Are Dads The New Moms?

Back in June, I posted an Engage:Moms article citing a survey we had done about dads’ role in household purchasing decisions. Based on our long-term experience with moms, we strongly felt that the sudden big buzz about dads’ involvement was significantly overstated – more aspirational than actual — and that part of the misperception resulted from the fact that the bulk of feedback for existing research was coming from dad alone – without mom’s input. We stated clearly at the time that our survey was very limited – reflecting responses from only 200 moms — and that a broader study was necessary to support those findings.

In September of this year we launched that study – this time, of nearly 1,250 couples or 2,500 moms and dads – in partnership with the independent research organization, the NPD Group. Its goal was to separate perception from reality. Once again, the findings supported our view that while dads are more involved than in the past, it’s still mom who rules the roost – and makes the shopping list. I am announcing the results of that survey today, Oct. 23, at M2Moms, the Marketing to Moms Conference in Chicago.



According to the survey, “Are Dads the New Black,” mom remains by far the No. 1 decision maker when buying for home and family. Dads are making inroads, but not to the degree many now assume. And mom’s evaluation of dad’s contribution often differs dramatically from his own.

We asked for moms’ and dads’ view of dad’s decision-making role in 20 different product categories. The survey looked at where dads were “entirely” responsible for a product category, then “primarily” responsible and lastly, where they “shared responsibility equally” with their spouses.

Some highlights:

  • Moms remain the major household purchasing decision maker in about 80% of families.
  • Moms are responsible for the majority of those decisions — about two-thirds. This is notable because it contrasts with the long-held belief that moms are responsible for about 80% of household purchasing decisions—an indication that dads are getting more involved.
  • Dads continue to dominate decision making in what might be considered traditionally “male” categories. About 55% of moms and 62% of dads said that dad was entirely responsible for buying decisions related to Home Repair and 50% of moms and 57% of dads said dad had sole responsibility for Lawn & Garden. Meanwhile, roughly a third or more said dads handle all decision making for Automobiles (38.4% of moms, 48.6% of dads) and Technology (31.8% of moms, 35.1% of dads). The percentages remained similar when families were asked what dads were “primarily” vs. “entirely” responsible for.
  • Moms, however, dominated purchasing decisions for children’s products. In fact, dad’s role here was noticeably minimal. Moms said that only 1.1% of dads were entirely responsible for buying children’s toys and clothes and dads were in close agreement, claiming sole responsibility for 2.2% of toy purchases and 1.2% of children’s clothes.
  • The balance improved when families were asked where they shared responsibility equally. The four categories that ranked significantly higher than others among both moms and dads were Home Furnishings (51.0% of moms and 46.0% of dads said decision making here was shared equally), Family Travel (51.0% and 46.6%), Family Entertainment (43.2% and 43.1%) and Appliances (41.4% and 36.2%).

While dads are becoming the “new new thing” among marketers, this study clearly shows where dads are key decision makers today and where they still play minor roles, so that brands can make wise choices when allocating their marketing dollars.

5 comments about "Are Dads The New Moms?".
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  1. Julie Halpin Anderson from Geppetto, October 23, 2013 at 11:39 a.m.

    It's great to have substantive quantitative validation of the family purchase dynamic "as it is" today. Well done. However, many clients are interested in getting in front of societal shifts, and being ahead of new dynamics as they are changing. It's in that light that the changing role of Dad in the family should not be dismissed so easily. A "minor role" today could quickly become a "major role" tomorrow.

  2. Juan E from B|G, October 23, 2013 at 12:25 p.m.

    Where can I find/buy a copy of the September survey?

  3. Ron Mattocks from Clark Kent's Lunchbox, October 23, 2013 at 12:47 p.m.

    As a longtime dad blogger who has worked with a number of major brands I'd have to say this confirms my suspicions. I think it's good that marketers are recognizing dad's involvement in purchase decisions, I've never thought we would have the power moms do. In the campaigns I've been involved with I am usually the lone dad blogger among a handful of mom bloggers. And that's okay with me. I do, however, think that dad bloggers have carved out a niche for themselves as demonstrated by brands seeking our input and getting involved in our community by attending events such as Dad 2.0. I also think dad bloggers have shown they can collectively influence major brands as well - i.e. the negative Huggies ad campaign not long ago. Regardless, as this survey shows, moms will always dominate in this arena as a whole.

  4. Maruchi Santana from Parham Santana, October 24, 2013 at 10:29 a.m.

    Love to have a copy of this September survey. Love to read more on the role of dads in grocery shopping?

  5. Stephanie Azzarone from CHILD'S PLAY COMMUNICATIONS, October 31, 2013 at 12:59 p.m.

    First, apologies to all for the delay in responding -- too much travel in the past week, too little time to catch up.

    Clint, we are well aware of the number of single moms, and have noted that in previous blogs. This survey was specifically to understand how couples deal with household purchasing decisions.

    Julie, thanks for your comment. I agree, it's definitely worth keeping an eye on where dad might be going in the future. As a mom, I'm HOPEFUL that dad will become more involved.

    Juan and Maruchi, sorry, but the full survey is only available to our clients and M2Moms attendees.

    Ron: Actually, I raised those very points during my M2Moms presentation -- that dads are becoming more social, more vocal, and therefore having an impact on marketers, and I also cited both the Huggies example and Dads 2.0. At Child's Play Communications, we actually began working with dad bloggers a good 5 years ago, via our Digital Dads program. Back then, we had about 20 members; now we have hundreds.

    Thanks, everyone, or your comments.

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