doug french wants cookies

Managing Editor of PRWeek US Gideon Fidelzeid knows how to throw a party. He invited a bunch of industry leaders (I love that term) to New York to discuss how marketing to parents is evolving. One of the participants was Dad 2.0 Summit co-founder, Doug French.

Among the topics were brand loyalty, brand relationships, differences in parenting styles, micro-targeting to demographics, and more. For those interested in marketing and parents, this is an enlightening read.

The panel of participants:

  • Geri Allen, corporate and brand comms manager, Pepperidge Farm
  • Stephanie Azzarone, president, Child’s Play Communications
  • Jenny Cherrytree, national PR and comms manager, Kumon
  • Doug French, cofounder of Dad 2.0 Summit; publisher, Laid-Off Dad blog
  • Liz Gumbinner, publisher and editor-in-chief, Cool Mom Picks and Cool Mom Tech
  • Julie Livingston, senior director, client development, CarrotNewYork
  • Bryan McCleary, associate director, US Communications, P&G
  • Emily Meyer, chief creative officer and founder, Tea Collection
  • Kelly Ramirez, VP, consumer group, Weber Shandwick
  • Stephanie Smirnov, former US CEO, DeVries Global

Remember that time a group of industry professionals got together and discussed marketing to parents? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

I’ll let you read the participants’ answers on these as I explore a little myself. And look, none of this stuff is terribly funny. This fact pains no one more than me. I could not crack one joke this whole article and now I’m going to go punch my pillow to get out my unspent attitude I wasn’t able to use here. That’s not a euphamism or anything. I’m really going to go punch a pillow.

doug french

Can someone please hook Doug French up?!

So, the first question Fidelzeid asked was a good one: what are the similarities (between moms and dads) that marketers can craft messages? This seems like a no-brainer, right? But if it was, it wouldn’t explain why so many brands talk differently to moms than they do to dads. So, obviously, the initial building block is: parents want the best for their kids. “Best” is a problematic word – what’s best for one parent isn’t best for another. So how do marketers parse that? The best way is to keep it real – talk about your product. Draw a straight line between a problem parents face and its solution. Don’t try to be funny, don’t try to be perfect. Just show us why your product is great.

Another good question by Fidelzeid: “Where is the balance between marketing to dads as men and marketing to moms as women?”

The truth is that this is as complicated as it sounds. Men become different beings when they become fathers. And mothers as well. Old school advertising used to depict all little girls and young women as potential mothers. That’s just not logical. And the same advertisers used to depict all young and adolescent boys as potential policemen, firemen and CEOs. Life just isn’t that simple. New marketing is finding ways to address moms as women and dads as men – with, of course, varying degrees of success. Some commercials depict dads as frazzled, under-the-gun guys looking to escape. That’s not how you market to dads as men, by separating the two. You market to them as dads because dads are men.

Here’s a great Q&A courtesy of Fidelzeid and French:

Fidelzeid asked, “what are some keys to marketing to dads?”

This is French’s answer:

I’m a father of two boys and I want them to grow up in an environment that embraces an updated and more enlightened sense of what masculinity is. It means loving your kids, confronting loss, dealing with pain. It means not just rubbing dirt on a wound, walking it off, and going to build a shed. There’s a lot of macho among dads and that’s fine.

However, dads are adults with adult issues. Expectations need to elevate with the media who portray dads, the brands that partner with and market to dads, as well as dads themselves in terms of elevating their skills as fathers.

Bingo. Gone is the time when we can just accept the silly macho stereotypes for men. Men cry, men hurt, men are vulnerable. And men love – they love their spouses and their kids. Advertising needs to stop showing dads as one of the children and really continue its path into depicting men as caring, loving, vulnerable people.

And yes, dads can love a good steak or a game of football, but once they have a spouse and a child, advertisers need to realize that those two things go above steak and football on the priorities list.

Head over to PRWeek US (linked below) and read the rest of the roundtable yourself. It’ll give you a little insight into how brands are working with parent-bloggers and how those bloggers are turning it into relationships that end up affecting advertising.

And for those bloggers that might not be working with brands, this might be a good primer as to how to get and deal with the attention from brands.