Reaching Recession Dads: With More Fathers Filling At-Home Roles, Marketers Need to Understand Their New Influence

By Learned, Andrea; Hadlock, Carolyn | ADWEEK, June 15, 2009 | Go to article overview

Reaching Recession Dads: With More Fathers Filling At-Home Roles, Marketers Need to Understand Their New Influence


Learned, Andrea, Hadlock, Carolyn, ADWEEK


There is something more to the recessionary changes in consumer behavior than meets the eye, and it has to do with gender. But it's not the "marketing to women" rallying cry you might expect. Rather, we are seeing a new parenthood perspective, where men are more likely than ever to be at home due to layoffs or shifting careers.

With men currently outpacing women in job losses, this new economic reality is bolstering an already-growing trend: wives taking on roles as primary breadwinners while husbands become primary caregivers.

Men, who may have been increasingly contributing at home and participating in household shopping before, are now finding they have to pay even more attention to the what's and why's of their purchases. They may also be turning first to the brands that understand their new needs as more conscious and family-aware buyers. Therein lies an expanding marketing opportunity that takes a bit more consumer insight to see and serve.

With so many more men joining the at-home ranks, marketers can't afford to continue gender-based efforts focused solely on rooms. A telling, and humorous, case of lost gender identity is represented by the online "Rebel-Dad." This particular stay-at-home father and blogger recently took a diaper brand to task for sending him its Mother's Day e-mail, with the friendly and personalized greeting: "Happy Mother's Day, Brian!" And this brand is not alone in assuming its consumer target is female only. A competitor is currently running a spot promoting a year of free diapers, with the single contest qualifier being that you need only be ... pregnant. (Sorry again, Brian.)

This sort of dad-disrespect is everywhere. It's in the news, online and even in the movies. And the dialogue among men in the thick of this cultural shift is significantly growing. Why Not Dad, for example, is an independent film that explores the trend of men taking on the role of primary caregiver in their families.

These dads speak intimately of the challenges they confront within a society accustomed mainly to women in that role, and the need for support from and for other stay-at-home fathers. One poignant example is the sense dads get from moms at the playground. They feel they must quickly establish a connection to their own child in order to put the women at ease about their kids' safety with an unknown man around.

It's becoming pretty clear that men are not feeling the love from the many CPG brands in their new role as "professional dad." If such a brand's reflection of the gender-role realities was bad before--as in the classic, ever-smiley, cookie-baking morn--it has become an embarrassingly glaring disconnect. …

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