Monday, September 04, 2006

And now, a word about gender equality

Before we shift the discussion to world peace, it’s essential that we right the wrong that’s been visited by the industry upon dads in recent months. During this age of shameless hype, when marketers can pump smoke through all sorts of media to snag attention for their brands, why shouldn’t the old man get a chance to be part of the publicity ploys?

But it’s Mom, Mom, Mom. Look at KFC’s announcement of two weeks ago, about the formation of a kitchen cabinet to counsel executives on the brand’s direction. Promising “a meaningful agenda,” the chicken chain said “the Advisory Board will meet in person bi-annually, hold quarterly conference calls and host monthly dinner meetings to gain information and advise KFC on everything from trends that affect families to new product ideas.” And what type of individuals is it seeking for that essential work? You can have an MBA, a resume listing one blockbuster feat after another, or a wand given to you personally by Harry Potter. But unless you’ve experienced childbirth, you’re not getting on the panel. Dubbed, in typical marketing reserve, the KFC Moms Matter! Advisory Board, it’s the panel of all mothers. KFC says it plans to draw them from all walks of life, starting with your typical author, radio personality, former TV anchor, and family-communications theorist, Julienne Smith.

Of course, cynics might say the panel was formed to shape KFC’s image more than its policies. But, regardless, why shouldn’t Dad get his time in the spotlight, even if it’s the modern-day equivalent of flag-pole sitting? Besides, the 13 members have already been treated to an all-expenses-paid trip to Louisville, Ken., KFC’s hometown.

Then again, it’s not as if Dad’s unaccustomed to this sort of rejection. In May, McDonald’s trumpeted the formation of a new advisory panel of consumers drawn from all over the world. They were selected as founts of advice from all walks of life, and duly celebrated in McDonald’s announcement of the initiative. The one unifying factor: They were all moms. The group is called the Global Moms Panel. Not the Global Parents Advisory Team, or the Childhood Savants Braintrust.

Clearly a pattern is forming here. Maybe it’s because no trust is left in men’s restaurant judgment after the start-up of Hooters.

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