Dads and the Age of Exclusion

February 22, 2014 // By: // 10 Comments

Marketing Communications     

What if you could target moms by marketing to dads? What if you could appeal to intelligent men by including strong women in your message? This might sound like selling to cats by appealing to dogs, but it’s very different—for one thing, we’re all human.

Let me back up. This starts with the Dad 2.0 Summit.

Held this year in late January in New Orleans, the Dad 2.0 Summit is described by its founders as “an annual conference where marketers, social media leaders, and blogging parents connect to discuss the changing voice and perception of modern fatherhood.” As a marketer and a dad, I was ostensibly there to learn how Hunter PR and our brands can best work with the increasingly vocal Internet Dad contingent.

I was not, expressly, sent down there to listen to speakers that made me miss my kids terribly, tear up repeatedly and walk out of there determined to be a better father and human being. But hey, no one ever said there wouldn’t be any side effects.

On the marketing front, though, I emerged from Dad 2.0 with one overriding and blindingly obvious lesson learned: dads aren’t idiots, don’t treat them as such. As an engaged dad who’s never found a Father’s Day card that speaks to me (all dads, according to greeting cards, are obsessed with golf, beer, TV remotes and talking to their kids as little as possible), it’s not a lesson I necessarily needed to be taught.

It’s a lesson, though, that brands are still trying to learn. “Brands get in trouble when they think having a dad in the commercial necessitates calling out that it’s a dad,” said Chris Routly—who gained national attention when his blog The Daddy Doctrines called out a Huggies ad campaign to the point where the ads were eventually pulled—on a panel discussion called “Marketing to Today’s Dad.”

Better to naturally include a dad in your message and not make a big deal out of it, the panel agreed. “A woman will have a higher favorability rating for a brand if they’re shown an engaged dad in the message,” said Jeff Porzio of ad agency Forge Worldwide.

So…you can market to moms…by showing dads?

Again, it’s a blindingly obvious message, but this is one that might escape us as an industry a little too often.

There’s nothing wrong with targeting a particular consumer, of course. I think the problem comes when marketers set up a false “us vs. them” dichotomy and decide to target one group by trying to denigrate another. Tracey Lien had a great article on Polygon recently called “No Girls Allowed,” which looked at how video game marketers created a self-fulfilling stereotype that girls don’t play video games…and they created it on purpose, to make video games seem cooler to boys.

But just like moms enjoy seeing an engaged dad, there’s a large and important segment of men (and even male gamers) today who value equality, and who might be more inclined to enjoy something that featured strong women in a prominent role because it plays into their self-identification as men who view women as equals.

Not to say, of course, that this describes the entire population. There’s still a very vocal if not large segment of the gaming public who consider feminism a bad word (and they spend “quality” time in the comments sections of websites), and this kind of strategy might not work for a brand that, for whatever reason, is targeting those men.

The simple takeaway here would be “don’t try to appeal to the largest chunk of your audience by making fun of and alienating a different, if smaller, chunk of your audience.”

But maybe the inspiring dads I met at Dad 2.0 have got me feeling a bit idealistic, because I’d like to think there’s another takeaway—that we as an industry can reach the people we’re trying to speak to not just by showing them people who look just like them, but by showing them people who don’t. We meet people outside of our demographic every day whom we respect and who inspire us—a more inclusive marketing industry might trust us enough to try to appeal to us by talking to those people, even if they’re not the largest target audience.

Including dads in your mom-targeted messaging. Including women in your male-targeted entertainment. Cats and dogs living together…mass hysteria. We can make it happen.

About the Author

Justin Aclin

Justin joined Hunter PR’s lifestyle practice after nine years as an editor and writer for consumer and trade publications. Justin has worked on some of the world’s biggest entertainment properties, including Transformers and The Avengers, and has also written comic books and graphic novels for several companies, including Dark Horse Comics.
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