Pop quiz: Which segment of the population gave these responses to the parenting research we recently conducted with Google?
61%: “If money weren’t an issue, I would quit my job to stay home with my children.”
70%: “I have some or all of the responsibility for household shopping.”
58%: “I often attend my children’s activities, such as music, theater or sports events.”
88%: “It’s important for me to be a perfect parent.”
If you said “millennial moms,” you’d be half right. These statistics do show trends among millennials, but they actually come from – drum roll, please – dads!
The “New Normal”
Surprised? I’m not. As the primary caregiver for our children (like 26% of millennial dads), my husband falls right in line with these findings. His part-time job offers him the flexibility to help with homework, get our kids to hockey practice, and volunteer at their school. And while I'm usually the one who makes the shopping list, he’s the one who buys our groceries.
There was one part of the research, though, that did surprise me – and spurred some interesting conversations around our dinner table. I did not expect to hear that millennial dads put more pressure on themselves to be “perfect” parents than millennial moms do (88% vs. 78%). And I was intrigued to hear what, exactly, they think perfection means.
What Society Expects vs. What Dads Deliver
It turns out that fathers think society wants “perfect dads” to be able to balance personal time with family time (77%), provide financial support (77%), focus on their children’s academics (66%), and prioritize their families over themselves (64%).
Measuring themselves against these ideals, the surveyed dads reported that they fell slightly short on the top three, but overall seemed to feel that they were doing a good job. I found it fascinating that dads ranked academics so far ahead of sports in importance, with only 36% of dads saying they are actually focused on their kids’ athletic activities vs. 59% who are focused on academics.
I know that in our house, schoolwork is always on our minds, since the education system seems to be much more competitive and test-oriented than it was when I was a kid. It looks like families everywhere are having the same experience.
What It All Means for Marketers
Clearly, millennial dads are being kept busy by their kids, but that doesn’t mean they don’t also take time to do some of the family’s shopping. Our research found that when it comes to purchase decision-making, dads say they are primarily responsible for electronics and financial services while their spouse or partner is responsible for household and children’s products.
Dads also say that since having kids, their shopping habits have changed, with 39% reporting that they are more likely to buy their consumer electronics online than they were before becoming parents.
Marketers will be happy to hear that as these dads turn their attention online, they are 35% more likely than Gen X dads to notice digital advertising. Companies that want to take advantage of this opportunity should cater to millennial dads’ preferences: 66% like humor, 58% are looking for deals, 47% appreciate ads featuring real dads, and 47% prefer ads relevant to their kids’ stage of life or their own.
When it comes to imagery, 68% of dads are drawn to portrayals of a whole family together, and 58% like to see a man holding a baby in his arms.
The takeaway from all of this research, of course, is not that dads need special attention for playing a big part in their family life. Instead, marketers should simply acknowledge that dads are equal partners in the gender-neutral job of parenting and treat this reality as the new normal.
Companies that do this well will not only earn Dad’s engagement and loyalty; they stand a good chance of earning Mom’s respect, too.