Commentary

Don't Dis Dads: How Smart Marketers Engage Modern-day Fathers

We’ve all seen the commercials: the ones that playfully poke fun at dads and their bumbling incompetence around the house. The dad who diapers his baby backward. The dad who destroys a load of laundry. The dad whose world implodes when his wife leaves town. Good for a laugh? Sure. Good for business? Not so much. Big brands need to move beyond stale stereotypes to win the allegiance of today’s dad.

In my household, I’m equally adept at childcare and chores and work hard at both. And while I like to think all my effort makes me a pretty exceptional husband and father, in reality I’m the norm, not an exception by any stretch. A new report on Dad’s role in the household – which we conducted with our friends at Men’s Health – shows that dads are extremely involved in making a household run (as was also noted earlier this week on Engage:Moms by my colleague Patti Minglin).

Marketers missing this new reality lose out on a big opportunity to win customers and build loyalty. Today’s Dad pays attention to messaging across a wide array of product categories, and brands savvy enough to engage them in smart, real ways earn trust. Studies show men and women alike prefer brands that “get” them. Laugh with us, not at us, and you’ll win our business.  

Family comes first

Every evening, I sprint from the train to kiss my youngest goodnight and help my older two with homework. When I have to go on a business trip, I try to work around school plays, big games, or birthday parties. While my wife handles weeknight dinner for the kids, I cook for the two of us every night and make all family meals on weekends. My kids know I value and prioritize family time. 

Dad stats: 75% of dads make it home for dinner as often as they can, 53% take one to two weeks off from work after the birth of their child, and 61% say they place family before work all or most of the time.

The most important meal of the day

In our house, I’m Mr. Breakfast. It’s my chance to cook for my three kids and spend time listening to what’s new. I absolutely love this routine; they count on it, too. My wife laughingly tells the story of one morning when I had to leave early for a business trip. My young daughter came downstairs, learned I was gone, and burst into tears. “Who’s going to make me breakfast?” she sobbed to her mother.

Dad stats: Four out of 5 dads consider themselves involved fathers who do at least half the childcare, and 9 out of 10 say they’re involved because it’s important to them and they enjoy it.

Weekends are full – and fulfilling

Weekends are all jam-packed with family time and household chores. Grocery shopping is my arena, often with kids in tow. I also take the lead on outdoor activities: skiing and sledding, swimming, and sports practices – full, active days that end in a dad-supervised bath.

Dad stats: 26% of dads shop for groceries, 71% attend children’s activities, 94% play with their children, and 63% manage the bath time routine.

Clearly, parental roles are shifting – and we’re not talking about a passing trend. Forty-seven percent of dads say increased involvement in their children’s lives is the new “normal.” Part of the change is probably related to the growing importance of women in the workplace, which means men have to pitch in more at home. (The Pew Research Center recently found that 40% of households have mothers as the sole or primary source of income in the family!)

But if you ask me, I think it also means men are more comfortable admitting that they actually enjoy helping out with kids and household chores. Smart marketers have already acknowledged this shift, and they’re finding dads to be a receptive audience to messages that respect men’s contributions at home.

So in honor of Father’s Day, let’s resolve to spend more time applauding men’s efforts around the house … and less time making fun of them.

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