Recently I read several articles about an online battle with the diaper brand Huggies and Dads. Yes, I said Dads. Not Moms. Huggies had launched an TV ad campaign called the “Dad test” where five Moms left their babies – and everything that comes with taking care of a baby – with their husbands for five days. Huggies called this ‘the ultimate test’ and they showed these Dads in various states of confusion while their wives were out having some well-needed girl time.
The poop hit the fan (yep, pun intended) and several stay-at-home Dads hit the social media world with their complaints. Several online petitions and thousand of Facebook comments and tweets later, Huggies pulled the ads and apologized for the way they misrepresented Dads in their marketing campaign. While this had signs of the 2008 Motrin Moms debacle, I couldn’t help but take a step back and ask, “When did Dads become a target audience for diapers?”
Maybe the bigger question is “Are Dads the hot new target market for brands?” With my research hat on, I went in search of some answers. And what I quickly learned was, today’s Dads aren’t the same ‘breadwinner-doing-yardwork-sports-tv-watching’ men who we were raised with. Census figures show that Dads are spending more time at home with the kids and in 1/3 of US homes, Dads are the primary caregiver. Whether this has been a result of job loss from the economy or the sociological shifts which are occurring, it’s pretty clear that Dads are indeed a new target audience for childcare products.
It appears that Dads are more involved with their families and taking on more of what was considered ‘the female role’ in the house. With these changes in Dad behaviors, most marketers don’t seem to ‘get it.’ They’re continuing to follow along the lines of these marketing myths and need to reinvent their message if they want to reach Dads.
1. Dads don’t shop: These census figures show that men are not only taking care of the kids but doing other ‘housewife duties’ including the weekly shopping, managing the budget and taking care of the house. The Huggies incident proves that men do have an equal voice in their house and they’re not afraid to use it.
2. Dads don’t do brand research: The old line goes, ‘if its not about cars, sports or games, men don’t really care.’ Today’s fathers use of online research for household and childcare related products are higher than men in a previous generation. The research suggests that having kids affects how both parents make purchases, not just Moms.
3. Dads are just the babysitter for the day: Most consumer brands continue to target Moms and show Dads as a bumbling follower in the house. My research found this be quite the opposite. Dads are more then just a confused fool trying to figure out how to work the microwave. New studies show Dads know more about childcare then their fathers. Many of the men felt the marketing ads weren’t speaking to them as an important target audience, despite being the fact some are the primary or shared decision-maker for childcare purchases.
Of course, this data is still pretty fresh and not everyone can agree upon the extent of Dad’s buying power. Women who work full-time were surveyed about who runs their households and a majority claimed they were still primarily responsible for household buying decisions. I’m sure the truth of this matter probably lies somewhere in between.
It’s certainly something to watch as time goes by just how much influence Dad’s have in the household decision making. But as the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding” or maybe in this case, we should say, “the proof is in the diaper.”
Photo credit: Father and son surf lesson