Why Brands Are Paying Attention as Dads, Led by Gen X Dads, Take on More Parenting and Household Responsibilities Like Cooking
There’s no doubt that moms see themselves in the lead for a wide variety of parenting and household responsibilities. And for many years, it was taken for granted that Mom was the primary household grocery shopper, except in a small number of households where men shared the responsibilities or in male-only households. Typically, women were estimated at 70% of primary grocery shoppers (PGS) and men at 30%. But that has changed, and brands are taking note.
Today’s dads, led by Gen X dads, are taking on more household responsibilities like cooking. In fact, the Marketing to Moms Coalition found in the 2012 State of the American Mom Report that many dads (40%+), led by Gen X dads, see themselves as equally sharing in parenting responsibilities with moms. This includes areas such as grocery shopping, making meals, household cleaning, childcare, taking children to sports, and playing with children.
And these dads are working as well as cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping. While stay-at-home dads (estimated at 176,000, or 3.4% of stay at home parents) have received considerable recent media attention with their novel approaches to child rearing, the typical Gen X dad is working and also grocery shopping, making meals, taking children to sports, etc.
While moms disagree on whether dads are doing this ‘equally’ with her, this is because of moms’ greater intensity and passion around how these tasks are done. By contrast, dads take a different approach to these tasks and aren’t necessarily competing with mom to be ‘the best.’ A good example is found in cooking and how dads approach mealtime.
Recently, Kraft commissioned new research on how dads are approaching mealtime. For example, Kraft’s research found that dads see themselves as adventurous when cooking, specifically finding, “More than half (58 percent) of dads surveyed say they are adventurous or spontaneous in the kitchen.” And Kraft is incorporating these insights about dads into its innovation and marketing efforts, according to Barry Calpino, Kraft’s Vice President for Breakthrough Innovation.
"We understand that moms and dads approach meal time differently. Both are looking for inspiration, but not necessarily through the same channels or to the same end. We're excited to learn more about dads and how we can have some fun, and add some value, in their kitchens."
A recent Wall Street Journal interview with stay at home dad, Lance Somerfield, founder of New York City’s Dads Night Out also highlighted the different parenting approach. Lance mentions that he and his son take a more adventurous approach to their outings, for example taking the Sky Train to the play areas on Ellis Island. Some other points mentioned are that stay at home dads “are quicker to set aside perfectionistic child rearing routines, and are more spontaneous.” These findings seem consistent with Kraft’s findings on men overall.
At the M2Moms Conference in Chicago in October 2012, a Dad marketing advocate in the conference, asked Janet Domingo Fletcher, Associate Marketing Director of P&G Global Olympics Program, what P&G’s response would be to the dad blogger backlash on the otherwise overwhelmingly successful “Thank You Mom” $500 million initiative worldwide. Janet mentioned that P&G is planning to address dads with dad-tailored approaches driven by dad-specific insights, but is avoiding overly simplistic approaches like ‘Thank You Parent.”
As I’ve begun discussing these findings with business people and marketers, I’ve noticed a lot of heads nodding. Dads in the audience have told me they’ve gained new insights into their spouse’s (the moms’) more intense focus and commitment, while moms have told us they are supportive of marketing efforts that celebrate dad’s increased role. And it’s refreshing to see the often overlooked Gen X dads (and moms) leading the trend, while many marketers appear to have shifted all their attention to Millennials, overlooking the fact that most family households with kids under 18 today are headed by Gen X parents. I look forward to hearing of examples of brands that are nailing this insight with dads and moms.