Client: We’ve got a hot, new product that’s going to change life for families all across Canada by transforming housework from a chore to a joy!
Agency: Sounds exciting! Who are we targeting?
Client: We want to shout this far and wide, but make sure we focus specifically on our target: Dads.
Agency: Oh, you mean Moms.
When was the last time you briefed, or were briefed, on a product targeted at Dads? (Of course, we’ll need to omit to male mainstays of booze, cars and sports.)
Even in this age of modern-families and extreme-equality, we still follow the traditional marketing laws of women as caregiving, shopping, household managers and men as bread-winning, TV-watching, groundskeepers. While there’s no question that these stereotypes still exist, the rise of the modern woman and mother has also opened the door to the modern dad.
Who They Are
There are two key groups within this new set of dads: the Modern Married Dad, and the State-of-the-Art Single Dad, and each will force marketers to re-visit their communications strategies.
1) The Modern Married Dad: This group of dads is one that has evolved over time. As the role of women has shifted over time, these dads have adjusted their roles to take on more child-rearing and household responsibilities.
Typically younger (30-39), and urban, they are University educated and tend to work in management positions. These dads were raised by working mothers and expect that from their wives. That expectation is coupled with their acceptance of their role of a partner in the raising of their children and of household duties. More than any other group of Canadian men, these dads share the shopping responsibilities with their partners. They may still defer to mom in certain household decisions, but as the primary end-user of key products, they now have stronger opinions and influence over buying decisions.
2) The State-of-the-Art Single Dad: If the Modern Married Dad is an evolution in fatherhood, then this new single dad is a revolution. This dad is on his own and is the primary decision maker in the household. And the number of them continues to increase. From 2001 to 2006, there was a 14% increase in the number of single father households in Canada, up to 280,000. That number increased by 16.4% in 2011, bringing the number to 305,000.
Single dads are typically between the ages of 40-49 and have one child. He is likely to hold a trade certificate or diploma and work in a trade. They were very likely to be Modern Married Dads while still in their marriages, and they carry over those traits into single-fatherhood. But now, as the sole caregiver, they are responsible for all product research and shopping.
Where They Are
Acknowledging the existence of these two types of dads is a great first step, but now we must determine where they are and how best to communicate with them. While there are some similarities between the two groups, their relationship status creates some key differences that need to be recognized.
1) The Modern Married Dad: Like most young, urban men, these dads are constantly plugged in. They have multiple devices (PC, tablet, smartphone) and one, or more, is never far from reach. Like their partners, they are active social media users. There are 3.6 million Canadian men, between the ages of 30-39 on Facebook, over 394,000 of them are fathers and in a relationship. Unlike their partners, though, they use social media to observe. They will follow brands that they truly love, but are not the type to engage in contests or promotions.
2) The State-of-the-Art Single Dad: Slightly older than the Modern Married Dads, these dads also have a very different set of responsibilities. They have less time than the other group of dads, so spend less time online and on social for personal reasons, but still use multiple devices for news, shopping, information and business. They are also heavy TV watchers, and favour sports and news.
Regardless of who, or where, they are, a key similarity between these two types of dads is their growing resentment of mom-centric marketing. This was evidenced by the response to two recent ad campaigns by two CPG giants. The first, from Procter & Gamble, was entitled “Thank You, Mom”. It was developed for the 2012 Olympics and focused on all the hard work that moms put in to help raise Olympic athletes. Because of the campaign’s positive tone, it was successful, but that didn’t stop dads from around the world flooding message boards and comment sections with their disappointment of being portrayed as second-class. The second, from Huggies, took a far more negative tone in presenting the “Dad Test”, which left dads alone for five days while mom went off to be pampered. The premise was to see just how poorly the dads would fair when left to their own resources. A tidal wave of online petitions, Facebook comments and Twitter Posts forced Huggies to pull the campaign and issue an apology to dads everywhere.
The message is clear: these new dads exist and they are ready to be recognized. This may require some changes to your communications strategy, but faster you bring them into the fold, the larger the lead you’ll have on your competition.