Long story short: Philips knows for a fact that fathers don’t care about their babies. Also, Philips has money. Lots. You don’t. Checkmate.

Philips also doesn’t believe in fathers as parents. The story starts with a dude named Oren Miller. You might know him from his site, A Blogger and a Father. Oren was poking around the internet one day looking for hair clippers for kids, and unearthed Philips’ ugly opinion of dads. And being that us fathers have to stand together to defeat exclusion, Oren and I came together like Voltron to defeat Philips. It worked!

(It mostly didn’t work.)

Philips, a Lumbering Giant

Netherlands-based Koninklijke Philips Electronics makes tons and tons of stuff; they’re the largest producer of lighting in the world, they had a hand in the development and launch of the CD, DVD and Blu-ray, and makes (among other things) ultrasound equipment, TVs, coffee makers, baby monitors, baby bottles, and personal grooming supplies like hair clippers and shavers. Oh, and 8Bitrs like us also know Philips had a weird relationship with Nintendo that let Philips to create the CD-i, a gaming system that put out two of the worst Legend of Zelda franchise games ever.

They even, according to their Yahoo Finance profile, do things in the fields of nuclear medicine and magnetic resonance. I don’t even know what that is, but it sounds like things Dr. Charles Xavier does for fun.

Let’s get one thing clear: Philips is giant, multinational and has a ton of money. But they’re not untouchable.

The Ballad of Oren Miller

Miller was, as mentioned, looking for hair clippers one day. He came across this product:

Philips’ original product page. Screenshot by Oren Miller.

Miller was confused. Was this set of clippers vagina-powered? Were sales restricted to mothers verified by identification card and medical records? Oren Miller then did what any father would do in that situation. He had a sex change.

Kidding. Miller looked for a customer service e-mail. Since he couldn’t find one, he decided to engage in a live chat with a Philips representative. Unfortunately for me, the Philips rep was named Zach and unfortunately for Miller, Philips-Zach was uninformed. Miller asked why the clippers were specifically for moms. Philips-Zach suggested that it’s because “moms are very close to the kids and they care of the child in the early childhood.” Miller was then promised a call from Philips, which he never got.

You can read all of Miller’s first post on his site here. But read that later, dude, we’re not done here.

8BitDad Cranks It Up to 11

I read Miller’s blog entry about Philips. I then went to Philips’ website and saw that many places that Philips mentioned parenting accessories, they spoke only to mothers (some linked below). Immediately, I knew it was clobberin’ time. I used Google magic to figure out a couple people to e-mail about the issue. I sent the following e-mail:

My name is Zach Rosenberg, and I co-founded 8BitDad.com. We are a site for fatherhood news, and I came across a story that I’d like to cover, but wanted to do my best to cover it fairly.

Recently, I had read a piece by a father-blogger named Oren about his experience with Philips. He found your kid’s hair clippers, and was curious as to why the product was “designed for moms.” He couldn’t find a social media button to engage with Philips over Twitter, and could not find a customer service e-mail address. So, he engaged with a Live Chat agent, and asked why the hair clippers were specifically for mothers – rather than for “parents.” The agent was stumped, and Oren was told he’d be contacted by phone, e-mail or mail with a better response.

Oren was never contacted by Philips Norelco.

You can see Oren’s article here: http://www.bloggerfather.com/2012/01/philips-norelco-parenting-is-no-place.html

As a father, I am frustrated, like Oren, that baby and child products are marketed directly to mothers. I took a look at other products on the Philips site, and had found similar marketing and wording in all products relating to kids and babies. Here’s two others that came up:

Philips Avent bottles – “more choices for mothers

Philips Avent Monitors – “more ways to connect” section with tips for mothers.

As Oren mentioned in his article, we fathers applaud Philips Norelco for supporting the “Movember” charity efforts on sites like How To Be A Dad. However, men and fathers aren’t just about their own grooming and care – and right now more than ever, fathers are fighting to be seen as meaningful and equal parents. I can’t help but feel that in putting out an image like Philips does on their site, where the wording is only supportive to mothers, you are helping to support the image that fathers are not an important part of the family unit.

Please let me know if you have anything to say on this matter, or if you would like to work with me and other fatherhood community writers to revise your website and marketing materials. This is an important issue, and as you can see from Oren’s story – inaction on the part of Philips is quickly losing him as a customer.

And as I mentioned, please let me know if there is another person I should have sent this e-mail to.

Thank you.

I ended up sending this e-mail to eight members of Philips’ PR and Marketing team, and like Miller, heard back from exactly zero of them. I even tweeted to Philips’ public relations account, @PhilipsPR, and didn’t hear back.

BTW, here are a couple of the corroborating screens, in case Philips does ever change the wordage or change the links I e-mailed:

What would you say fathers deserve?

You know, because dads never use bottles to feed their kids. If, and that’s a big “if”, mom allows us to feed our own children, we do it by spooning powdered formula directly into our babies’ mouths.

And afterward, tea and tele.

Miller and I agree that this, #10 on a list of ways new mothers can connect with their babies, is the best one. Mothers are encouraged to take some me-time, which is totally universally-advisable for all new moms. But Philips advises these mothers to call a friend to come watch their baby while they do gardening. Philips actually suggests that mothers call a friend before the baby’s father. What does Philips think the dad is doing while the mother is at the end of her rope? Sitting in his armchair wearing his My Zone Headphones and tuning out his family? And as Miller mentioned on his site, this was obviously written for Brits because we don’t use the word “mum” here. Other tips on their list had more England-exclusive spelling like “favourite.”

Philips Responds

After no luck hearing back from the eight Philips PR/Marketing people, I finally got a tweet back from @PhilipsPR asking me to e-mail my issue to corporate.communications@philips.com – and as an added bonus, you now know who to e-mail if you ever have a problem at Philips.

So, I did. But while I was re-verifying all the damning links I had against Philips, I noticed something:

Marty! The photo’s changed!

It seemed like Oren Miller and I struck a nerve. What’s funny is that instead of Philips contacting Miller and I about the issue, they just changed this one description and went about their day. In any event, I then received this e-mail from a Philips Corporate Communications Senior Press Officer named Elena:

Hi Zach,

Thanks for following my tweet yesterday and for sending your e-mail to our corpscomm inbox.

I apologize if you got the impression that we were not listening to you.

You have raised a very good point and I thank you for this ! Fathers are a crucial part of the family, they play an exactly equally important role as mothers do.

I will escalate your input to my Consumer Lifestyle colleagues, as well as Philips Brand and marketing colleagues.

You are right, there are still much to do. I am sure that your input will be taken in the right consideration.

We will work at our best to meet yours and our customers’ expectations.

Best Regards,

Elena

P.S.

On a personal note, I would be completely lost without my husband taking care of my 6-month baby while I am working, waking up during the nights, feeding her…

I now felt like things were really headed in the right direction. Not only did Philips change their site, but a Senior so-and-so wrote me back and related to the problem. So I waited and waited. Eventually, I followed-up with Elena. Then, I got this e-mail from Shannon Jenest, Director, Philips Consumer Lifestyle Public Relations:

Hi Zach,

Thanks for reaching out to share your honest feedback. With regards to your comments about the Philips Kids Hair Clipper, we fully appreciate that both moms and dads take an active role in parenting and our campaign was not meant to convey otherwise. Our research shows that moms are the primary shoppers and users of hair clippers for kids, so we designed a marketing campaign specifically for that audience. Some of the language that seems more “mom” oriented speaks directly to insights that were uncovered during focus groups, such as the smaller, more ergonomic design that makes the clipper easier to maneuver.

Consumer insights are a huge driver in Philips’ product and marketing innovation. As a result, we are fairly targeted in our communications approach. Again, it’s not meant to be exclusionary, but rather direct and relatable for the person who is most likely researching and seeking information about the product line. If you take a look at the campaigns that we are running for other product categories, I think you will see consistency in this approach.

Thanks again for your feedback and I hope this provides some insight.

Kind regards,

Shannon Jenest
Director, Public Relations
Philips Consumer Lifestyle

Not only did this e-mail blow off the idea that fathers matter, but it retracted behind this weak idea that Philips conducted studies on what people want and what they wanted was for moms to be moms and dads to be absent. I mean, it’s not like Oren Miller and I asked for them to redesign their clippers. We just wanted Philips to admit that fathers are equal parents.

And speaking of Oren Miller, he had also received an e-mail back from Philips at this point. I don’t need to paste it here word-for-word because you already read it. Miller received an almost identical e-mail from Shannon Jenest, which you can read here (scroll down). As soon as I realized it was the same e-mail, I knew it was game over.

So what do we do, dads?

Well, we don’t buy any more Philips grooming or baby products, that’s for sure. Since Philips has their fingers in the pie of so many other things, I can’t say that it’s easy to swear-off Philips completely. Though Miller reminded us in his original post about Philips that they did sponsor some Movember hijinx with dad-sites, it’s not enough – Philips showed their true colors in this exchange with Miller and I.

And if Philips doesn’t believe in fathers as parents, we shouldn’t believe in them. Dads, don’t buy Philips.

Thanks to Oren Miller for fighting with 8BitDad on this one. I’m not sure we won, but I’m convinced that we didn’t lose.