What CPG can learn from auto marketing

From Innocean USA's SVP, planning and research: As gender roles shift, household branding must keep up

With the recent news of a mega-merger between food giants Kraft and Heinz, many industry folks are wondering what the impact will be on the advertising industry and how the two brands will move forward with one cohesive strategy.

As an advertiser working primarily within the automotive category, there’s one key insight that’s helped propel our work that should also be an important takeaway for those that will take on the Kraft-Heinz business: Do not underestimate dads.

While men have always been an important target for automotive marketing, it’s traditionally been moms who are seen as doing the decision-making and purchasing for their families’ food. This is largely thought of as a given, and advertising has reflected it for decades. Smiling moms packing lunches and happily baking cakes with their kids are still prominent in advertising today.

But in the last generation, a profound shift has occurred that the ad world is only just starting to catch onto — dads are more involved in family life than ever before, and their shopping habits are starting to rival their spouses’.

As an automotive advertiser, I spend a lot of time trying to get beyond the numbers and really get inside the heads of men. In our recent research, some interesting insights emerged. Today’s dads are Gen X’ers (and to a lesser but increasing extent, Millennials), and they have a very different view of fatherhood than the generations before them did. They aren’t just parenting alongside moms who work out of the home; many were raised by them, too. When they were young they were called "latchkey kids," and their parents weren't always there to hold their hands. As a result, they gained independence early in life.

This affects the way they parent today in ways that are interesting and a bit surprising. Because their parents weren’t always around, they are highly motivated and determined always to be there for their kids. It’s important to them that they share their children’s values and passions.

A study by the AdCouncil showed that 86% of dads spend more time with their children today than their own fathers did with them. They’re much more involved in day-to-day parenting decisions than their own dads were, and this goes right down to what they buy for their kids at the store.

An NBC News poll showed that 30% of dads today say that they do "most" of the grocery shopping for their families. They are also less price-sensitive than women, buying less on sale and largely shying away from using coupons. That’s a big opportunity to overlook and brands do so at their own peril. Need proof? Take the recent dad-led campaign to change the name of Amazon’s unfairly monikered "Amazon Mom" program to "Amazon Family." Fathers are taking ownership of their roles at home and feel that society hasn’t caught up to that fact yet.

While dads were well represented in this year’s crop of Super Bowl commercials, and the stereotype of the bumbling, incompetent father seems to be starting to fade away, we still have a long way to go. A recent study by Dove Men+Care revealed that only 13% of dads believe the media portrays fathers as responsible for childcare, and three out of five dads say the media portrays them negatively.

At a minimum, we should be seeing more stories about dads and their relationships with their kids, and the brands under the new Heinz Kraft are in a great position to tell them. Today's dad wants to be there for his kids, even if it means making some personal and career sacrifices. That’s a positive story people can relate to and its much more interesting than playing to stereotypes of cheerful moms and clueless fathers.

Don Longfellow is SVP, planning and research, Innocean USA.

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