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Huggies: What A Social Diaper Mess


The 40% to 60% male-female split in social buzz for Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies® over the last 12 months is testimony to the number of men involved in parenting—and sharing their experience via social networks. 

The  NetBase chart below shows paternal emotional attachment to Huggies runs relatively high, as does net sentiment—with strong positive social emotions more than 3 to 1 in favor of the brand, giving it a strong passion intensity.  


Social research alone should suffice in delivering to brand marketers a clear message not to trample on male (or female) sensibilities when it comes to dads and diapers.   But trample they did.  In Huggies’ recent Dad’s Test ad, fathers are  portrayed as males who’d rather watch TV sports than change their baby’s diapers.  So it’s no surprise America’s dads are angry. 

As the chart below shows, the brand’s passion intensity registered a notable drop among males and females over the past two weeks, owing to the objectionable ad spot.


According to NetBase social analytics of 23K sound bites, the resulting toll in male social net sentiment was a plunge from 74 in March last year to 42 March of this year.   Along with falling male sentiment, when the Huggies ad launched the week of March 12, it immediately sparked Facebook ire and a petition campaign before it was pulled and replaced.



The brand took swift corrective measures, but it hasn’t totally cleaned up this diaper debacle.  The Huggies mess has sparked another kind of movement among child-rearing fathers, questioning the history of diaper marketing that has, for years, depicted fathers as incompetent and inattentive.  As this post suggests, Huggies not only has an opportunity to reverse this historical marketing trend, but also gain advantage in the diaper wars:

Huggies has a great opportunity to really separate itself from the pack by capitalizing on the mistake it made and the subsequent steps they have taken to fix it. Huggies is smack in the middle of the radar screen of the dad community right now, so if they do things right, they can really establish themselves as a brand that cares about and responds to fathers.

Diaper sales have been falling—4% for Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies and 2.5% for Procter & Gamble’s Pampers last August—and today there is little room for marketing blunders.   But Huggies is not alone in taking the heat.  Abroad, in the controversy over Proctor & Gamble’s sponsorship of NTV programming that demeans the political opposition, the Russians have been calling for a P&G product boycott, including a call for parents not to purchase its Pampers brand.

So as parents continue to tighten their financial belts and their diaper love falls, it would be interesting to see what the big brands do with terabytes of social data:  There are visceral insights to be revealed in the 3 million diaper posts I just pulled.

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