Dads Are ‘Making Inroads’ But Moms Still ‘Rule the Roost’

Last week, I was honored to speak at M2Moms, the Marketing to Moms Conference in Chicago. Along with meeting a terrific group of women (and a smattering of men) whose companies were interested in learning more about how to market to moms, I had the opportunity to present the results of research we had conducted at Child’s Play, specifically for the event. A post about the results appeared in Engage:Moms on the first day I spoke, October 23, and I would like to share it directly with you here.


Back in June, I published an Engage:Moms article citing a survey we had done about dads’ role in household purchasing decisions. Based on our long-term experience with moms, we strongly felt that the sudden big buzz about dads’ involvement was significantly overstated – more aspirational than actual — and that part of the misperception resulted from the fact that the bulk of feedback for existing research was coming from dad alone – without mom’s input. We stated clearly at the time that our survey was very limited – reflecting responses from only 200 moms — and that a broader study was necessary to support those findings.

In September of this year we launched that study – this time, of nearly 1,250 couples or 2,500 moms and dads – in partnership with the independent research organization, the NPD Group. Its goal was to separate perception from reality. Once again, the findings supported our view that while dads are more involved than in the past, it’s still mom who rules the roost – and makes the shopping list. I am announcing the results of that survey today, October 23, at M2Moms, the Marketing to Moms Conference in Chicago.

According to the survey, titled Are Dads the New Black, mom remains by far the No. 1 decision maker when buying for home and family. Dads are making inroads, but not to the degree many now assume. And mom’s evaluation of dad’s contribution often differs dramatically from his own.

We asked for moms’ and dads’ view of dad’s decision-making role in 20 different product categories. The survey looked at where dads were “entirely” responsible for a product category, then “primarily” responsible and lastly, where they “shared responsibility equally” with their spouses.

Some highlights:
• Moms remain the major household purchasing decision maker in about 80% of families.
• Moms are responsible for the majority of those decisions–about two thirds. This is notable because it contrasts with the long-held belief that moms are responsible for about 80% of household purchasing decisions—an indication that dads are getting more involved.
• Dads continue to dominate decision making in what might be considered traditionally “male” categories. 55.3% of moms and 62.2% of dads said that dad was entirely responsible for buying decisions related to Home Repair and 50% of moms and 57.0% of dads said dad had sole responsibility for Lawn & Garden. Meanwhile, roughly a third or more said dads handle all decision making for Automobiles (38.4% of moms, 48.6% of dads) and Technology (31.8% of moms, 35.1% of dads). The percentages remained similar when families were asked what dads were “primarily” vs. “entirely” responsible for.
• Moms, however, dominated purchasing decisions for children’s products. In fact, dad’s role here was noticeably minimal. Moms said that only 1.1% of dads were entirely responsible for buying children’s toys and clothes and dads were in close agreement, claiming sole responsibility for 2.2% of toy purchases and 1.2% of children’s clothes.
• The balance improved when families were asked where they shared responsibility equally. The four categories that ranked significantly higher than others among both moms and dads were Home Furnishings (51.0% of moms and 46.0% of dads said decision making here was shared equally), Family Travel (51.0% and 46.6%), Family Entertainment (43.2% and 43.1%) and Appliances (41.4% and 36.2%).

While dads are becoming the “new new thing” among marketers, this study clearly shows where dads are key decision makers today and where they still play minor roles, so that brands can make wise choices when allocating their marketing dollars.