(image credit) Jeremy Klaszus, blogger for the Calgary Herald, posted an article about the social and economic trend of leaving fathers out of parenting ads, punctuated by Safeway’s ridiculously narrow-minded “mom to mom” products.
“Apparently nobody in Safeway’s marketing department has heard that most families have a second parent and caregiver, a male form of human life commonly known as a father,” Klaszus says.
“In some families, like ours, this person is the primary caregiver. Some families have two dads. Others have one dad and no mom.”
This advertising problem isn’t as much a trend as it is a “vicious cycle.” If fathers are the buying minority (only 15% of household spending, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch), advertisers are less likely to speak to them. But if advertisers are less likely to speak to them, then the fathers remain a minority. Target recently unveiled a father-centric campaign, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything on google about it or its results.
Thousands of years of social history doesn’t lie (which is 8BitDad-speak for “I don’t have numbers to support this”) – women talk, men act. While a man will buy literally whatever product is in front of him, a mother will discuss with her circle of friends all of the options. They will buy, with trial and error, every brand until they find the right one, and then they’ll tell all of their friends about it. For a gender that is criticized heavily for being brand-driven, it seems like in watching my wife and her friends, the social purchase is more of a phenomena than with me, the father. Marketing master (and father), Ted Rubin, makes this point on his website as well as others – women are the social beasts, and advertising dollars are effective when pointed at them.
Related: At the grocery store yesterday, I watched a girl who had to have been less than 16 years old labor over which bag of pre-shredded cheese to buy. As she did the mental math and compared prices, a man, more than double her age, swooped in and grabbed the first bag that he saw that fit the cheese theme he was going for (Mexican). His brand, Kraft – 16oz at $4.99. The teen girl then finally made her choice, Lucerne brand – same Mexican cheese, but at a rate of 32oz for $5.49. The man paid almost double per ounce – and we’ll never know why. Does he prefer Kraft? Did the colorful bag lure him? Did he not see the “bulk” cheese in the knee-level bin? Was it the first thing that he saw because it was on his eye-level? Even a 16 year old girl – who is not the family caregiver (I saw her with her father in the parking lot as I was leaving), made a more informed choice than the seemingly rogue dude.
My question to the the advertisers – how do you break the vicious cycle? Is your (parent company’s) sentiment that advertising toward the gender minority is a waste of money? How will you increase your money’s efficacy in the growing male market? How do you invite men to “bring a friend” so that your dollars hit more pairs of eyes?
The “Mr. Mom” view of fathers needs to be changed. No longer is the father simply mom’s backup. The father is an important target for all parenting issues – as even the UN is finding out. In fact, Michael Keaton’s boobery in 1983’s “Mr. Mom” should have been a sign to society to start targeting fathers – since obviously the movie came from real-world inspiration. Opening weekend, the movie made $947 thousand – and ended up being one of the top 10 movies for that year. Up against Return of the Jedi and Flashdance and Terms of Endearment, I’m going to say that it didn’t do too shabbily. Back to the original point though – we’ve moved past Mr. Mom, and fathers are now, as Klaszus mentioned, more and more commonly primary and sole caregivers.
For now, Jeremy Klaszus and the rest of us dads will tough it out. We’ll be here, secretly creating our networks of informed fathers, and by the time the advertising dollars find their way to us – we will have made our own decisions – an advertiser’s worst nightmare.