New parents are fresh targets for marketing and advertising techniques that only add more noise to an already stressful time. The worst of these attempt to cultivate fears about your child’s health and development. Then there’s the arm around the shoulder, we’re one of you, trust us, type marketing. This variety often focuses heavily on mothers, in the brand name itself or in advertising that uses phrases like ‘1st choice for Moms’. It’s unnecessary, excluding, draws assumptions on who is making purchasing decisions, and is just a bit bullshit.
At least that’s what I’m thinking while I put a Mum 2 Mum bib on my toddler before loading him into a Mother’s Choice stroller and handing him a Baby Mum Mum cracker. I’ll fill up his mOmma BPA-free water bottle and make note to buy some more Mother’s Corn biodegradable plates.
What’s strange is how my simple dad brain can make sense of these intensely mom-specific products? How do they not break apart in my large coarse hands? Maybe because all these items aren’t actually designed for moms — they’re made for kids.
Mountain Buggy, now that’s a brand name. A name that says it’s a rugged buggy ready to go anywhere — even a freaking mountain. The smart heads at Mountain Buggy know that. But let’s imagine on brand naming day, they weren’t so slick and instead named their new stroller range ‘Dad’s Bad-Ass Buggy’. Many of them around the meeting room table were men, and some were dads so they know their stuff, right? They might even include a killer tag line “made by bad-ass dads for bad-ass dads”. Done.
Later at a moms coffee group, conversation turns to strollers:
Mom 1: “Yes we’ve got a Dad’s Bad-Ass Buggy, it’s made by real dads for dads, so you know it’s quality.”
Mom 2: “Same here, and now that I’m pregnant again we’re getting a Dad’s Double Badder-Ass Buggy.”
Mom 1: “OMG!!! You’re pregnant!!! Let’s all have some bubbles… oh, except you. And shouldn’t you take it easy on the coffee?”
Would it really go down like that? Of course not, it’s Mom 2’s second pregnancy, she’d smash down that glass of bubbles. And the rest of the conversation wouldn’t happen either. Moms don’t roll like that. Yet dads just accept mum-centric branding, or at most a “whadda you gonna do?”
I knew what I was going to do. I was going full grumpy old man on this situation and writing a letter. Well an email, sent to business success story Mum 2 Mum.
For the record, I find Mum 2 Mum bibs and toddler wet weather gear to be practical and hardwearing and the brand name is unfortunate because the products are well suited to my fast and loose dadding style. Under different circumstances I think Mum 2 Mum and me could be friends. But I had an email to send, and following suitable pleasantries I shared my thoughts:
I’m writing about your brand name ‘Mum 2 Mum’ as I feel it excludes fathers and the increasing work they do raising children in modern family environments. I understand the sentiment behind the name, and its link to the practicality and thoughtfulness in your products. However, as a stay-at-home dad, every time I see the label I’m reminded of the areas of our society that still view a father’s role as secondary in the day-to-day raising of children. This may not be your company opinion, but through brand names and advertising directed solely at mothers this is subtly and continuously reinforced.
While I think your gear is great, I won’t be purchasing anything with a Mum 2 Mum label again. I think all dads need to push harder for a shift in perception that sees us recognised as having a parenting skill-set on par with mothers. And also take pride in being the first generation of men to do so. To achieve this we can’t continue accepting branding and advertising that either portrays fathers as incompetent characters, or deliberately excludes them.
So how would Mum 2 Mum respond to the 1 Dad protest I had going on? Twenty days later I received a reply from the company and after suitable pleasantries my concerns were addressed:
Mum 2 Mum is the brain child of 2x Mums with 2x children (hence the name) that also have 2x full time dad’s and grandparents in their lives each and every day — we view our products as practical yet functional products that have been produced to simply make lives easier for ALL parents EVERYWHERE… and actually sometimes a parent can be a mom, a dad, a father, a grandparent or even an aunt, a uncle of even a special person like a guardian.
On reading the response I immediately felt guilty. I’d selfishly forgotten that grandparents, aunts, uncles and even special people like guardians had also been excluded from the Mum2Mum brand name.
It was the perception of the brand name I wanted to discuss rather than its origin. But that was interesting too. I couldn’t crack the equation of 2x Moms + 2x children (each) + 1x brainchild = Mum 2 Mum. Perhaps I needed a scientific calculator, but I do words not numbers and that’s how I noticed Mum 2 Mum is a cute palindrome, and who doesn’t dig those. However, like Boyz 2 Men, it’s a name that would work well in the nineties, but in 2019, you’d think twice.
Despite Mum 2 Mum’s kind, yet vague, response I still feel that mom-themed branding isn’t harmonising with the current parenting environment. Is it really that hard to replace the word ‘mom’ with parent? When we’re told that a product is “chosen by 9 out of 10 moms” why not say “9 out of 10 parents”- what’s the difference? I also know that being a full time dad is tough enough on the male ego without having the word ‘mom’ or ‘momma’ all over your gear.
Looking ahead, there’s not only going to be an increase in dads making these purchasing decisions but also an increase in two parent families where neither parent is a mom. Yep, my two dads. Are they really going to be excited by a Mother’s Choice car seat?
Dads don’t have issue with mom blogs, forums, coffee groups and playgroups or any support network between mothers. We recognise the value of these resources during a challenging time for our women. But these companies make tangible products, and not maternity bras either, products designed for children and the parents who use them. By using the word ‘mom’ in branding and advertising it’s both cashing-in on the goodwill of mom communities and also diluting them.
So what’s the answer for companies like Mum 2 Mum? Expensive rebrands that may damage strong marketplace reputations? It’s extreme - but yeah. Rebrand now and make it known why. To be inclusive, to modernize and to drop the assumption that, if you’re selling kids gear, only moms really matter.