Want To Sell Products To Parents? Stop Ignoring Dad

On this year’s Super Bowl broadcast, Audi became the latest brand to depict a new kind of father in its advertising, one who is sensitive, thoughtful, and deeply committed to the well-being of his children. In the 60-second commercial, a dad watches his daughter compete in a go-cart race while expressing the hope that she will one day be treated as an equal to her male peers. After years of commercials dominated by bumbling men, ads like Audi’s are not only a breath of fresh air for the audience but also a business necessity for the brands that produce them.

For companies that market their products to parents, it has never been more important to include dad in the picture. In a recent survey, we found that while mothers remain the primary caretakers, today’s dads are playing a much bigger part in raising their children, particularly when it comes to family shopping. In order to compete in this environment, brands need to adopt new marketing strategies that reflect these shifting gender roles. 



Today’s dads are taking on greater responsibility in the domestic sphere.

We have seen firsthand just how quickly fathers have picked up the slack around the house. While many dads were once focused solely on providing financial support for their children, our research finds that they have recently become highly engaged in household purchase decisions. According to a survey of 1,200 parents we conducted in October 2016, a full 78% of dads said they regularly buy groceries for the family. In addition, 38% of households reported that the father is the primary decision-maker on travel purchases, while 19% said dads were in charge of buying products for children and infants.

And yet, many brands have chosen to portray men as absent from the parenting process. According to a 2016 study from the branding agency Geometry Global, nearly 38% of dads feel that brands inaccurately depict their role as parents. Further, the study found that while fathers spend 15% more than mothers on household supplies per shopping trip, only a small sliver of ads in this category are created with them in mind. Needless to say, this will have to change if brands hope to be successful in the years to come.

Dads need to be included in both the creative messaging and the marketing plan.

In order to win business moving forward, brands need to present creative messaging that reflects the changing structure of the modern family. This means that rather than depicting fathers as disengaged, unskilled and boorish, brands need to produce ads that portray dads as supportive partners who are intimately involved in caring for their kids. According to a study we released last year, two in three parents said that their purchase decisions are influenced by whether a brand accurately portrays modern parenthood. This was true of both fathers and mothers, as no one wants to see their partner portrayed as a dope.

Beyond more realistic advertising, brands must also develop marketing strategies that cater to fathers’ unique sensibilities and preferences. For instance, the dads we surveyed reported that they are most involved in the process of comparing prices, suggesting that brands can woo them with coupons and other content that stresses the value of certain products. In addition, our research also indicates that fathers are highly concerned with convenience.

According to the survey, dads were 23% more likely than moms to make weekly online purchases and 28% more likely to report feeling overwhelmed, harried, or burdened while shopping with children. For parent-focused brands, the key is to further this research by reaching out to their increasingly engaged male customers to learn more about what makes them tick.

Get started today – or be sorry tomorrow.

In the meantime, marketers should begin developing campaigns that allow them to reach male parents with relevant messaging while they are in a mindset that prioritizes their role as fathers. Just as mothers frequently flip between “mom mode” and the other aspects of their personal and professional lives, fathers are most receptive to marketing messages when they are consuming content about the trials and tribulations of parenting.

By embracing the “dadvertising” trend across parenting touchpoints, marketers can make real inroads with a demographic that is only going to become more influential in the years to come. Indeed, brands that fail to do so will only have themselves to blame when dads ultimately decide to take their business elsewhere.

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