As consumers we’ve been segmented, profiled, prodded, poked and questioned by brands and marketers in an effort to find new ways to inch us ever closer to the point of purchase, writes Tim Downs, director at Aberfield Communications.

Tim Downs

Tim Downs

But there is one group that, until now, has remained steadfastly stuck in their stereotype and largely on the back burner when it comes to targeted marketing – Dads.

For many years the key target of the big brands has been Mum, as the ‘gatekeeper’ to the family and, more importantly, the family finances. Alternatively, it has been through the kids and generating the constant and irresistible buzz of pester power.

Throughout all of this ‘Dads’ have often been portrayed as a bit part, relegated to their role as a Bank of Dad, Dad’s Taxis, the sentimental protector or a shed-dwelling comedy character.

Part of the reason for this is that there have been genuinely few territories where men are seen to exist in great enough numbers to warrant spending time and money, which makes those where they are crowded and expensive. How many agencies when asked about targeting men have arrived at the inevitable answers of sport, mates, and the pub?

But times have changed and roles have changed. And whilst there is greater diversity in marketing to men, so far there has been relatively little that has demonstrated an understanding of the changing role of Dad.

That is, until now.

Some of the world’s biggest brands have realised that the role of Dad has changed and, since the start of the global economic crisis, that the family dynamic has also changed.

Just look at the recent Cannes Lions and some of the big winners. These brilliant ads by Coca Cola and Citroen demonstrate exactly this change, and they picked up the gold and silver awards.

It’s no longer about Mum as the gatekeeper. Dad is playing an equally important role in the family purchasing decisions, as the chances are that both parents are out at work in order to make ends meet, or it’s increasingly a single parent household.

The weekly big shop has become a thing of the past, with parents taking shopping duties in turn depending on their work and family commitments on a given day.  And that means that Dad has some control over the weekly budget, family expenditure and where it is spent.

And this means that brands that can appeal and adapt to the needs and desires of dads, as well as mums, have a real opportunity to attract an incredibly loyal customer base – make it easy for Dad and he will be back.

So expect this to be the year that dads are front and centre in many campaigns, as they are variously feted and celebrated with mixed success.  I wouldn’t even be surprised to see him feature in a Christmas ad or two, John Lewis?

Tim Downs is a director at Aberfield Communications.