Thought Leadership

Just in time for Father's Day: The marketer's guide to stay-at-home dads

Stay-at-home dads have come a long way since 1983, when Michael Keaton’s Mr. Mom was a schlubby, out-of-work ad man longing to get back to his 9-to-5. Cut to 2016, when stay at home dads aren’t just lovable, but admirable. “Dadvertisers” like Cheerios and Zillow now portray fathers not as bumblers gumming up the works, but as caring, capable parents.

On the whole, however, there still isn’t a lot of nuance to how we think of those men. It’s too bad, because there are an awful lot of them. Fathers represent a growing share of all at-home parents—16 percent in 2012, up from 10 percent in 1989. That’s 2 million dads, almost double the 1.1 million in 1989, likely handling the lion’s share of household chores, apportioning up the grocery budget and helping with homework. 

And we hardly know them.

“People are still grappling with what this looks like,” said David Berkowitz, a former agency executive who left his full-time job in April to take care of his daughter. When he’s out with her people ask, “Where’s her mother?” he said.

In conducting a proprietary study of more than 300,000 consumers’ media behaviors and attitudes, iProspect discovered a few things about these SAHDs that marketers need to know, especially with Father’s Day around the corner.

They love tech

You’ve heard the saying “boys and their toys.” Even more so, it seems, for stay-at-home fathers. According to our survey, stay at home dads over index among other men in their love of technology. Fifty-eight percent of stay at home dads love to buy new gadgets and 52 percent consider themselves experts when it comes to new tech.

Best Father’s Day Gift: Berkowitz is hoping an Oculus Rift will make it into the house for Dad’s Day.

They’re influential

“I pride myself in being a resource for all kinds of things,” said Alex Yarde, a father of two kids in Maplewood, NJ, and an editor for online magazine, The Good Men Project. “My knowledge is a mile wide and an inch deep.”

Per our study, 58 percent of stay at home dads say people come to them before buying new things, and when it comes to planning activities, 43 percent of SAHD’s do the planning.

Yarde’s column, All Things Geek, calls upon him to write often about technology, which he advises on professionally and personally. Lately he’s sung the praises of the Caseta wireless lamp dimmer kit from Lutron, a smart home integration with his Amazon Echo. Boiled down? “It’s a space age clapper,” said Yarde, also an early adopter.

Best Father’s Day Gift: Yarde is skeptical about Father’s Day, calling it a “scam” invented to help men deal with Mom’s Day envy. Still he wrote this gift guide, ranking a case of Bier de Mars Ale, his own number one necktie alternative for geeky dads everywhere.

They’re into organics (but wary of cheap claims)

According to the iProspect data, 43 percent of stay at home dads “always” buy organic products, and they are willing to pay more for the privilege. “They smell of peppermints they’re not as harsh chemically,” said Yarde. “I try not to put a lot of fertilizer on my lawn because the kids run around on it.”

But like 29 percent of stay-at-home Dads, he’s not particularly vulnerable to advertising, especially where it concerns the promises around organic food. “An organic chicken and a Purdue chicken both end up on my plate, so it’s not a happy end for either of them.”

Best Father’s Day Gift: A barbecue set for that chicken and an organic cleaner to pick up the mess.

They don’t have enough free time (and they’re willing to pay for more)

“I always feel like I am pressed for time,” said Aaron Baar, a media industry reporter and stay-at-home dad for 12 years. Baar lives in the Chicago area with his 3 children and said he is quite happy to spend on services like house cleaning and yard maintenance. “I pay for it not to do it.”

IRL shopping of any kind is also being knocked off the list by Amazon Prime. “If we need toilet paper immediately, fine. But something a little less pressing, clothing, toiletries, bulk items are worth getting online,” Baar said. That’s in line with iProspect’s finding that 54 percent of SAHDs shop at online retailers where they pick up in store.

Best Father’s Day Gift: “I want for Fathers day what all the commercials tell me mom wants for Mother’s Day,” said Baar. “Give mom a break this Mother’s Day. I want that. But I’m not going to get that. So I asked for a skillet.”

As previously posted on Digiday.