The minute our daughter came into our lives we went shopping. A few days later, we went shopping. A few days after, well you get the idea. According to a 2010 USDA report, the average middle-income family will spend roughly $12,000 on child-related expenses in their baby’s first year of life.
But as a new father and communications graduate – shout-out to Ithaca College! – I suddenly became hyper-aware that I am not the intended audience for most of the products marketed to parents of newborns.
It started first at our pediatrician’s office during her first appointment. While the office has been more than accommodating with us, the fumbling new fathers, and adore our child, we were handed a small purple “welcome” kit courtesy of Gerber with a few newborn diapers and ... a nursing cover? We’re not the sensitive types, so I shrugged it off and for a while kept it as a fun souvenir.
Initially we had been buying Similac formula, which seemed to be what all newborns receive if they’re not being breastfed in the hospital. Similac’s website prominently encourages you to register for "Similac Moms," a program where you can enroll to “Receive nutrition guidance and feeding help for every week of your pregnancy all the way through your baby’s first year.”
Beg your pardon? I wasn’t pregnant, but I’m caring for a newborn and making purchasing decisions jointly with my husband, who also was not pregnant.
Due to an allergic reaction after two months, we had to switch to Enfamil formula. Since we’d end up spending a small fortune as new parents (not to mention the post-adoption related costs), we signed up for "Enfamil Beginnings" to receive special offers.
As part of the enrollment Enfamil asks the following:
“Please tell us about yourself:
- I'm expecting (not us)
- I'm a new mom (also not us)
- I'm a toddler mom” (still not us)
Again, I signed up anyway, begrudgingly choosing “I’m a new mom.” But after several weeks, I hadn’t received anything and decided to call them. I spoke to a nice customer service agent who listened to my complaint that not only had I not received anything in weeks, but that I wasn’t any of the types of moms they were looking for. A few days later, coupons and a free sample arrived. This was followed by yet another unnecessary welcome kit including breast feeding supplement powder. Seriously.
It’s not just formula companies that are neglecting to be inclusive.
One of the things we found ourselves getting used to as new dads was our sudden inability to just leave the house on a whim, so we signed up for Amazon Prime. If we couldn’t go out and get something, the world’s largest online marketplace was going to deliver it to us! As a benefit to Prime members Amazon offers a subscription service called – what else? – Amazon Mom! Here you can sign up for diapers, formula, and other baby items to be delivered to your house monthly at a substantial savings.
I don’t know whether it was the sleep deprivation or if I was finally fed up, but I decided to write customer service to suggest that they rebrand the service "Amazon Parent." I received a response shortly thereafter notifying me that my comments would be shared with the appropriate team.
According to Census data, there are an estimated 85.4 million mothers of all ages in the United States who control approximately $2.1 trillion dollars of spending per year or 85% of household income, and retailers clearly speak to this demographic, but (paraphrasing Sondheim) “Where are the dads? Please, send in the dads!”
My husband and I share our purchasing decisions, but we seem to be surrounded by retailers who do not speak to us as new parents or consumers. It’s not just that we’re gay dads. Retailers like Amazon, Enfamil, and The Honest Company (see "Honest Mom") are completely ignoring a whole market of men who make purchases for their children: gay, straight, single or married!
With all the data companies collect about us, isn’t it time their messages and advertising include us as well?
Excuse me, I have to go shopping. We’re out of diapers.
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