As a dad-to-be on the verge of fatherhood (next week!), I couldn’t be more excited to meet our son, see how he looks like me and my wife, show him awful card tricks, try and someday explain to him why “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” really is one of the greatest movies of all time, you know – dad stuff. I think I’d be crazy not to be nervous, all the classes, advice, and late-night reading can prepare you only for so much but the excitement calms most nerves. And while I’m not sure if it better prepared me to be an actual dad or change an actual diaper, I do feel like I had the fortunate opportunity over the last few years to help build a unique perspective on how dads are feeling.
In addition to creating content, our company has spent the last few years developing and publishing research about men. Our Acumen reports have included hundreds of hours of first-hand conversations with men of all ages as well as surveys with thousands across the country. While the research has covered countless topics, one very heartfelt theme has resonated above all else to me — by almost all accounts dads are all in on the fatherhood front. The way the dads in our studies talked about the values they hoped to impart, the active role they were playing, and the prioritization of kids first was inspiring.
As a part of our research efforts we’ve shared our findings with many of our brand partners. The changes we’ve seen in the marketing sphere in reflecting this new era of Phil Dunphy-inspired everyman have been pretty amazing to see. There have been some missteps but, by and large, we’re starting to see fathers reflected in media and advertising as engaged, informed and caring participants of the child-rearing process. Dads have banded together, making sure their voices are heard and formed organizations like the Dads 2.0 conference (which is meeting this February in San Francisco), various dads groups, and even the practice and acceptance of the stay-at-home dad is on the rapid rise.
Last month, Cheerios from General Mills launched their #HowToDad creative in support of Peanut Butter Cheerios with a dad talking directly to the camera (so Ferris!) and sharing the joys of being a dad, offering advice to his kids about their social posts, compliments on their creepy horse masks, and summarizing that “being a dad is awesome.” Other recent outstanding pro-dad campaigns have been developed by Subaru, Dove+Men, Tide & Downy, among many others, and marketers who are playing the dad card well are seeing the upside — #howtodad has had thousands of mentions on Twitter in the last month alone. I even saw a pro-Cheerios post on a dad blog called Geek Dad with a comment after reading, “It’s nice to see a commercial where the dad is actually involved, and not being stupid or letting mom do everything.”
I’m glad to see that whatever kind of dad I end up being, however dumb I look with a baby carrier on, or however I embarrass my kid when singing made-up lyrics in the car, that I don’t need to worry that there aren’t thousands of other dads just like me trying their best and playing their part. The marketer in me is glad to know that brands aren’t looking at this new era of men as odd or fringe but trying to connect and speak their language. So, while my Amazon prime update emails used to tell me that something cool or new was headed my way and is now informing me that our new breast pump has shipped (get fired up!), I’m excited and ready. Check back with me in a few months!