Huggies Starts to Wipe Up their Dad Mess

Posted March 13, 2012 by jimhigley

Huggies new “Dad Test” campaign has set off a heated debate. And for the first time in my personal life, it’s actually been interesting to have my hand in this whole diaper thing.

A couple of weeks ago, after writing about my disappointment with Huggies new “Dad” campaign, I never would have dreamed that I’d be sitting face-to-face with one of the folks behind the campaign, Joey Mooring, Senior Manager – Global Marketing & Brand Communications for Kimberly-Clark, which owns Huggies.

Welcome to the game changing world of social media.

Soiled Diapers 101

My initial reaction to the campaign was simply disappointment to see yet one more depiction of dads as bumbling idiots. That’s all. This wasn’t about world peace. Disease. Or other critically important issues. My negative reaction didn’t place the blame of the greater social perception of dads at the doorstep of Huggies corporate offices either. I was just disappointed. I expected more. I’ve seen more – from other brands. And I just felt, personally, that Huggies missed the mark.

So I wrote about it. As did a number of other dads. And moms. Then the Washington Post. Then Ad Age. And numerous others, I’m sure. Oh yeah, and I started a national petition. And mine wasn’t the only one.

Customers Speak

If you were to look at Huggies Facebook page in those first few days, you’d see a firestorm of comments from moms and dads on the topic. I never took a tally, but my sense was that the “I-think-these-ads-suck” sentiment tipped the scale. But there were plenty of other people who felt that everyone was overreacting. Some of the conversations were civil. Some weren’t.

What was really surprising was the lack of commentary from Huggies on their Facebook page. It surprised and disappointed me that they just sat idle.

Huggies Speaks

Huggies eventually broke their silence last Thursday, however, with the following Facebook comment:

“Hi, I’m Erik and I am responsible for the Huggies advertising you are seeing. We have read your feedback on our Dad commercials and, as a father of three young children, I recognize that we need to do a better job communicating the campaign’s message. Our singular goal with this campaign was to demonstrate the performance of our products in real life situations because we know real life is what matters most to Moms and Dads. A fact of real life is that dads care for their kids just as much as moms do and in some cases are the only caregivers. We intended to break out of stereotypes by showing that Dads have an opinion on product performance just as much as moms do. That said, we’re learning and listening, and, because of your response, are making changes to ensure that the true spirit of the campaign comes through in the strongest way possible. For instance, we have already replaced our initial TV ad with a new one that more clearly communicates our true intent; and are in the process of revising the wording of our online communications. We appreciate the honest feedback and look forward to the continued discussion on the brand.”

Ironically, when I first read that comment (which, by the way, received over 130 “likes” and over 100 comments) I had just arrived at the inaugural Dad 2.0 Summit – a gathering meant to elevate communication between dad bloggers and brands – in Austin, Texas. A few of us had noticed Erik’s comment and were discussing our optimism for getting the attention of some of the folks behind the diaper debacle and hoped they, in fact, would continue to listen and react.

Within 24 hours, we got our wish. Huggies took advantage of the Dad 2.0 Summit gathering and sent a few of their top personnel to Austin to have one-on-one chats with anyone who cared to share.

And that’s what brought me face-to-face with Joey Mooring and his associate, Aric Melzl – Brand Director for Huggies.

Huggies Listens

I give these guys credit. A lot of it. Sure, they tried to make sure all of the dads present understood that they, in no way, meant for the campaign to portray dads in a negative way. But we all understood that going in. The most important thing Joey and Aric did, however, was listen. And I’m quite sure they walked away with a better understanding of the passion and pride many men have with regards to their roles as dads. In fact, a new survey by the National Fatherhood Initiative (a participant at Dad 2.0 Summit) clearly states that a man’s role as a dad is central to their image and self-worth.

We’re not looking to be canonized. We’re not looking to be put on a pedestal. We’re all in favor of humor – parenting is a pretty funny experience most days. What we are looking for is reality. We’re looking for brands to not rely on old stereotypes when depicting us. And that goes for how they depict women, too. Moms and dads have gotten pretty comfortable in their own skin.

And we appreciate it when brands and society reflect that.

Beyond the Huggies Hugs

Joey and Aric have committed that there will be changes in the campaign and apparently, some of those changes have already taken place. I haven’t seen anything, yet. But that’s okay. Candidly, I’m less worried about the details (or the bottom-line reality that women are still the number one focus for Huggies and that dads are minutia when they look at market segment).

That’s fine. We’re talking. We’re all listening. And as any parent knows, that’s a great start.