Brands Go Back To School

It’s back-to-school time. 

If you’re a parent, someone in your household has likely been engaged in completing enrollment paperwork, school shopping, and the inevitable meet-the-teacher or orientation meeting. More likely than not, she’s called mom – despite dads being more likely than ever to share some of these tasks.

Still, if you’re a dad who has attended many PTO or PTA meetings, you probably felt about as at home as you would at a ladies book club discussing Fifty Shades of Grey. Don’t let that stop you from finding your own way to be involved in your child’s education.

Fatherhood, for those who choose it, is arguably the most important role we can have as men. And there are reams of research indicating an active role by fathers leads to great things for their kids – stronger self-esteem, better academic performance, even greater career success. Dads realize more and more their jobs are far larger than teaching how to throw a good pass.

Some brands recognize and celebrate this. But, when I searched for those doing it particularly well, the list was short. Babies and dads make for great visuals, so Pampers and Huggies get shout-outs. Then, there are spots like the recent Subaru ad that created a touching and memorable dad moment. And, by no means, I am suggesting the list stops there.

There’s a tremendous opportunity, though, to connect with dads via something that really matters. The good news: brands can support dads and fatherhood in many ways that don’t require massive media budgets and can actually create a much more real, practical and personal connection.

In my community, a Dallas suburb, a number of schools have active dads’ clubs. They are not very formal organizations and don’t require a crushing time commitment. What they are is a means of giving dads visibility with their kids and within their kids’ schools, enabling them to lend a hand in partnership with other dads. Activities are aligned with dads’ unique interests and skills – think mentoring, setting up heavy equipment for school events, helping with field day, or repainting a teachers’ lounge. 

Here’s why this matters to you as a marketer. We all know the male audience is tough to reach. Too often, I hear marketers call sports “the one great unifier.” Sure, but how about thinking outside the clamor of the sports channel or the business pages?

Parenting and education is a little more open. Opportunity and white space abound. This is particularly true for small businesses.

In our community, a local theater donated space for us to host a dads-and-kids movie fundraiser for the school’s music program. Today, it’s a favorite spot for local dads. A neighborhood landscaper/nursery donated plants to spruce up another event. Who do you think our dads call for a landscaping job? I just dropped a good chunk of change with them this spring and wouldn’t have considered a competitive firm. Our local Starbucks provides free coffee for morning activities, and now it’s a favorite spot for dads to meet up on non-event mornings. 

These brands showed they care about what local men care about in a very meaningful and personal way. And they earned loyalty.

The opportunity is not limited to local businesses, though. Big brands with big budgets can just as effectively connect with dads on this dimension simply by recognizing this, too, is what it means to be a man.

A few closing thoughts:

  • Get beyond the obvious when you think about what matters to your male target and find your own way to help further their involvement, their causes and their communities.
  • And, if you’re a dad and your school doesn’t already have a dads organization, think about starting one. It’s easy. The school will welcome it, and the kids will think it’s cool. And nothing but good will come from kids seeing your involvement and sensing your commitment to their education. And I think you will find local brands ready to lend a hand.
2 comments about "Brands Go Back To School ".
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  1. Hank Stewart from Green Team, August 23, 2012 at 2:12 p.m.

    Good piece. I totally agree on the importance of dads getting involved with their kids' schools and education. My sons' school has the occasional Dads' Night Out, which are not only a good way to connect with other dads, but great fun. In the past we've gone to a blues bar (owned by one of the dads), and had a beer tasting in a local firehouse (conducted by yours truly).

    These events create a memorable atmosphere of fun and camaraderie that (most) any brand would want to be a part of.

  2. Steve Smith from Firehouse, August 23, 2012 at 7:03 p.m.

    Thanks for the comment Hank. Glad to hear your school has found ways to involve dads. I think these kinds of things - dads' events, clubs, whatever - present tremendous opportunities for brands, particularly local brands, to connect with dads when they are engaged in a role that really matters to them.

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