Gender equality doesn’t always make good business sense

I’ve recently been debating a friend over the new Carter’s children’s clothing commercials that feature the tagline, “When a child is born, so is a mom.”

She argues on her blog:

I’m more than just a little bit curious. When a child is born, only a mom is born? Only a mom? I turned to my husband and said, “I thought when a child was born, that’s when you became a dad.” He nodded in approval mostly to appease me because he knows tag lines that deprecate fathers (and parents of all kinds) annoy me.  This sort of emotional pandering by just about every company out there exhausts and infuriates me. I’m just getting over the P&G Summer Olympics campaign that basically credited only moms with the success of Olympic athletes.  What about the fathers?  Better yet, why not credit parents in general and not just mothers?

As a father, I recognize the fact that when my daughter was born, I also became a father, but the Carter’s commercial is merely an attempt by a corporation to maximize their ad revenue.

As I explained to my friend, more than 95% of Carter’s purchases are made by women, so their new ad campaign targets mothers for good reason. They are appealing to their primary consumer. If I were a stockholder in Carter’s, I would be pleased with this targeting of ad revenue.

My friend has argued that perhaps Carter’s should also be interested in expanding its customer base, but here is where I disagree with her completely. If Carter’s somehow managed to create an ad that convinced fathers that they should play a larger role in the purchasing of children’s clothing, revenues for the company would not increase. Only the face of the customer would change. It’s not as if parents would suddenly require more children’s clothing, nor would they be willing to expand their clothing budgets to accommodate Dad’s newfound love for purchasing rompers. Fathers would simply begin spending a larger portion of the clothing budget, yielding no additional sales for Carter’s.

In fact, one might argue that forcing this shift from female dominated purchasing to a more equitable model might decrease sales, as I know many fathers who would be willing to put their infant in a simple onesie and call it a day. While I don’t have any data to support this assertion, I’m fairly certain that if given the choice, Carter’s would prefer that mothers do the majority of the shopping, as they are more likely to spend more on their children's clothing.

Not to mention the impact that a shift in purchasing would have on mothers. While many mothers might assert that they would be perfectly willing to trust the clothing shopping to their husbands, I do not believe this for a second. Women enjoy shopping for their children’s clothing. It’s a right of passage for mothers. As children, women spent years dressing dolls in an endless array of outfits, preparing for the day when this fantasy might become a reality. For the vast majority of mothers in the world, the idea that their husband might take over the purchasing of their children’s clothing, and especially their infant and toddler’s clothing, would horrify them.

Carter’s commercials make sense. They seek to maximize profit, which is what every stockholder wants from its company. Carter’s has no obligation to ensure that fathers feel good about their roles as parents and is not required to portray fathers in an equally glowing light. Their job is to sell clothing by driving customers into their stores, so they created ads that would appeal to the vast majority of their potential consumers. Increasing the number of male consumers in their stores would not yield increased revenue. Instead, they must find ways to bring women into their store who might otherwise shop at Target, Walmart and the like. 

The exclusion of fathers from these commercials may hurt our feelings, but this would only be the case if we cared about such things.

Most of us don’t.

And since fathers rarely purchase children’s clothing, most of us don’t even notice these commercials when they air.

The only people watching Carter’s commercials are the people who Carter’s wants watching them: Moms.