Marketing to a New Generation of Dads

Remember the 1983 movie “Mr. Mom,” which featured Michael Keaton as a bumbling stay-at-home dad who didn’t know how to change diapers, do laundry, or feed his kids?

Today’s dads are a far cry from that notion of the hapless dad.

“There’s a strong community of engaged dads that are no longer bashful or embarrassed by taking on domestic roles,” Robert Duffer, editor of the dads and families section of the web site Good Men Project, told The New York Times. “Times have changed.”

Due to economic factors and sociological factors, there are more stay-at-home dads now than ever before (that said, they’re still a very small segment). Last year, the Census Bureau counted only 189,000 at-home fathers, but that’s up 78% from a decade ago. Still, men only comprise 3.6% of all stay-at-home parents.

But it’s not just at-home dads who are more involved with child-rearing.  Gen X and Gen Y dads are much more hands-on than previous generations of fathers. As a result, marketers are realizing that men are making more purchasing decisions when it comes to baby products. Companies are now marketing to this “new” demographic.

Dove Men + Care recently commissioned research, in conjunction with the Center for Work and Family at Boston College, about fathers’ roles at home, at work, and at play.

It’s not surprising that Dove is now targeting dads in ads that emphasize their family involvement.

Personally, I enjoy the new Subaru commercial, in which a dad, after dropping off his anxious young daughter at the school bus the first day of school, follows alongside the bus.

Since men don’t want to look like moms and carry flowery diaper bags, new lines of male-oriented gear have recently been introduce to appeal to dads.

Diaper Dude of Los Angeles recently announced a licensing agreement with Major League Baseball Properties to sell diaper bags, baby bottle holders and pacifier pouches bearing team and ballpark marks and mascots, the company said in a news release.

“Diaper Dude was born from the idea that men don’t have to lose who they are when they become a dad,” founder Chris Pegula said in the release, touting the company’s “hip gear for cool dads.”

Although we are known for our expertise in reaching moms, Child’s Play also has a “dad” component.  Years ago—when we first started noticing the increased role of fathers in parenting — we introduced our Digital Dads program, a way to reach fathers on line. We’ve also hosted special events, such as Dads at Play.

In order to appeal to this once untapped market, marketers are finally acknowledging that men are parents too.