Monday, March 12, 2012

Hey #Dads, @Huggies Is Listening

I am proud to announce that Huggies heard us loud and clear.  They know they messed up.  They used their own wipes to get the egg off of their faces, and they admitted that they needed to improve their current campaign and figure out how to speak to dads in a more constructive way going forward.  I was privileged enough to be included in their conversation, and I would like to share the results with you.

On Saturday morning, I had a chance to talk with several people involved with the Huggies "Dads: The Ultimate Test" campaign.  They called me from Austin, TX where they were attending the Dads 2.0 Summit.  The representatives were sent to specifically talk to dads about the campaign and inform them of the changes being made as a result of the kerfuffle.


1. According to the people that I spoke with, and this was confirmed by Chris Routly at DaddyDoctrines, the ad spot "Big Game" with the fathers watching football has been pulled.  It is being replaced by a different spot featuring dads with their napping babies to reflect a more real-life situation where the Huggies product, not the dads, are being tested.  The copy will, hopefully, be different than the current napping baby ad that says dads are the "ultimate test" for Huggies products.

2. The Facebook campaign copy has been changed to wording that places the "test" on the product and not on the dads.  There is also a new incentive offer for those who nominate a dad.


1. They love dads!  Many of the people that worked on this campaign are fathers or mothers (which still makes me wonder why they didn't catch this before it went out) and they are human.  Their idea was to showcase dads with their children in real-life situations.  They never intended to portray dads as a lesser parent.  The words that were chosen for the campaign did not convey the intended message.  As the gentleman I spoke with very candidly put it, "Why would we want to piss off a third of our customers?"  Well said, sir.
2. The fathers in these commercials are not actors.  They are real dads with real jobs, and they are being filmed with their actual children.  This is a good thing to know.  I would prefer that a company be honest when they are using actors versus non-actors to portray real-life situations.

3. They are listening.  One thing Huggies got right throughout this entire process, is that they did not censor one negative comment on their Facebook wall.  They used it as a tool to gauge what their customers were thinking (which is exactly how it should be used!).  In fact, they read all of the comments, and that is one of the reasons I was contacted as I had been very vocal.  Keep this up, Huggies, otherwise Facebook is just another selling tool.  I am glad that they see the value of that channel and are using it properly.


1. The Huggies people said that, going forward, there will be a new spot on TV featuring the napping babies (a real-life situation) where the Huggies product is being put to the test, not the fathers.  This will take some time to distribute, so we will still see a few of the old commercials in the meantime.  But I was assured that they will be gone as soon as possible.  It should be available on Facebook first, and then you will see it in rotation on TV.  Also, there will be a new spot called "Spaghetti Night" where Huggies wipes (again, the product, not the dads) will be put to the test.

2. There will also be an ongoing round table discussion between parents and Huggies.  I have been invited to participate in this discussion as well, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue the dialogue.

3.  I also suggested other improvements that the brand could make to involve dads to a greater extent.  For example, their website has no pictures of dads (other than the "test" campaign).  Also, their parenting advice section for each age group has nothing that speaks directly to fathers.  I suggested starting with a link for the "First Time Dad" under the "Pregnancy" tab.  How great would it be for their brand if they were creating a relationship with mom and dad before the baby has even arrived?  Talk about building brand loyalty.  I wish some other sites would take notice.  I also suggested that they broaden their voice in their social media campaigns.  Nearly every Facebook post and Twitter message begins with, "Hey Moms!"  Unfortunately, this only reaches two-thirds of the people involved in the direct care of children in diapers.  It would be better for them if they spoke to all of us.  Finally, I did ask them if they would sponsor the National At-Home Dad Convention this year as a measure of good faith toward the at-home dad community.  We are very forgiving when there is free product involved, right guys?  

So, what can other brands learn from this brouhaha?

1. Don't tick off your target market.
2. Make sure you are listening to your customers so that you know when they are ticked off.
3. If you tick off your target market, apologize first, then fix it.
4. Whatever you do, keep the lines of communication open.  Don't try to censor or cover it up. People (and technology) are too advanced for that sort of strategy.  Social media is a conversation tool, not a loudspeaker for your brand.
5. They reason you ticked off your target market may mean that you need to update your corporate culture.  Do not be afraid to examine this possibility.  If you're strategies are built on old stereotypes, it may be time to update.


  1. Did you read this story?

    Not really, Melzl said. Huggies is reponding to unhappy men, because those men have the ear of women. "All of this," the initial campaign, the full-on response, is targeted at moms," he said. "I don't want there to be any question about who we we're going after."

    1. Of course I don't expect them to stop targeting two-thirds of their audience just to include us. That is an unrealistic expectation. However, I would like to see them progress to the point that their ads speak more to "parents" than just to mom. At least for now, we can assume that they will be trying very hard to feature dads positively. Thanks for bringing that to my attention though.

  2. First, about the comment above-- I don't think it's my role as a consumer to dictate to a company who their target audience should be. More women buy diapers? Then target women. Just don't make fun of dads while you sell diapers to women.

    The second point is more in general about Huggies. Yes, they made an error in judgment, and they've fixed it due to the backlash from dads (and yes, maybe even more due to the backlash coming from the moms who love dads), but I want that rage to continue. Why can Amazon relegate dads to second-tier caregivers with their Amazon Mom program, and not face any public criticism? Why can parenting magazines ignore dads entirely without moms protesting?

    I didn't go to Dad 2.0, but I hope the conversation didn't start and end with Huggies.

    1. I don't think you have to worry about the conversation stopping here. Someone else will mess up, and when they do, we're watching. As it is for anyone trying to change generations of stereotypes, it takes time. We may not see the full fruit of our labor in our generation, but hopefully, our children get to see it. Thanks for joining in.

    2. Yeah, I've written Amazon several times about that. Why not just call it Amazon Family? BOOM! Done! Not hard! Instead I get the form letter non-response.

    3. My biggie is Parenting magazine, which is why I included it in the post. has no DAD tab. How hard could that be? I guess they would have to start creating dad-related content.

  3. Congratulations on getting your voice, as well as countless other fathers that were made aware of this, heard by Huggies. After all isn't that the point of being able reach out to the planet with mere words?

    Following up so that those of us who may have missed the "Rest of the Story" also let me know that while a bright light was shined upon the negative that same scrutiny can be turned to show the positive.

    It is not so much to ask, especially for new fathers such as myself, that we be shown as being parents. We all make mistakes and correct ourselves along the way. Why should a manufacturer be any different.

    Thanks for the update.

    1. Thanks Mark! I plan to keep you informed of my continued efforts with Huggies, and I hope that they follow through with this plan.

  4. I totally agree that we cannot dictate to a company who there audience should be. And Huggies, if they chose, had every right to keep running their original commercials. They had every right to ignore what people were saying.

    BloggerFather, My point is that after you just went through that kerfuffle why you would make a point that you only care about moms. If you look at the Huggies Facebook page almost all their post begin with something like, Hey Moms. Now if you look at the Pampers Facebook page they avoid doing that.

    I am not saying that Huggies must appeal to dads. I am just saying that as long as they are saying, we are only trying to appeal to moms, they may likely have a similar issue in the future.

    Huggies is free to do whatever they want.

    1. Chad, it sounds like something that, as an executive, you say for the shareholders. In other words, they're not going to start ignoring the largest segment of their target market just because there is an unhappy one-third.

      I did make those suggestions, and I included the one you brought up about "Hey Moms", so that hopefully, something changes for the long term. I could tell from the way that they spoke that this was more of a PR fix than a total embrace of dads as part of their corporate culture (although they'd want us to believe that). But these are baby steps to real change. When you look at other companies that really embrace dads, it rings true in their marketing, packaging, and charitable giving. Until we see that kind of evidence from Huggies, I would still consider them "on notice" as Stephen Colbert likes to say.

  5. Matt, changes like this don't happen overnight. And it is totally up to Huggies if they want to change. That is up to them.

    But if it is true that dads influence in purchasing is rising the Huggies has a real possibility of missing the boat again. Time will tell.

  6. It is OH-SO-COOL that we dads are finally being heard!

  7. Matt - This was an interesting post. I hadn't seen the offending Huggies campaign, but obviously it went for the cheap 'dad stereotype'. Thanks for calling them on it.

    I wonder, though, what it will take for companies to consciously reflect a more positive dad experience in advertising. We can't really expect them to take a stand on society's issues; ads that don't reflect the norm are generally less effective. At the same time, by virtue being mass advertising, they are affirming behaviours and reinforcing the norms. It's a bit of a catch-22. The question any company wants to know: would enough people actively support products and companies that reflect positive, modern fatherhood?



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