Dads Are Getting Schooled

It’s that time of year and parents are all in the midst of settling into new back-to-school routines. I recently interviewed Tim Sullivan, President of School Family Media. School Family Media was founded 15 years ago and works with PTAs and PTOs helping parents connect with schools and teachers in grades K through 8. 

“There is no such thing as a traditional family today. So when it comes to back-to-school or any marketing, it’s less about exclusive marketing to moms. The Leave it Beaver model barely exists today. For parents today it’s all about “How do we survive?” “Who is doing what?” and “We’re in this together,” said Tim.

Clearly, Dads are coming into play now that there are more dads staying at home to take care of the children. Pew Internet reported back in 2011 there were over 2.6 million single fathers in the US and they reported in 2012 there were over 2 million stay-at-home dads.

Until recently participating and engaging in school activities was tough for fathers who worked from 9 to 5pm, but now that more dads are home or working alternate schedules, the opportunities are greater,” said Tim. “You’ll find there are a lot more dads involved in PTOs/PTAs where it used to be almost singularly led by moms.”



Not only has the shift in working roles affected the role of father’s involvement in school, technology has made it easier to get involved. Email and online platforms make it easy for dad to help organize family events and participate in fundraisers, movie nights and even the school auction with dads offering to do things like handyman work. “It’s helping to create a vibrant school community,” said Tim.

So how should brands portray dads?
Just as with moms, there are stereotypical portrayals of dad in the media. “Dad is typically a dolt or never home. Just like moms making lunches and driving mini vans,” said Tim. “We need to identifying dad in more realistic ways.” Here’s how: 

• use humor: show dad joking and having fun with his family

• portray dad as confident

• use messaging that is pointed and quick

• showcase dad as problem solver–emotional and thoughtful 

• present dad as connected and not reliant on mom to save him 

“It’s about connecting with the person holding the purse strings. You want to be the brand that talks to the person who makes the decision. And who knows if mom is the person who makes the decision today. While mom is most likely to be the decision maker, there plenty homes where its dad,” Tim added.

We should celebrate the fact we now live in a world less constrained by gender roles. And it’s the brands to do so that win the hearts – and dollars – of consumers today. 

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