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Marketers Need a Better Read on Today's Dads

There's a traditional view of Father's Day that seems all
about buying dad a tie or some aftershave, and letting him play golf in peace
for the afternoon. That image, however, now seems long gone, relegated to a
spot in the attic next to a box of old pipes and a couple of Norman Rockwell
prints. It's 2012, and there's a new dad in town.

This guy is the kind of father who sees taking care of his
kids as a social badge of honor. Society is warming up to these guys who
you might find enjoying a daddy playdate in the park on the weekend, or pushing
a stroller in Target. At home, they might even be folding laundry or cooking
breakfast-in fact, Parenting cites that 26% of dads do all the grocery
shopping and 22% do all the cooking.

And this new class of fathers should continue to affect the
way marketers liven up the humdrum routine of selling Father's Day.

Granted, there's one incontrovertible bit of business: some
of these dads found themselves doing all the chores as a result of the
recession. Men lost four million jobs in the "mancession"-two million more
than women since 2007-according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But once
home, many dads were surprised that they actually liked being there. They
found they were good at the home stuff, raising kids and taking care of their
wives. Whether they're working or are stay-at-home dads, men are finding their
sensitive sides, discovering the emotional rewards of modern parenting and
dropping some of the traditional machismo they were raised with.

So, how should marketers cater to the "new dad" in
2012? Perhaps it helps to imagine what it would look like if they borrowed
a lesson from Mother's Day.

What would happen if Dad was actually pampered, instead of
being given a power tool? Imagine rewarding this new Dad with gifts such as spa
services, including MAN-icures. Would restaurants get in on the action and host
daddy-daughter dinners for more quality time on this special day? Could
florists find a way to man-size flower arrangements, so that every dad would
look forward to receiving that delivery?

Advertisers are already getting in on the new dad action,
tugging at our heartstrings in emotional spots, like Google Plus' recent
commercial that tells us the endearing story of a first-time dad who loses his
cell phone containing all his baby pictures, but is relieved to find that he
didn't really lose all the shots-they were automatically stored in his Google
Plus account.

A while back, Subaru gets the tears flowing in their ad
called "Baby Driver," featuring a dad handing over the car keys to his daughter,
whom he first sees as a seven-year-old awkwardly behind the wheel promising to
be careful. (Interestingly, the father and daughter were not actors playing the
roles, but part of a real family.)

Savvy marketers that have done their homework will have
taken note of these ads, and will perhaps offer spots in authentic and sincere
ways because this year, this new type of dad deserves-and perhaps expects-a new
type of Father's Day. Here are some findings from a study about dads that
Insight Strategy Group did for Spike TV to support these suggestions for
marketers, and for anyone looking for more concrete evidence of the shift.

The "new" dad is a nurturing dad vs. the traditional,
straight provider dad. For new dad, parenting is most important; for
traditional dad, it was one of a number of equally important things in their lives.
Here are the findings:

  • 88% of dads today say they feel emotionally connected to
    their kids, as opposed to 35% of traditional dads.
  • 89% of dads currently show open affection to their kids, as opposed to 34% of
    the traditional dad we grew up with.
  • 81% of dads today are available for their kids anytime they want them, as
    opposed to 34% of traditional dads.
  • 79% of dads now take time to have good conversations with their kids, as
    opposed to 34% of the traditional, "busy" dads.
  • 68% of dads are confidantes for their kids, as opposed to 25% of traditional
  • 77% of dads listen to their kids talk about their worries and problems as
    opposed to 29% before, when moms took on much more of this activity.
  • 74% of dads seek to be a shoulder to cry on for their kids, as opposed to 26%
    of traditional dads who, again, looked to mom for this role.
  • 69% of "the new" dads drive their kids places, as opposed to 30% of
    traditional dads.
  • 63% of dads often watch their kids, as opposed to 18% of traditional dads.
  • 42% of "new dads" stay home with sick kids vs. 11% of traditional dads.
  • 55% of dads these days cook for their kids, up from 20%.
  • 60% of the new hands-on dads say they have an "excellent" relationship with
    their kids, as opposed to 38% of traditional dads.
  • Interestingly, today's very engaged dads are only 2% happier with their life
    overall than traditional dads, a climb to 42% from 40%.

Fathers today expect more fulfillment even if they don't
know how to get it. Dads realize that for them, unlike for their own dads, it's
now acceptable, or even preferable, to be emotionally there for their kids.