My fellow parents: Do you sometimes feel horrible? A new Dairy Queen ad campaign suggested you should--at least until a backlash this week convinced DQ to cancel the whole thing. 

Was the commercial tongue-in-cheek? Yeah, but there's a fine line between comedy and tragedy. The Dairy Queen spots piled on top of some of the worst guilt trips that modern parents have to deal with.

As a result, DQ alienated the very customers it hopes to attract, displaying literally zero emotional intelligence in the process. The ads were designed to suggest parentsare creating cavernous wounds in their children's psyches.

Wounds that can only be treated, of course, with a Dairy Queen Blizzard Treat.

"But you're gone, always gone"

The main ad featured a children's choir singing DQ-themed lyrics to the tune of, Frere Jacques. I'd love to embed it, but when it killed the campaign, Dairy Queen apparently went on a deleting spree. I can't find it archived anywhere online.

But, the catchy little jingle went like this, according to USA Today:

Are you working? Are you working?
Mom and Dad? Of course you are. 
Summertime's a calling. 
Blizzard Treats are calling. 
But you're gone, always gone.



Another song was to the tune of I've Been Working on the Railroad, including lines like:

You've been working this whole summer. 
You're just never home. 
You've been working this whole summer. 
You're always glued to your phone... 


"You officially suck..."

This did not go over well with moms and dads. The whole thing was "offensive to working parents" according to the website Working Mother, which pointed out that Dairy Queen "knew exactly what they were doing," since their press release was partially entitled, "Dairy Queen Gets Children's Choir to Guilt Trip Parents ...

Because making parents feel bad for working hard to make sure their kids have a roof over their head and food on the table is fun, right?

Emphasis mine--but really DQ, come on.

Parents also took to social media to blast the home of the Blizzard. A few, as compiled by Working Mother:

  • "I'm sorry, isn't it more important to keep a roof over your child's head and provide things like health insurance and college savings? But we could trade all that for ice cream! Who wrote this, an 8-year-old?
  • There's enough shaming going around as is ... Not to mention I ALREADY guilt myself every single day that my son goes to daycare so I can work and help provide the best life I can for him. Thanks, DQ. You official[ly] suck in my book now."

Finally, DQ listened, and dropped the campaign. Their spokesperson emphasized to USA Today that she's a working mom herself, and that she recognized the company completely misjudged this. In a separate statement to Inc.com, Dairy Queen said in part:

We did release this organic social content without paid support and removed from our social media pages within a few days once we realized the purpose of the campaign was not coming through as intended.  

As many of us are working parents, we certainly did not mean to offend anyone and realize we missed the mark.  We have no further plans to use this content.  

Zero emotional intelligence

You know what? Despite calling them out here, I like Dairy Queen. Not that I've been in a while, but I have a positive affinity for DQ. Heck, I like ice cream.

But this is where emotional intelligence comes in, especially for brands. It's all about (a) trying to understand, (b) acknowledging that you'll never 100 percent understand, and (c) simultaneously demonstrating that you're trying nonetheless.

So, if you're using humor that makes fun of your potential customer, you had better make the joke about something the customer will laugh about, too.

For example, you can tease parents about the ridiculous fashion choices they made in the 1980s and 1990s when we went to Dairy Queen--because we'll laugh with you. But criticizing us for how we get along with their kids? Even in an allegedly funny way? And then suggesting that your ice cream is the antidote?

Um, no. Zero emotional intelligence.

So DQ gets an "F-minus" here. Maybe we'll bump them up to a "D," since they did eventually recognize the mistake and deep-six the campaign. But if they want to get an "A," I think a lot of parents are looking for something more.

Apropros of nothing, DQ: nobody hates free ice cream. I'm just saying.

Published on: Jun 30, 2018
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