Dads already have their priorities straight, now marketing and media need to do the same

Willful pigeonholing of dad by marketers and media into the secondary parent role feeds our senses, shapes our attitudes and makes us believe that all dads aren’t as skilled and competent as moms. The formula works so well that companies have convinced themselves that nothing has changed over the years, and thus, the typecasting continues.

As a result, society makes this persist in many ways.

One example is the methodology of the academic studies about moms and dads and their role as parents. The observations and conclusions are usually mom-biased and more importantly discount, overlook, or ignore a dad’s perspective.

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One recent illustration of this is a 2016 study by researchers at the University of Minnesota and Cornell University. This study was featured in a Star Tribune article on October 15, 2016, titled, “Among Parents, Dads Get All the Fun and Moms the Stress and Fatigue.” The researchers sampled more than 12,000 parents while measuring how happy, sad, stressed, fatigued, and meaningful their time was throughout the day, both with their children and apart from them. One of the report’s authors – as well as the media – concluded that moms do more housework and dads get to have more fun.

However, the researchers and media never considered how dads and moms have different priorities when it comes to the time they spend with their kids. The truth is neither approach to parenting is wrong, they’re just different. The same is true when it comes to shopping.

Different priorities doesn’t mean that a dad does not care and a mom is more caring. Most dads work during the week and, because of this, they use their limited spare time to enjoy and have fun with kids. Different also doesn’t mean that dad doesn’t have any interest in shopping or wouldn’t like to share in the shopping duty.

Consider the shaping of thought by the marketing images in advertisements: dad is often viewed as the playmate, while mom handles the cooking, cleaning, and shopping. If gender equity is sought, marketers should consider how genders could be depicted differently and fairly.

The aura of today’s modern dad is vastly different than that of yesteryear. Now is the time for companies to view dads with a clean slate by erasing all the myths and misguided labels, which drag them down from being viewed as equal and adept parents.

A few companies are already realizing this untapped potential, and they stand to maximize gains in a crowded field seeking to win over parents and their spending dollar.

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Numbers don’t lie

According to a 2012 study by Parenting Group, publisher of Parenting and Babytalk magazines and Parenting.com, and Edelman, a leading global communications marketing firm, statistics show that men are now the primary shoppers in 32 percent of households – more than double the 14 percent rating of two decades ago. That same study, in a Yahoo survey of 2,400 U.S. men ages 18 to 64, found more than half now identify themselves as the primary grocery shoppers in their households, but only 22 to 24 percent feel advertising in packaged-goods categories speaks to them.

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Defy Media investigated tasks of men aged 18 to 49 in 2014. They discovered that 65 percent of men hold the primary responsibility of shopping for several household product categories and 54 percent of married men say they shop for groceries and household supplies more than their spouses.

Phil Lempert has served as a food trends editor for NBC’s “Today Show” since 1991 and is now known as the Supermarket Guru. In a 2015 piece, he noted that according to a new Young & Rubicam study, men now comprise 41 percent of all primary grocery shoppers, but that figure is even higher among dads: 80 percent of millennials and 45 percent among all dads are either the primary or shared grocery shoppers in their families. The study also found that dads are more brand-loyal and less frugal than moms.
These facts alone suggest an invitation to corporate and marketing executives to seriously consider developing a marketing campaign to both parents, without the exclusion of one or the other. The facts are often ignored due to the myths of fatherhood, but the reality speaks of new dynamics.

There is no question parenting has evolved. Dads, as well as moms, have contributed to the new progressive development of today’s modern parents in which roles, like shopping, are shared between parents. This new parenting culture brings up many questions like:

  • Is the relationship between marketing and modern parents changing? How is it possible to not explore or consider dads as valuable customers?
  • How can a marketing department would neglect the obvious?
  • How can a CEO and its board allow all this to be missed, year after year?

Let’s hope that the corporate world soon catches up to modern families who so greatly matter to their bottom line.

Don’t formula makers realize that dads feed babies, too?

No matter how often we view it, it’s always a surprise to see formula makers ignore dads as equal parents. Dads can’t physically breastfeed, but they certainly can formula feed. And they buy formula. A lot of it.

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As such, one would think dads should be huge targets for laser-focused marketing that capitalizes on the influence of fathers and formula feeding. Dads could be the primary ambassadors for a product that formula makers could woo in order to assist them in promoting healthy formula feeding.

Nope. Almost every formula manufacturer still disregards dads as parents who feed babies. Take a look at the site revamp of Enfamil, where you’ll find a bit of irony on its Better Together page.

First, it exclaims: “The world outside is full of things that divide us.” Yep, things like websites — and marketing campaigns, hashtags, imagery and menu tabs. In fact, there isn’t much to find that’s inviting on its site for fathers looking for content about the products they’re using to feed their children.

Second, it indicates that “…we are raising the next generation of extraordinary men and women.” Also true. But these eventual extraordinary men will be disregarded upon becoming dads by the very company that celebrates them.

Third, it speaks of “uniting” throughout its website. Um, right. Most of it looks like a divide. Dads are creating, expecting, growing, feeding and nurturing babies every bit as moms, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at the Enfamil site.

Perhaps Enfamil could invite some of its paying customers to talk about their experiences as parents.

Enfamil won’t have to look far. Those customers are the same ones who get up in the night and take on feedings whenever needed. They’re the ones who read nutrition labels and care about exactly what they’re feeding their children. They’re the ones who want support and want to share it. They’re the ones who work at a job that helps to pay for the formula.

They’re dads.

Marketing innovation starts with acknowledging the modern world

Company evolution and innovation is the hallmark of any successful operation, but such progress is muffled when weighed down by a tagline that harkens to a bygone era. While companies create slogans to market their products, many remain convinced that dads haven’t changed, and so the simple solution is to keep the communication the same. dadcooks.jpg

The message never changes.

Therein lies the problem: society has changed and today’s dad is an involved consumer like never before. More importantly, he’s an active parent. With that brings a vocational conviction that stretches beyond serving merely as a breadwinner and secondary parent. Dad is an equal family player and meaningful parent in every way, shape, form and instinct – every bit as mom.

As a result, the consequences of ignoring dad as an equal and competent parent are catching up to the corporate world. While competitors offer new brands that speak to evolving and discriminating purchasers, companies are realizing that they cannot rest on the laurels of past success and generations of loyal customers. Customers are changing, both in terms of age and demographics. It’s clearly a different ballgame now, and a failure to keep up with today’s modern parenting realm means a loss of precious revenue and market share.

There are also unintended negative effects on the matron targets of current corporate campaigns. The harm here is that it places unwanted pressure on mom, who of course is now increasingly found in the workforce. No, she doesn’t want to have to place her stamp of approval on everything. She doesn’t want to be the sole decision-maker, nor does she want to be forced into the habit of thinking that becoming a better mom involves choosing the proper peanut butter.

While the 1950s mom ran the household almost entirely alone as dad provided the monetary support, the world is different now. Today, mom has a balanced counterpart in the parental world. Neither is in the lead or usurps the other.

This person, of course, is dad.

Another consequence of ignoring dad in marketing is not only the degradation of fatherhood, but also motherhood and parenthood. Continuing to portray dads as incompetent shoppers, substitute parents for moms, or part-time sidekicks is an insult to moms. It questions the mom’s choice she made to become a professional woman. It’s she who desires to focus on providing the best for her family and reach her utmost career potential instead of staying at home with the kids. It also belittles her decision to marry the man she chose to be her husband and father of their children. No matter how you add it up, the commutative law of addition still yields the same result. Motherhood + fatherhood or fatherhood + motherhood – both equal parenthood.

The good news is company and marketing executives have the power to change how they view dads as parents, as well as consumers of products and services. Even better news is that dads continue to be an evolving and growing target market.

How ‘mom panels’ only tell half the story

Everyone keeps telling us the days of traditional gender roles are long gone.

They say men care for and nurture children, just as women work outside the home. Both parents contribute no matter what task needs done, because the lines are blurred and times are different now.

Ask around your circle of family and friends, and chances are those perceived dynamics match the real world. Moms and dads do indeed share responsibilities, but that’s not how the corporate world sees it. There, particularly in the realm of marketing and media, you’ll find a different story where stereotypes are held onto, where there’s a belief that only mom runs the show.chickfila2.jpg

That’s never been more evident than with the Chick-fil-A Moms Panel, a corporate initiative which works to bring moms news and announcements, gather feedback on future programs, and provide exclusive opportunities and gifts.

The program is driven through BSM Media, a marketing and media company that specifically focuses on connecting brands with moms.

The Chick-fil-A Moms Panel is believed to have close to 1,000 moms on this year’s panel. That’s a lot of moms who can help Chick-fil-A learn more about their offerings and the way they address customer service.chickfila3.jpg

The only problem? It’s forgetting half of the parenting equation.

Last year’s industry-first book, “DADLY Dollar$,” revealed several interesting facts about dads. A 2015 qualitative study by consumer insights firm iModerate indicated that dads make impromptu purchases first based on price. But there are other reasons. One reason is that they want to reward their children for good behavior, accomplishments, or even to avoid an in-store meltdown. In addition, they also like to give their families treats, either to celebrate events, reduce home tension, or indulge loved ones. They also do so out of convenience, for the sake of planning, and to anticipate items they might need.chickfila4.jpg

If money issues are often at the root of couples’ arguments, it may not prove who is right or wrong, but it at least proves this: dads have a hand on how money is spent.

Operating a moms-only panel isn’t only about ignoring half of its customers, it’s about losing out on potential revenue and the opportunity to learn how today’s modern families spend money.

Company founder Truett Cathy insisted, “We should be about more than just selling chicken. We should be a part of our customers’ lives…”

Rather than focusing on missed opportunities, we see Chick-fil-A as having a new opportunity to be a part of dads’ lives. In fact, there’s no better way for this family-owned business to remind everyone that families also include dads.

What happens when you dare to think outside the juice box

This past spring we had a spirited social media discussion with a fine, dedicated dad over our mission. Among other things, this dad asked, “Who cares who juice boxes get marketed to?”

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He argued that only a small percentage of dads care, so small that it doesn’t justify considering dads as an ignored group. It was a bit surprising to hear these remarks from a father, so let’s take a moment to address this today.

There is power in marketing that can completely change society as well as societal views. If it were perceived through marketing that, an active and involved dad is “the norm,” it would make sense that a dad’s desire to be a more active and involved parent and shopper would increase.

Since the 1990s, fatherhood has evolved, and today an active and involved dad is, indeed, the norm. This evolution of fatherhood is a direct result of the changing workforce as more and more moms have taken up work outside of the home, more and more dads are cutting their hours or staying home part- or full-time with the kids; thus, moms are becoming primary breadwinners, too. This parental unit demographic desperately wants, and needs, to feel accepted for their decisions. As such, if dads are comfortable in the shopping and buying experience, they will do more of it voluntarily.juicyjuice34.jpg

In today’s modern family, dad is now also in charge of buying groceries, clothes, school supplies, and other products and services the family needs to exist. A dad also needs to see he is a trustworthy purchasing agent for his family. The best way to do this is to involve him in the marketing process and value him as an equal parent as well as a valued customer.

By marketing directly to moms as in, the “mom-tested” mindset, it reinforces an archaic stereotype and subliminally makes a dad feel that the mom is a better/leading parent. It also makes the mom feel as though she shouldn’t have re-entered the workforce, and by her doing so she is less of a mother. This is insulting to moms and dads, but yet it continues.juicyjuice35.jpg

Change is hard, especially if it’s an idea or venture one has never explored before, like marketing to dads. Changing the way we view, treat, and market to dads is necessary because there is a lot at stake.

Dads represent half the parenting population. That equates to a significant loss of revenue and profit for companies and businesses not catering to the dad demographic. Also at risk is the image of dads as parents for this and future generation of boys and girls who will eventually become parents and consumers.

Our mission here is encourage all of us to change the way we think about, view, and treat dads. It is our hope that we’ll help companies and businesses capitalize on the benefits of marketing products and services to today’s active, involved dads. The case to include dads in advertising goes far beyond monetary gain. Society stands to benefit from a world that acknowledges dads as equal, competent parents. In fact, children, marriages, and the entire parenting community will all reap the rewards of dad inclusion.

Just like the Mr. Mom label, all of this is a big deal when you look at the larger picture. No person should be subject to a label that implies incompetency or reduces his or her value as a person or part of the family. We’ve never heard workforce moms referred to as “Mrs. Dad.” If someone did, we’d also find that degrading to motherhood. One of our recurring messages is that words matter!

Simply put, we’re merely asking others to think outside the juice box.

An open letter to dads – the problem with influencer marketing

Back in the spring – March 7 to be exact – National Cereal Day was celebrated from sea to shining sea.

OK, that’s exaggerating. Our entire nation didn’t honor it. It was largely done so by Twitter users. And it’s not really National Cereal Day, it’s more like #NationalCerealDay.

These aren’t real holidays – they’re hollowdays – they’re empty, there’s not much to them. They’re days often set up by marketers to help sell industries or products, and they’re primarily celebrated only on social media. If your workplace, school, or home isn’t really celebrating and you’re spending more time tweeting about it than actually observing it, then it’s a hollowday.kix9.jpg

Still, they serve a purpose and can be a lot of fun on social media. We sometimes join in the fun ourselves. And while this obscure cereal occasion was celebrated, we noticed a disturbing trend: dads advertising for companies like General Mills and Kellogg’s, companies who have a regular history of ignoring fathers through slogans, general marketing and even on cereal boxes.

So why would dads plug a company that doesn’t place value in them?

Who’s an influencer?

Influencer marketing can be powerful and it certainly has its place. We all know how it works: companies identify individual “influential” people – rather than a certain market – and intentionally use those people by controlling the content of their blog stories, testimonials, social media posts and photos.frostedminiwheats2.jpg

These companies are asking those people to purposely write about a brand in order to exert influence over possible buyers. Along the way those influencers gain income, kickbacks and plenty of attention – that is, adulation in the form of likes/follows. It’s true that all of it can result in an inflated ego, but welcome to the world of influencers.

Is influencing always what it seems?

At the same time, influencer marketing can also offer deceit. It’s common practice for influencers (though, not all) to buy followers that represent bots to make profiles appear more impressive. Most people don’t buy it, but interestingly, a lot of companies overlook it all in the name of numbers.

Some influencers have real followers and they worked hard to gain every one of them. So, it’s easy to see that dad bloggers have sway more than ever before, but with great power comes great responsibility.

If dads want to be recognized as fully competent parents and equal to their parental counterparts in the world of influencing, spending, retail and commerce, know this: they’re contributing to the problem.

Dads can’t be supporting dad-unfriendly companies in the name of freebies, likes, media attention, more followers, or even in the name of fun. That’s called selling out.cheerios.jpg

If you’re a dad helping to promote, say, General Mills, have you thought about what you’re helping to endorse? Some of its brands, for example, continue to ignore and discount you with exclusionary messages and slogans stamped on the front of every box.

So when you plug these companies, you’re offering a stamp of approval to what they do – and that’s wrong.

Self-respect is key

If men truly want to be valued as prime influencers and be treated equally everywhere they go online and in person — schools, doctor offices and even by the children in their own homes — it’s time to speak up and take a stand.quakeroats3.jpg

All of those goodies, swag and likes aren’t worth it if they’re feeding the monster. Those companies who disregard fatherhood will continue to get away with exclusion and won’t value true purchasing and parental power if influencers give in.

Being an influencer carries weight, and if dads really want to influence someone, stand up and speak out. Tell them that not all parents are moms. Tell them that you matter as a parent and a customer. Hollowdays aren’t worth it.