Ragu, Dads, and Lessons Learned for Communicators and Bloggers

Like many, I grew up eating Ragu tomato sauce on my pasta. These days, I don’t buy it because I generally prefer to make my own simple tomato sauces or buy marinara sauces with fewer ingredients (and no added sugar since I don’t like overly sweet sauce).

For these reasons, I hadn’t given the brand much thought lately until I saw a blog post from my friend CC Chapman, provocatively titled “Ragu Hates Dads.” Needless to say, this caught my attention, as it did for many others. So I clicked over and read up on what happened.

You should read CC’s post, but here’s a quick synopsis:

  • Ragu worked with mom bloggers to create a web video with of them talking about what it is like when dad cooks dinner in their homes
  • The @ragusauce Twitter account sent messages to several dads, drawing their attention to the video
  • After sending the @ messages to the dads, @ragusauce went radio silent
  • Since CC does the shopping and cooking in his house, he felt offended by the implied messaging of the video that dads don’t cook and when they do it is a novelty
  • Ragu did not respond to the criticism in a timely fashion (and as of this writing has not responded at all)

CC went on to post a follow-up that offered free advice to Ragu that focused on listening and responding using social media. Again, read the post for yourself for CC’s thoughtful suggestions.

Here’s the problem. Although I often agree with him, CC is off base with much of his criticism here.

Let me explain.

This was Mom Bloggers Offering their Own Views

The video appears to be candid conversations with mom bloggers who were compensated by Ragu for their time and support. When I watched the video it seemed clear to me that they were talking about their own experiences with dad cooking at home. Obviously, Ragu offers an implied endorsement for their comments by distributing it under the Ragu brand, but that’s not the same as using actors to deliver a carefully prepared message. Amateur spokespeople like those bloggers featured in the video can only be coached on what to say so much without it being obviously scripted, and this did not have that feel.

Inflammatory Headlines Like “Ragu Hates Dads” are not Helpful

“Ragu Hates Dads” makes for a good headline, but nothing in this campaign suggests that is remotely true. I have several issues with the headline. I’m all for a catchy headline, but it should honestly reflect the content and blogger’s belief. Many folks will see nothing but the headline and draw an incorrect conclusion. Brands have a responsibility to market online in good faith, but bloggers have a responsibility to do the same even when being critical. Beyond that, I have little patience for the “COMPANY A hates GROUP B” type claims. They are rarely true and they contribute to the fear that many brands still have about engaging in social media.

Heated Rhetoric Discourages Constructive Conversation

Even if you agree that Ragu made a mistake or misstep here, the overheated rhetoric does little to contribute to constructive conversation that helps Ragu and other brands engage more prudently in social media. If CC had led with his follow-up post, it would have been much more helpful. Instead people ended up focusing on “Ragu Hates Dads” and truly unnecessary things like using an expletive implied hashtag and registering a domain name of the same name and linking it to the original post.

Strong Anti-Brand Sentiment Makes it Harder for Companies to Respond

The overheated rhetoric that CC’s objections set off likely froze Ragu in place, as it does with many brands. No doubt there have been many uncomfortable conversations within the Ragu corporate structure and with its outside agency partner(s). This becomes a self-feeding cycle as Ragu gets criticized for being silent, but the increasing hostile rhetoric drives up the risk factor, slowing down decision making. Clearly, Ragu should be able to respond more quickly, but I also understand the dynamic of large companies and how they deal with social media risk.

The Video Can’t Be Viewed in Isolation

When you look at the video in question in the context of the other videos in the series, it clearly seems much more innocuous to me. It feels like they threw out a legitimate question to mom bloggers, “What is it like when dad cooks in your house?” and turned it into a video. Big deal. Sure there are lots of dads like CC and me who love to cook and do so for our families, but there are plenty of households where that isn’t the case. There is no video that could be targeted at a specific demographic without potentially irritating or offending some excluded demographic. Big deal.

What Would Have Changed the Outcome for Ragu?

Ragu could have avoided all of this with just a few simple steps:

  • Personalize the message to dad bloggers. I actually like reaching out to them with this video, but give more thought to the message. For example, I might have sent it to CC with the message “As a dad who cooks often, what’s your take on this? What’s it like when mom cooks in your house?” Or something like that.
  • Be prepared to respond more quickly. Again, I think that the harsh rhetoric is what likely slowed response, but that’s not a great excuse. Find a way to at least deliver a quick, brief response as a prelude to something more detailed. I don’t believe brands need to respond to every critique 24/7 but this is one where they should have had greater preparedness.
  • Call CC when he calls you out. In these days where we all hide behind editable electronic text, there’s something to be said for the value of more personal interaction. CC likely looks scary to Ragu right now, but I know him to be a great teddy bear of a guy who would probably go out of his way to be helpful if Ragu called.

What Should CC and Ragu Do Next?

So what now?

First, I’m happy that CC is dialing back the rhetoric a little bit. As a community, we should offer constructive criticism of brands that encourages them to remain engaged and others to join them. When we go to Defcon 1 on a company, it makes it that much harder to convince them and others to continue to take advantage of all that social media has to offer.

As for Ragu? I’d take CC up on his offer to talk over dinner that he cooks. If nothing else, I’m pretty sure they’ll end up with a great meal out of it!

About The Author

Chip Griffin serves as the Founder & CEO of CustomScoop. He writes and speaks frequently about data-driven public relations. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.

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58 Comments

  1. jason@socialmediaexplorer.com'
    JasonFalls

    Great points, Chip. Not to be taken lightly. Certainly some will respond with offense (as I did along with CC … fixed a veggie tray for my kids last night, so it was a fresh thing for me) and others won’t. 

    As I’ve let the commercial or whatever it is sink in more, I’ve come to realize that it’s not the offensive nature of implying all dads are bad cooks, etc., nor the offensive nature of implying wives get liquored up and “passively” watch their kids when dad is cooking, but the fact that the marketing communications was so poorly done that bothers me. Why would a big brand like Ragu leave the communications to an informal chat that tries to communicate humor, but because these folks don’t appear to be professional actors, nor following a script of some sort, fails miserably. Humor can’t be taken so lightly when a brand’s reputation is on the line. It appears to be poorly written, poorly timed, poorly edited and poorly directed. Maybe that comes across as real in most cases, but when you’re trying to insert sarcasm, etc., you can’t take a chance.

    And believe me, I’ve been roasted for screwing up humor before.

    The video appears to be tongue in cheek, but because there’s no sense of exaggeration, it comes across as “all men suck at cooking, let’s make fun of them.” The mom’s drinking and passively watching their kids is just odd. My wife said, “I have no idea what they’re trying to communicate, but all I got was that one lady gets drunk and ignores her kids.”

    It’s one thing to engage moms (or dads) in something fun and useful … maybe talk specifically to those dads out there who self-identify as being lazy or ineffective in the kitchen … but another to just imply (though not appearing to be intentionally so) that all men can’t cook. 

    It was poorly executed. Whether you view it alone or in the series. If it leaves some of the audience feeling awkward about the brand, it failed. Fair?

    1. chip@chipgriffin.com'
      Chip Griffin

      Thanks for chiming in here, Jason. I, too, regularly cook for my kids — and love cooking in general. But I wasn’t offended when I saw the video because I viewed it as more of a candid group of mom’s gossiping with each other. To me, it felt “real.” They were representing their own experiences, and I didn’t take it to be them (or Ragu) trying to generalize and stereotype. If they had one of our wives on, the content would probably have been different.

      I also disagree that if some in the audience feel awkward, that it necessarily failed. We have no way of knowing whether those who were upset by it were a vocal minority or a representative majority.

      Finally, I like that they used real mom bloggers and didn’t script them. Although they edited the piece, to me it is still has the potential for better impact than if they had scripted actors.

      I think a lot of this points out the challenges of pitching on Twitter, too. Who knows how it might have been different if they had communicated with CC via email or phone and could have put the video in context for him?

  2. cc.chapman@gmail.com'
    C.C. Chapman

    Thanks for your comments and you KNOW I appreciate your thoughts on them.

    I honestly wish I could go back and change the headline to end in a question mark because it IS a question rather than a statement, but too late for that now right. It was also the reason that I wrote the second post giving them advice on how it could have been done better.

    It is obvious to me that Ragu cares more about moms than it does dads and that is OK with me because that is their market and it makes sense. BUT, if they are going to focus on that market they should really think about trying to cross over a campaign that is targeted at women to men. It doesn’t work in the other direction so why should it on this one.

    I finally got a note from a brand manager this afternoon and I’m looking forward to talking to them tomorrow because I truly want this to be a learning experience for them. 

    We all screw up from time to time. I know I do. But, honestly the trick is learning from the mistakes so we can do better next time and I hope they do.

    But, I wouldn’t change a thing. Some might think I over reacted, but based on the majority of the comments I can see I’m not alone.

    And hey, in the end Ragu got a ton of exposure for their new campaign. I’m sure lots of people are having pasta for dinner tonight.

    1. chip@chipgriffin.com'
      Chip Griffin

      Thanks, CC. It will be interesting to see how the conversation with the brand manager goes. I look forward to hearing about it.

      In fact, we should get you and the Ragu rep on an episode of Media Bullseye Radio to discuss!

      Finally, your point about learning from mistakes is I think the key to this. And it isn’t even just clear cut mistakes, but even things that weren’t completely successful that we can learn from.

    2. amy@arielmarketinggroup.com'
      Anonymous

      I thought about the headline a lot and I don’t think it’s horrible.  It made me open it, and I figured there was a story behind it.  After your blog Chris Brogan wrote the “My groceries are tweeting and they’re horrible” blog and I didn’t think yours was any more strident.

  3. mmorris@bushbros.com'
    Mike

    I too am a dad that can (and often does) cook. I am a bit over dads being demonized as dolts who are incapable of being anything but a punchline. The Ragu video was really not that bad overall; I have seen spots more insulting. While using real people, the video was edited by professionals who should have thought a bit more about the message it communicated. The truly puzzling thing is why dad bloggers were sent a link to a video somewhat negative towards dads without context. If moms are the target, they should have kept this between moms, who may or may not have smiled knowingly.

    1. chip@chipgriffin.com'
      Chip Griffin

      Thanks for the comment. The context point you make is very important. This kerfuffle could have been largely avoided if the messages to CC and the other dad bloggers had communicated valuable context about the video.

  4. Jamie Bull

    Great Post Chip. While I like and respect CC, I think he went a little off the reservation on this one. I walked away thinking “Okay, CC. We get it. You understand how companies should engage with customers online. No need to act like a bully with every company that doesn’t and mildly offends you.”

    If I reacted like CC did to ever time some company mildly offended me with their marketing, I’d never have a chance to breathe. 

    Picking fights and flexing your social media muscles is easy, but it doesn’t make anyone look good in the end. 

    Plus, it looks like you are just stirring up controversy so you can turn around and try to pick up Ragu as a client so you can show them “the right way.” And that is just shady. 

    1. cc.chapman@gmail.com'
      C.C. Chapman

      Sorry you felt this way Jamie and honestly I’m just looking to help everyone use social media better and the fact that you felt it was a marketing move to get new clients is…well I don’t even know how to react to that since it is the farthest thing from the truth.

      We all react differently to different things. As I”ve said numerous places this was MY reaction to something and I followed it up with two posts that I whole heartedly hope Ragu (and other companies) will read and think about the next time they develop any campaign.

      That’s all I hoped to get out of it. To help others be better and at the same time stick up for fellow dads like myself. Sounds a bit fluffy, but it is the truth.

      1. nuno.lopes@ig-marketing.com'
        Nuno Machado Lopes

        Whilst I agree with Jamie, I have to say that his last paragraph was unnecessary (unnecessarily wrong).
        I can’t help think that as you and I, and everyone else with a larger voice, build our influence, we have a responsibility to those we influence to take care in what we say. Having said that, and not wishing to sit on the fence, the post is on CC’s blog – it’s his, his voice, his passions.

        I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong way to execute social media, especially when you take into account that many of its traits include humility, human factor, transparency,etc – we all know this. So the more active we are in social media, the more it becomes a part of us, our beliefs, our past experiences and our passions.

        As influencers we have to thus be more tolerante and understand that it will never be possible to please everyone – so why ask that it please us in particular? I think we can all agree that Ragu (whether you use the brand or not) executed a well thought out campaign and continue to do so, even if it may not be to each of our likings.

        As an entrepreneur that runs two companies whilst working my true passion, social media, I have come to understand that company politics, human factors and different cultures all impact the way we are able to react to a mini crisis. You only have to listen to the influencers in social media to understand there would always be a different way to handle this. Left, right or centre. 

        Far from shady, we can only acuse CC Chapman of being overly passionate (not that that’s a bad thing) and his exposure will always come at a price. But most people know that. Maybe its time to include a 10 second delay before we influencers post or tweet – it’s the least we can do to ensure that our influence is justified. Failing to do that, we could end up doing what we acuse others of doing.

        I too am a father (with a degree in Hotel Catering – cooking!) of 3 and I love my kids to death and thank God they are all healthy. I sometimes cut corners when cooking and if we delved into a discussion on true health and balance, we would probably all end up embarrassed - cooking “real” vegetables brings to the table (only pun I will use) a whole different argument.

        Never get tired of telling people how cool Mr Griffin and his TEAM are! 
        Sorry for the lengthy comment.

  5. Ragú®

    Ragu’s “Mom’s the Word on Dinner” campaign has gotten some Dads piping hot.   For those new to the story, one video from our series was sent via Twitter @message to six Dad bloggers. Two took offense to Mom bloggers dishing about what happens when Dad cooks.  Now it’s time to help this simmer down a bit.
    This campaign is built on strong relationships with bloggers and on a simple premise — listen to Moms and have them drive the conversation forward.  All Moms voice their own points of view.  The community rallies around topics raised by prominent Mom bloggers, sharing tips and advice.  Some posts invite disagreement but it’s always respectful, lighthearted and welcome. 
    By listening to our fans, Ragu recognized that family comes in many forms, and that dinner time topics were relevant not just to Moms but to the grandparents and Dads on the page. A range of discussion topics have been introduced, many via video since March when the campaign began. They have helped create a fast-growing and highly engaged community. We recently invited a Dad blogger to join and last week posted an announcement. “Ragú Dads. Thank you for your support and for putting up with all of our “Mom Talk” lately :) So, next week’s episode is all about you! Who will have the last word?”
    That led to us reaching out to select Dad bloggers directly on twitter. We knew better — and we should have sent them more context. 
    The episode sparked a night of disgruntled posts by one particular Dad, so, the next morning we invited him to call us, since we think it’s better to talk in person when there’s been a miscommunication.  We connected the following day. We thanked him for letting us know we had some sauce on our face.  We listened and asked for ideas on how to better engage Dads.   But maybe it’s not enough to have spoken only to him. So, to any Dad who felt excluded or offended, we are sorry as that certainly was never our intent. 
    If this week has confirmed anything, it’s that moms and dads (and grandmoms and grandads, too) want to have a word on dinner — and all are welcome to join in the conversation. 

    1. cc.chapman@gmail.com'
      C.C. Chapman

      Awesome to see that you are finally joining into the conversation that has been happening around this.

      I hope you’ll take the time to go out and comment on some of the other great discussions that have popped up from this “disgrunted…particular dad” since I’m obviously not alone in my criticism of your approach on this campaign.

    2. chip@chipgriffin.com'
      Chip Griffin

      Thanks for joining in the discussion on this topic, Ragu. It is great to get your perspective first-hand.  I would also encourage you to join the conversation on CC’s blog and others if you have not already done so — despite the rocky start there’s still a lot of potential to make sauce out of tomatoes (OK, so that’s a bit of a mangling of the lemons/lemonade thing, but thought I’d have some fun with it)

      1. Ragú®

        We’ve talked to CC on the phone, so we have engaged with him.  Now we’re listening and responding to the other voices.  Thanks for your advice and for your perspectives.  We’ve read them all.

        1. amy@arielmarketinggroup.com'
          Anonymous

          Well, NOT replying on CC’s blog appears to the entire world that you are either stubborn, scared, or arrogant.

          I completely understand how this happened – we are in a transition era when so many companies don’t get how In Your Face Spam Twitter actually is.  Despite how it may appear, Twitter is still not main stream AND people value the ‘realness’ of their communication within the Twittersphere.

          It’s obvious to me that Ragu didn’t just touch a spam nerve, but a Dad tired of being ridiculed nerve with CC.  And I have lots of male friends who feel the same way – think of the typical commercial where dad does something foolish or just doesn’t know, Mom rolling eyes. 

          I’m all for you targeting your main buyer  - MOM, and as a woman I know that LOADS of my girlfriends are still 97% responsible for ‘what’s for dinner.’  But there’s a real opportunity here for Ragu to embrace this dust up and become the company that spotlights how great Dads like CC are. too.

    3. Doug French

      I’ve just seen the video, which includes my friends Kim and Renee, and I can see how Ragu might embrace this ad strategy. What the women say comes across as genuine, and I’m sure that, sadly, lots of women can relate to their experience. It would make us dads feel a lot better, though, if you’d consider give us cooking dads equal time.

      1. Ragú®

        Thanks for this, Doug.  We put out videos every few weeks on various dinnertime topics that are generated from discussions we see on our Facebook page.  The strategy is really to listen to our community and give moms the platform to share tips and advice.  This most recent video was ironically a step in the direction of giving dads more of a voice down the road.

        Also saw your recent blog post.  And we have to agree: Dads that cook ARE hot

        For those who haven’t seen Doug’s post: http://blogs.babble.com/babble-voices/doug-french-the-turbid-spume/2011/09/30/ragging-on-ragu/)

        1. lara@twiceblessedlife.com'
          Lara N

          My husband is from Japan, which has a culture that is not known for fathers being very ‘hands-on’ in ‘domestic engineering’.  When we first met, he could not cook anything more complicated than nuking a noodle cup.  I insisted he learn to cook at least three dishes minimum as a precaution in case something drastic happened to me, lest he starve.

          A few years later, when he had to move to another city, one month ahead of me (I had to finish a semester in college first), he was darn glad of those lessons and did quite well for himself and increased his stock list of recipes.

          And now we have twins (4yrs old now).  If I’m out, I know that my kids’ nutritional needs will be taken care of by my husband who enjoys cooking, and can make a delicious meal – even without following a recipe, or using a mix.

          And sometimes, just to show he loves me, he’ll prepare a lovely meal even if I’m home and available to cook.

          And he works full-time – 10 hr days, not including the extra desk work he brings home with him.

        2. LDM

          If you’re trying to “give dads more of a voice” you’re doing it completely wrong.

          “listen to our community and give MOMS the platform”- you just don’t get it.

    4. Shane Gibson

      It was not one disgruntled Dad. He spoke for many of us. That’s why we retweeted. Once again you guys are downplaying the situation. Trust me when I say that Ragu will not grace the shelves of my kitchen. Not just because of the video… because of your response. It says a lot about your corporate values.

      1. dannybrown1968@gmail.com'
        Danny Brown

        For as many dads that were disgruntled, there were just as many who didn’t care or laughed it off. And there were way more dads who didn’t even see it because they’re not blinded by the social media bubble that is a lot smaller and way less important than many in the space would have folks believe.

        1. bassetboy42@gmail.com'
          Dan Hickey

          Once it appears on the internet it is there forever for all to see and react to. I stumbled upon this conversation and was so piqued by it all I have been expanding my search for about an hour. Ragu screwed up. It doesn’t help that they make marginal products. Sorta seems like they deserve the marginal ad campaign they paid for. Advertisers think in demographics so stereotyping is their stock in trade. While it’s repugnant, it works well enough for TV and radio. Not so good when you call out people one by one. 

    5. rufus@dogwalkblog.com'
      Rufus Dogg

      I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Real dads who care about what their kids eat don’t use Ragu so you’re not even their demographic. (Nothing against dads who do use Ragu for dinner. It’s a choice.) If Ragu wants to perpetuate a stereotype of dad being an incompetent boob, ok. So what. They can get as many mommybloggers together as they want and have them chant “the sky is green, the sky is green” but it don’t make it so.

      Dads, keep doing what you do. The louder the mommybloggers berate you and and the more brands believe their own hype, the better you are getting at parenting. It will all be over in a few years anyway and you will need that thick skin Ragu is forcing you to grow for the teenage years. Really.  

      Just manup and shrug this crap off. Otherwise, you look like a pack of whiny sissies.

      Too harsh? Really? Hmmmmm….

      1. cc.chapman@gmail.com'
        C.C. Chapman

        Well said Rufus.

        The end result for all of this for me is that it reminded me that this weekend would be a great time to make a big pot of homemade sauce for the family. Can’t wait.

    6. rickliebling@gmail.com'
      Rick Liebling

      Ok, you tried some stuff, it didn’t work out quite the way you hoped and now you’re trying to patch things up. That’s cool, I get that.  But I would have liked this post so much better if it had been from a person instead of from “Ragu.” A jar of sauce and a brand name are trying to set the record straight? Please, just give us a person to engage with. 

      Also, drop the cutesy puns (piping hot, simmer down, sauce on our face…). That says, “this post was crafted by one of our agencies.”  Just come out and say, “Hi, I’m Joe, I work in the marketing department for Ragu. I took a swing and looks like I missed. So, moving forward, here’s what I’m going to do…”

      1. antiopa@earthlink.net'
        Anonymous

        Great point Rick. This is a fundamental mistake a lot of brands are making online I feel (even at the point of Twitter avatars). Logos do not talk. people talk. At least have signed the post.

        I honestly feel sorry for businesses that have turned their Social Media over to agencies with strong PR and marketing backgrounds – not saying that this is necessarily the case here, but it comes to mind. Usually “the market” will tell you who is best (or at least good) at doing something. Big names, big accounts, expensive offerings can be imagined to produce good results. But SoMe grew so fast that everyone in position to lead the way didn’t have to conceptual tools or company culture to actually do the job well. Big businesses really DO want to do Social Media well, but have no choice other than to trust what the “market’ is telling them: commit a chunk of budget to a “name” who will dump big metric reports your way and spam your potential followers.

        The idea that a logo can speak in social media is actually still pretty prevalent in SoMe outreach. People still think we are in the age of press releases, but just a more soft and fuzzy kind.

  6. Nick Summy

    I like your write-up but I can’t fully agree with you.  I am not a father myself but cook quite a bit.  I’m not one to get offended but the ignorance displayed in this video is completely over the top. 

    To start, I think mommy bloggers are the scourge of internet blogs.  I’m sure there are great ones but a majority of them are clucking hens that sit at home all day and write about products which they feel they are entitled to for free.  Heaven forbid a company “wrongs” them.  When that happens they will write a headline that makes CC Chapman’s blog post look like a completely unbiased NPR headline.  Don’t forget they will also rally the troops and get all of their friends that have nothing better to do to do the same.

    For Ragu to put these women on a pedestal says a lot about the company.  Yes I realize women are probably their big demographic as I have yet to see a Ragu commercial during Monday Night Football.  Lets think about this for a moment though;  These women are complaining about their husband’s cooking yet are buying Ragu themselves?  Get serious.  If I went over to a friend’s house and he made pasta with Ragu sauce I would make fun of him for hours.  Pasta sauce is not difficult to make and honestly if you are just sitting on the computer all day blogging you probably have 20 minutes to whip up your sauce.  Perhaps these women need to look in the mirror before they criticize anyone’s culinary skills.

    The bottom line is that its offensive to throw a bunch of women on camera to complain about others’ cooking skills when they are using bottom of the pre-made, bottom of the barrels ingredients in the first place.

    1. onescrappymom@gmail.com'
      Bobbie {OneScrappyMom}

      “The bottom line is that its offensive to throw a bunch of women on camera to complain about others’ cooking skills when they are using bottom of the pre-made, bottom of the barrels ingredients in the first place.”
      NO WHERE in that video did anyone complain about anyones cooking skills. Clearly you didn’t take the video for what it was.

      Dinner time in ANY house is different depending on who’s cooking and/or what’s for dinner. If they had flipped the switch and asked dad’s what’s it like at dinnertime when mom cooks, you wouldn’t have your underwear all twisted over it! Neither would moms, because it’s a valid question. My husband grills everything.. so he cooks, but he’s never in the kitchen. Does that statement make out to be that he lacks cooking skills? Really, I love how they say women stand around all day and gossip, when in fact, you are no different. Seriously, it was a topic in a SERIES, which if you had followed, you may be more inclined to understand why no on can understand your point of view.

      Do your homework, because the more comments and posts on this I see the more horrible I feel about dad bloggers, seriously.

    2. babylovingmama@gmail.com'
      Emilie

      Wow. Nick, I find it laughable that you criticize a campaign in which you feel men are stereotyped and men’s cooking stills are complained about (which I personally didn’t see in the video at all) all the while you stereotype mom bloggers and complain about their cooking skills.

      How can anyone take your comments seriously when you are so offensive yourself? 

      BTW, this “clucking hen” wishes she had all day to sit at home and do nothing.

    3. dannybrown1968@gmail.com'
      Danny Brown

      Congratulations on making men look dumber than Ragu are accused of doing with your blanket comments about mom bloggers, Nick. And if you want to talk about “rallying the troops”, there are plenty male “names” in the social media space that do just that all the time…

  7. msmnpr@yahoo.com'
    Msmnpr

    As the communications leader for a large network, I am almost scared to “do” social media stunts like this anymore b/c it seems you can offend anyone of late.  In the big scheme of things – what really matters? I know I just learned Ragu has an “accent” on the “u.” Other than that, I didn’t take away anything else other than to be scared of bloggers.

  8. Facebook User

    I think you’re undervaluing CC’s point about stereotyping.  If this was a series of videos Sears put about about Craftsmen tools that featured a series of guys guffawing about how terrible women were at doing DIY projects, and then Sears tweeted that link out to mommy bloggers to drive the point home, you’d rightly get an outcry.  Just because the genders are reversed, there’s no excuse, in my mind.

    1. Ragú®

      Thanks for your thoughts on this.  We simply asked: What is dinnertime like when dad cooks? The Mom bloggers are unscripted – that’s their point of view.  Had a different set of bloggers been in the video, the content would have been different and you may not have seen their statements as a stereotype.  Our program is meant to serve open and real talk about dinnertime.  All opinions are welcome.   

      1. Shane Gibson

        The video was posted on your official channel and was edited and produced by Ragu. This is an implied endorsement of their views. These were not videos cut-and-paste from the Mom bloggers own channels, nor was there any statement that the views were not those of Ragu (your Ragu branding all over the video kind of makes this obvious). You’re not going to win this one by defensiveness. My advice apologize…. and next time apologize sooner. You guys made a mistake.

        Also your @ messages would be labeled twitter spam by many. This was a direct pitch at people who in the most part were not following you on Twitter. What I really want to know is who is @ragusauce who are the people hiding behind the brand?

    2. tcunniff@combe.com'
      Tom Cunniff

      Facebook User — maybe so. But I’m not sure it’s smart for us to train people to fly into a social media tizzy every time they feel slighted in any way. Isn’t it possible that many men aren’t particularly awesome in the kitchen and that a lot of women aren’t geniuses at DIY projects? (Disclosure: I am not great at either of these things.)

      If we’re going to get outraged, shouldn’t we save that for big things like world hunger, or homelessness?

      Here’s an idea: why don’t we create a virtual “We’re Sorry” jar for marketers? If a brand accidentally kicks off a tizzy, they can donate $100 to a good cause and buy instant forgiveness :-)

  9. Ramesh

    Thanks Chip for putting up the post. It becomes really hard to engage in any conversation when there are so many accusations flying. Criticism needs to be constructive in order to engage in a meaningful conversation. Btw, there are tons of examples as to how to critique a brand and it’s social media campaign.

  10. tcunniff@combe.com'
    Tom Cunniff

    I have a lot of questions about this. Here goes:

    1) Should the goal of social media be to communicate so carefully and so inclusively that there is no possibility of  offense? For example, I saw no Asian mommy bloggers depicted here. Should we conclude that this is because Ragu hates Asians? Should Asians protest? If Ragu apologizes for their error and adds a Japanese-American mommy blogger, will Koreans and Chinese mommy bloggers (correctly) point out that it’s racist to suggest that the Japanese are representative of all Asian people?

    2) If someone is inadvertently offended and blogs about it, what is the appropriate response? Is this the best use of the brand manager’s time? Within this page we have several different social media experts who disagree about what C.C. wrote and how Ragu should have reacted: which expert is correct?

    3) Is it accurate to say that “Ragu got a ton of exposure for their new campaign”? Ragu has an impressive half million Facebook fans, but how many of them know about the couple of Dads who disliked one video? How many would care if they did know? How would this influence brand perceptions or purchase behavior?

    4) Do we believe that in Ragu’s words, “If this week has confirmed anything, it’s that moms and dads (and
    grandmoms and grandads, too) want to have a word on dinner — and all
    are welcome to join in the conversation”? If so, why have we left pets and stuffed animals out of that list, when at least the pets will be passionately interested in the leftovers? Are intense debates or even long discussions about dinner a typical part of modern family life? Is linguine really what’s at the center of people’s universes? Don’t people talk about school or work or TV anymore?

    5) While social media has a place as a tactic within an overall paid owned and earned plan, have we reached a point when we are so close to it that we can no longer see the forest for the tweets?

    1. jzingsheim@customscoop.com'
      Jen Zingsheim

      I think one of the things that brands should be taking away from this incident (and others, this isn’t the first and it won’t be the last) is that perpetuating stereotypes now has consequences. As the real purchasing power of women has increased (and the latest Nielsen study shows it has, due to a variety of factors including the disproportionate job loss among males during the recession), advertising and entertainment television seem to have gone a stereotyping spree when it comes to TV shows and advertising. Dads are routinely cast as dolts. That social media is giving a powerful few a voice to shout back is a good thing.

      Why is it necessary to tear down dads to appeal to moms? Is there really that much of a gender war going on out there? I’m asking seriously, because I’m not a parent–is there truly that much animosity between moms and dads?

      Should it prevent a brand from doing clever, edgy outreach? No. This wasn’t clever or edgy, it was just…so typical.  

      1. tcunniff@combe.com'
        Tom Cunniff

        Thanks Jen. But I’d like to challenge the idea that this has consequences, or at least serious ones.

        Does this “firestorm” exist outside our small echo chamber? Again, I’m not saying that social media doesn’t have a place. It just isn’t the entire universe. My opinion is that a social media “firestorm” doesn’t matter much until it gets covered on TV. THEN you’ve got a real fire on your hands.

        When I watched the video from the Mommy Bloggers, I wasn’t offended. My first thought was “yep, this sounds like reality” — it had the authenticity stuff everybody talks about. Maybe authenticity is a little less pleasant than we thought it would be. Or maybe I’m too doltish to get offended by this  :-)

        1. jzingsheim@customscoop.com'
          Jen Zingsheim

          The delineation between consequences and serious consequences is a good one to make. I have no doubt this incident will not go far beyond our little social media analysis circles–and just as there has been no major brand damage to Motrin, or Marie Callender’s, or any of the others who have run afoul of what is considered good social media marketing–there will be no lasting consequences in terms of market share, etc. for Ragu.

          I think my biggest annoyance in all of this, again, is the notion that moms have to talk down to dads. I really don’t care if it reflects reality or not–it just shouldn’t. Then again, I can be kind of a Pollyanna when it comes to these things, I prefer everyone be treated with respect.

          (PS–my father truly was a disaster in the kitchen. The handful of dinners he managed to make were almost inedible, and my mom didn’t think this was a coincidence. It ensured that he wasn’t asked to cook often–in fact, I learned to cook when I was 12, largely out of self-defense. I was cooking for the family by the time I was 15. In our family, the stereotype held true!)

  11. Dave Van de Walle

    While Ragu scores a half-point for weighing in here on this blog, I thought the tone of their response – with references to “simmer down” and “sauce on our face” – to be disingenuous at best.

    There’s irony here, too – sweet, tomatoey irony – in that a brand that wants to seem “human” by engaging Mommy Bloggers responds via a Sauce Photo avatar on a blog that isn’t the one that first raised this question.

    “Tell CC the jar feels bad about what happened.”

    I know they picked up the phone and called him, which is nice, but…this whole thing is just goofy.

    And note I have yet to comment about the fact that I enjoy cooking dinner for my kids and happen to be rather good at it. Our preferred pasta sauce is a white label one from the grocery store, natch.

  12. onescrappymom@gmail.com'
    Bobbie {OneScrappyMom}

    Personally I feel like CC overreacted. Nothing will change my opinion on that, not even his latest post on it. I’ve personally seen Ragu interact with many dads and they still do. They are a FAR cry from hating dads. 

    My feelings on this remain the same, It’s a campaign that they reached out to real moms and asked opinions. It was scripted, it’s very impromptu actually. If anyone payed attention to the SERIES this was from you all might understand the topic better. 

  13. tcunniff@combe.com'
    Tom Cunniff

    I should note I’m a little protective of Ragu because I created their first web site way back in the early 1990s. Mistakes will be made, but I think Unilever is a great company that has done a lot of smart experimenting in digital.

    FWIW, I think the people at Ragu have done a nice job recovering from their mistakes here. Your mileage may vary.

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  15. niri@mommyniri.com'
    Niri

    Wondering how I can comment here without foaming at the mouth. I am so incredibly disappointed by the very people who want to make, what was once a valid stance, into something so dirty and mud slinging. Heck if we want to lash against the Ragu strategy let’s throw the product in there too (heaven forbid a smart person realize it has NOTHING to do with the point) – hey those mommy bloggers – why should they get “famous” – I mean they sit around doing nothing (while pretending to learn technical, marketing, community, financial, legal and social media) , right? Let’s burn them at the stake too – sure call them the scourge of society. 

    Not only am I SHOCKED by how low people would stoop, I am equally shocked by those that applaud/promote/like that behavior. The last I heard prejudice was judging a group of people you don’t personally know. It makes me truly sad. I am not saying who is right or wrong here but seriously people, way to show your manners/etiquette. But then again I am only a mom blogger, sitting here with an engineering degree and over a decade of engineering experience. Now let me get back to wiping a snotty nose and swirling more wine. 

    1. niri@mommyniri.com'
      Niri

      And for those who will nit-pick to move away from my “manners” point (as I have stated before in CC’s post) – I am a Ragu ambassador, which for the record is not compensated.

  16. amy@arielmarketinggroup.com'
    Anonymous

    Have any of you been on the Ragu Facebook Page?  LOTS of dads are pissed who never read CC’s post.

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  19. antiopa@earthlink.net'
    Anonymous

    If they were really smart about it, Ragu might have produced a video clip series of KIDS talking about when “Dad cooks”. Then it would have come from a point of humor, and identification (for a larger number of people). Maybe even Mr. Chapman would have laughed about it.

    It does seem that their agency was pretty dull-minded in their link campaign to Dads, but this story feels like a story about Social Media for Social Media practitioners, and little more, and not an actual full blown marketing event. What not to do when you don’t have the resources to actually be “human” behind your faux social reach. And perhaps what not to do when you run into a mega-online advocate you have offended. And…think about how every audience segment perceives messages differently – hello, isn’t this essential Social Media 101?, can’t you hear them saying t0 themselves in the meeting: “And who else can we send this campaign to?…I know, Dads!”

    Honestly the “Dad cooks” approach seems like a pretty smart one, just poorly executed at the Twitter/Video level.

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