With so many households that have both parents working, today’s dads share many of the responsibilities that were once only viewed as motherly duties. Many of the modern dads are just as likely to cook dinner, buy supplements and pack the kids’ lunches as their spouse.
However, brands don’t always reflect this sentiment in their marketing. The messaging we’re seeing has not adjusted to this new reality and dads are often a punchline or left out of the picture altogether.
Don't assume you're talking to mom
“When a dad sees himself on a package, on a box or an ad on the internet, when you see him pushing a stroller or holding a child with one of those wraps, I mean that's pretty empowering,” said Tom Konecny, founder of dadmarketing.com and coauthor of Dadly Dollars. “So much of it starts with marketing and media. When we start acknowledging that the dads are equal, competent, parents, it changes.”
“Marketing is a powerful beast that controls us like little puppets if we are not mindful. We are told how to think, smell, dress and behave,” said Élan Sudberg is CEO of Alkemist Labs. “Previous generations were told that parenting is not masculine and is best suited for the female human. Much of that has changed and is still changing. It is clear that with the exception of growing the small human and feeding them with their bodies during and afterwards, fathers can in fact do everything a mother can do so why shouldn’t we? Brands have realized if they change the narrative into being a good father is cool, they can sell paramilitary-like diaper bags (of course I own one) to men and make dadding sexy.”
NutraDads in the house
“We can all blame the media, but to create lasting change, we all need to address how we act in our own homes. This means men need to help out more with household tasks, we all need to go back to basics with our cooking and nutrition (make it family time),” said Eric Meppem, co-founder of Pharmako Biotechnologies.
“I have three teenage daughters their 18, 15 and 13, and so my wife and I, we’re both working, so we tag team together. I think traditionally a lot of times it was the woman, what they would cook and be responsible for the food, but it's much more, an equal partnership nowadays,” said Dr. Dan Gubler, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Brilliant. “So my wife and I take turns cooking and I am really sensitive to what I give my daughters. I want to make sure that they have the best nutrition possible and it's funny but I actually do some research on the ingredients and what are the good nutrients in the ingredients and how to incorporate them into foods to help my children. I will see what's in the literature and see if something has been published in, like the Journal of the American Medical Association or nutrition journals.”
Sudberg skips the journals and heads straight to the lab. “During these immunity-challenged times we have added a number of supplements (that I test) to stay healthy,” said Sudberg. “As the CEO of a testing lab, I am very aware of this industry’s quality players and those who cut corners. When purchasing any dietary supplements for my kids I am careful only to buy from brands that I test in my lab. There are a handful of exceptions where I don’t test the products but know the operators well enough to trust their products. My kids take a multiple (powder, not sugar covered gummies), probiotic, and fish oil nearly each morning.”
Michael Hartman, PhD, Vice President of Research and Development at Plexus Worldwide, said that more education on the importance of a father in a child’s upbringing is needed.
“While this is largely recognized I think it cannot be understated. Research demonstrates significant associations between father involvement and childhood well-being. Modeling healthy lifestyle choices, teaching the why behind certain nutrition considerations, and being engaged in mealtime are just a few of the things I try to prioritize with my children. Also making sure I prioritize time with my wife as we co-parent. Making sure we align and are on the same team when planning our children’s nutrition,” explained Hartman.
Indeed, a report in the journal Pediatrics noted that there’s a growing amount of peer-reviewed studies published in major pediatric and medical journals that have focused specifically on fathers. These reports have painted a more nuanced picture of today’s fathers’ roles. Drawing on important contributions from such disciplines as infant mental health, nutrition, and psychology, this research offers a critical assessment of the central and unique role of fathers in the health of their children. These studies reported that fathers are present at the birth of their children, frequently attend well-child or acute care visits across childhood, and have unique roles in child health that may differ from those of mothers. The report pointed out that the involvement of fathers has important consequences for child well-being, especially with regard to issues of diet/nutrition.
The evolving image of “dad”
“In a world that demands equality, it is amazing that the dads are just kind of overlooked,” said Konecny. “In the past three decades, dads have played a more active role as parents in every aspect of raising a family and when companies start to recognize that need, they see an increase in revenue and profit.”
Indeed, a study by MDG Advertising found that fatherhood has a huge impact on brand engagement. But despite the monetary incentive, proactive fathers like Sudberg, Meppem, Hartman, Gubler and Konecny continue to be overlooked as this demographic goes untapped.
This Father’s Day, Konecny says he hopes to see more dads celebrated authentically, “Giving joke gifts, where we kind of poke fun at dad and rip on him, and talk about dad bods and dad jokes...I mean I can laugh at these things too. But, I think the more that we stop making him the punchline of jokes and we talk about how he's just as capable as a mom, when it comes to raising children, managing the household, making the same kind of commitment to being a dedicated parent, the better.”