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GLOBAL 2016: Millennial dad shoppers are disrupting traditional notions of mom making all homemaker decisions

Dads’ different attitudes and behaviors challenge marketing and media thinking

by Nihar Das
Global P&G Business Leader
Mom has always been a magic word for FMCG marketers, that rare combination of the magical, with the appeal to move people to tears, and the logical, with the power to make or break brands. Traditionally, it’s mothers who have been the primary decision maker on where to shop and what to buy, which meant that they were the most critical audience that brands were built on. Take a look at the world’s largest advertiser P&G’s latest “Thank You Mom” campaign - and you will know what I am talking about.
Recent research from Y&R North America reveals that this is no longer the case. Dads are fast becoming the key decision makers in household purchase baskets of a family; 80 percent of millennial dads are already the primary grocery buyers. What’s more, they are a far more lucrative group to go after than moms. Consider this: the research shows that when women become mothers, they become more frugal and conservative in their spending outlook, while the opposite is true for when men become dads. Dads are more likely to pay more for what they want, to look for more innovative brands, and to stay more loyal to their chosen brands.
Is this just a North American trend? Perhaps not. We observe similar patterns in the UK and there is no doubt that this is fast becoming a global phenomenon, especially among millennials - the epicenter of this trend.
Culture clubs
Are all millennials across the world likely to behave the same? The cultural make-up of any country holds in its features some inherent clues that can help predict its propensity to change. We looked at how countries stack up along two of the Hofstede cultural dimensions – Power Distance Index (PDI) and Individualism versus Collectivism, to develop our forecast of how this trend will find its way across the world. The ranking of a country in Power Distance and Individualism indicates the resistance that will be experienced by any shift to established hierarchies (countries low in PDI, less likely to accept the established hierarchy without questioning, tend to adapt quicker), and individualistic societies often find it easier to replace existing belief systems with new ones.
Seen along these dimensions, low PDI, individualistic countries like Canada, Denmark, Sweden, UK, Ireland and New Zealand are more likely to see similar trends among dads that are already evident in North America. Most of the other European countries (Switzerland, Australia, Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway) are not far behind, although the change here will be more gradual and long lasting. However, for Russia, Asia and South America (including India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia), where traditional roles are held strongly, the change could be slow and take a while coming.
From swagger to swaddle
How does marketing need to shift to keep up with this evolution of daddy stereotypes from the beer and buddy, to the responsible, open-minded, soccer dad? It forces us to rethink what we are saying, who we are saying it to and how we say it.
For most packaged goods, where annual buyer churn is around 40-to-60 percent, dads are a more attractive group to go after because they are likely to be more loyal to brands than moms. Dads also tend to be more open to trying new things and are willing to pay the premiums. So if dads are better for business, how can we be more inclusive even as we think of who our brands’ audience could be?
And, if moms are indeed frugal, and dads more likely to splurge, how do we redefine what we are actually saying to them? For instance, value could mean entirely different things to these two groups. A retail offer may be just the right trick for moms but may put the more innovation-seeking dads off the brand.
Millennial dads’ affinity for technology is reshaping the retail space. They are more likely to research online, rely less on word of mouth and more on online reviews and recommendations. Is our communication designed for optimal delivery on smartphones as the primary reach platform; are products available on leading e-commerce as the key distribution channel; and are we being deliberate about curating objective consumer reviews and using social media as influencers?
Dads mean business
We also know that dads seek, process and act on information differently to make decisions. An interesting example of difference is when we dig deeper into an apparently similar looking trend for both moms and dads, younger and older - growth in mobile phones coupled with regrowth of television consumption. A lot of it is reported to be simultaneous consumption of both screens. However, while our traditional target moms tend to multi-task, catching a TV series while paying her bills, millennial dads are more likely to use the second screen to deepen the experience of the first. This has implications on how we plan multi-platform strategy and also on what content we choose to support across different platforms.
Baby care in the U.S. is one example, which is experiencing this trend among millennial parents. Marketers are dwelling with how to include the dads in the communication, which has been purely to moms so far. At the same time, Amazon’s entry into this category with its own baby diapers, only marketed to Amazon Prime members, which is suspected to have a higher target density of millennial dads, is very interesting.
FMCG marketers, who have traditionally built their brands to appeal to moms, haven’t moved fast enough to prospect dads as a key source of business. If you are an FMCG marketer or work on those brands, it’s time to rethink dads. They mean business.