Marketing to Today's Dads Requires New Approaches

father and kidsMany Generation X and Y fathers, in particular, are a new breed who are more involved with their children's lives and more likely to make day-in, day-out types of product purchases--not just the home electronics or riding lawnmower buys, confirms a new study from Packaged Facts authored by Silver Stork Research.

Marketers looking to reach beyond appealing mostly or only to mothers to tap into this "Dad Factor" need to stop reflexively "thinking pink," say the analysts. They should gear their brands' media outreach and benefits positioning to these new fathers--who have a markedly different purchasing behavior than moms.

The report, "The U.S. Dads Market: A Unique Profile of Fathers, Their Attitudes, Values and Behavior as Consumers," is based on primary research conducted over a three-year period, including two recently fielded online surveys of more than 500 U.S. fathers.



Of the estimated 66 million U.S. fathers, half are reported to be full-time fathers, and a growing number are single-parent heads of households. The total number of fathers is expected to grow nearly 10% over the next decade as Gen Y's age into the parenthood years. The shift to the "new dad" mentality is happening, but gradually: Currently, one in four fathers reports being "very involved" with the daily activities of their children. Growing segments for exploration by marketers include single, gay and Hispanic fathers.

Who are these new generations of dads? They are less defined by gender stereotypes and see much less of a dividing line between men and women--partly as a result of their upbringing and partly as a result of being married to women who work and are more active and individualistic than previous generations. Therefore, these dads approach parenthood with a team attitude. Gen X and Y dads are positive, comfortable with their gender, optimistic about being parents (focused on the opportunities of providing for their children), and much more active consumers than dads of previous generations.

Key facts about newer-generation dads and marketing effectively to them, per the report:

  • Dads are men--meaning that parenthood doesn't change their overall approach to the world; it just expands it.
  • Like mothers, fathers' key concerns regarding their children are education and health.
  • 40% say they're doing at least half of the weekly household shopping. They are also increasingly likely to be the purchasers of items such as kids' clothing, school supplies and educational/entertainment products.
  • Dads don't like to browse and shop, at least when it comes to family-oriented products. They identify their product targets, zero in on them, complete their purchases and leave. They gravitate to center store, "on the beaten path" areas, and expect items to be logically placed near similar items. And they're likely to have done Internet research on any significant purchase prior to heading to the store, to minimize shopping time.
  • However, they do have a propensity to make impulse purchases--an opportunity for marketers.
  • Electronic media and the Internet are key. New dads listen to radio, watch TV and surf the Web for parenting and other information/entertainment. They are less likely than moms to consume family-oriented magazines or "lifestyle" media content.
  • New dads are attracted to products that are practical and solve a problem. They put quality before price. Product positioning should focus on solving a problem within the product category.
  • At the same time, marketing should seek to leverage these dads' appreciation of a humorous element in advertising (as opposed to more sentiment-related creative relating to kids/family themes, more popular with moms), and seek to add an element of fun to the products themselves. Fun and play are cornerstones of interaction between these dads and their kids.
  • However, younger dads do respond to "retro" product connections to their childhoods.
  • Marketing/advertising should reflect these dads' parental motivations to give their kids what they want, make their kids happy and be perceived as heroes by their children.
  • Marketing should include images of dads interacting with kids, especially "real" dads/kids, to reflect the more positive, involved image to which younger dads relate. The Silver Stork analysts note that new-generation dads feel that few campaigns to date include the dad/child relationship in the way that they perceive it.
  • Product packaging should take male-appeal into account.
  • Integrating traditional male marketing strategies within the baby/children's products market appears to be an extremely viable approach for brands looking to appeal to younger dads.
  • Including products or product appeals geared to dads within promotions primarily targeting moms can also be effective.

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