shopping and taking care of the kids. It's how our society runs now, just ask us!

So for me, and I believe the rest of the world, I would much rather show men as they really are and give them inspiration to do more. It makes the brand feel so much more connected as a result.