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Stat of the Day: Why Brands Should Enable the New Dad

Fathers at Least Think They Make Decisions. Why Not Let Them?

By Published on . 8

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Source: Bonnier Corp.'s Parenting Group and Edelman

I got a press release this week titled, "The Myth of the Mancession," which I almost dismissed outright because I believe that despite its cutesy name, there's some real truth to the mancession as we've covered in this blog from time to time. It's not hard to see that the professions that have typically been male-dominated are getting hardest hit as the employment picture reinvents itself. This isn't going to magically reverse itself, no matter how much focus politicians might put on rebuilding the manufacturing economy.

According to the Census Bureau, there are two women in college for every guy. Overall a greater percentage of the male workforce is unemployed -- 10.5% to 8.6%, according to Bureau of Labor Statics data for 2010 (released in December 2011). The splits are more pronounced for the 20-24 age group. That makes sense considering the higher percentage of women in college, but there's still a nearly 2-point gap in the 25-34-year-old age group. Younger women are also closing the wage gap with men at a pretty rapid rate. So, yeah, the manscape is changing.

But I digress. That's not what the press release turned out to be about. It focused on fatherhood. That's a subject kind of near and dear to me these days, so I read on.

The Parenting Group, which publishes Parenting magazine, among others, teamed with Edelman to conduct some research on the current state of dads in advance of the Dad 2.0 blogger conference in Austin. Dads, especially new dads, think the deck is stacked against them, according to the research. Eighty-two percent of men whose oldest child is less than 2 years old believe an anti-dad societal bias exists, compared with the average of 66% among all dads.

Those are some pretty big numbers, but let's talk a little about what they mean for marketers. We'll ignore the fact that 40% of kids are born to single moms these days -- granted, many have live-in, but unmarried guys in the house, too.

I think most new dads who have ever taken their kids to a park on a weekday afternoon have realized they don't really fit in with a cohort of moms and nannies. It's a weird dynamic. And don't get me started on "Amazon Mom." Dads are expected to do their part around the home and take care of the kids, but often aren't given equal credit.

The data collected by Edelman's Strategy One offers some hints why that might be.

One part of the study asks dads how often they are responsible for various tasks. The sample is broken out by the age of the oldest child and by the age of the dads (under- or over-45).

What's interesting is how little variation you see. There is no clear trend. No matter the age of the oldest child or the age of the guy, the dads clearly feel they are evenly splitting the grocery shopping. This holds true for many of the other tasks the study covers, including diaper changing, discipline, getting the kids ready for school, etc. It's even true for disruptive tasks like staying home when the kids are sick. You also see a near majority of dads who say "mostly me" or "always me" when asked if they're responsible for these tasks. Between 40% and 55% of dads think they're bringing home the literal bacon. The base on this part of the survey, by the way, is dads with at least one kid under age 12. That's really important.

Why?

With any research like this, it's all about perception. In another part of the study, for instance, the surveyors asked a similar question to both moms and dads. Guess what they found? In that survey, the question was worded more generally, so a whopping 70% of dads said they did the grocery shopping. But only 36 % of moms surveyed said that dad did the grocery shopping. You see similar disconnects in perceptions about taking care of sick kids, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry. The dads have a very different notion of their role in things than the moms do. Dads almost universally think they're earning the money and buying the cars, but so do roughly three in four moms.

That survey asked the same battery of questions about how the respondents own parents divvied up the workload. Those results are fascinating. Only 32% of dads -- 70% of whom say they do the grocery shopping -- said their own dads did the shopping.

So this tells me a few things.

First, in just a generation (maybe two) the role of dads has changed dramatically -- we don't come home anymore and enjoy a glass bourbon in the den while The Mr. . finishes cooking dinner. You hear plenty about the changing role of women, but dads get a lot less ink.

Second, we dads have gotten over it and adjusted ourselves, at least that 's my read on the even responses to some of these questions no matter the age of the dad or the children.

Third, dads really don't feel that we get any credit for what they do around the house -- and clearly they think we do more than the moms think they do. Dads also have a societal chip on their shoulders when the kids aren't riding on them.

Finally and most importantly, this perception gap is something marketers should really be speaking to. There's certainly an argument to be made of "Well, dads only think they have any input, but we know it's the moms who do all the work and make all the decisions in the end so we'll focus a bajillion dollars on marketing to them."

Yeah, great, say the dads.

But suppose you were to spend just a portion of that effort enabling the dads to make some more of the decisions that they already think they're making. One in four dads in the survey don't seek out any parenting advice from anyone, although that 's less true with first-time dads. Fifty-nine percent of dads use four or more sources of information when selecting brands.

So marketers, dads have dealt with their changed role. When are you going to?

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