A Mom is Not Just a MomLeave a Comment
Driving to work this morning, I tuned the radio to one of my favorite stations. I was hoping to catch that new Taylor Swift song, but instead my commute was subjected to yet another inane radio game–Battle of the Sexes. Men were asked questions that the station had decided favored female knowledge (whatever that meant). The first was about citronella, because mosquitoes are so gendered.
Twenty minutes later, I pulled into the parking structure, grabbed my phone from the cup-holder and swiped mindlessly through some emails. The first two headlines were The 1-2-3’s of Mom Engagement and The Golden Age of Dadvertising. What was going on?
“Gender-centric advertising for everyday products is commonplace,” reports The Drum, although the marketing trend has recently gotten flack over being unnecessarily pointed or sexist (think his-and-her pens or women eating salads). Yet, there I was, reading about “dad stuff” and the “powerful ‘word of mom’.” My friends and I might have gone as SNL’s ‘Mom Jeans’ for Halloween last year (I was a young Tina Fey), but as The Drum continues, “narrow targeting limits business potential with the possibility of alienating other prospective buyers with the product positioning and advertising.” I might not be a mom, but man, those pants were comfortable. Gender-centric advertising is commonplace, but commonplace is not synonymous with good.
Emma Sexton of She Says, a global creative network for women, agrees. She offers that value-based advertising, which considers a broader hetero culture, is the best option for advertisers. Is a system of “taking gender out, and putting values in,” brands would target individualized values–family, adventure, kindness–that stretch across gender, racial, sexual, etc. divides. And it’s a good start. The California Milk Processor Board has adopted the strategy, launching a new campaign that unites through the values of a California family, along with the emotional connection between humans and milk. In moving away from traditional marketing topics of language or ethnicity, the Board hopes to find customers based upon similarities, not differences.
There’s a problem, though. While targeting values is smart, like gender-based advertisements, the technique has the potential to be based upon outdated stereotypes. Even Sexton herself proposes taking “the best of feminine, and the best of male values.” What is valuable to men and women, who is prescribing these values and how they are being prescribed? A mom may no longer be just a mom, but the values Sexton attributes to her maintain a historical femininity–”utopian, collaborative, connective.” Perhaps this calls into question my own gendering of values, but when assumptions like these are preserved, brands limit their market audience. We’re back to wondering exactly what ‘dad stuff’ is, and just why and where mom’s voice is powerful.
Apple seems to have found a solution. While its newest video for the iPad Air has the ethereal music and breathtaking shots that the tech brand is known for, all accompanied by the charming, and now indelible voice of Robin Williams, the ad is solely about the product’s independent capabilities–art, science, exploration, discovery. Life.
In highlighting the values of product, Apple circumvents the unpredictability of ever-changing human identities and values. The brand also keys in on generational moments, finding product qualities that speak to a time rather than a sex. In this 21st century of ours, no person is one single thing–that’s what makes being a human so special. Our identities as human beings are evolving to become ever more intersectional, nuanced and progressive. Advertisements should constantly be working to reflect that. A mom is not just a mom, nor a dad a dad, and we have more important things to be battling about than our sexes.