Remembering Mobile Dads – and Not Just on Father’s Day

It’s June, which means Father’s Day is right around the corner in the U.S. Historically this is the one time of the year when marketers think a lot about dads, at least as a target for gifts and cards. However, there’s growing evidence that dads are playing a larger role in marketers’ efforts to reach families, and not a moment too soon. With marketing campaigns increasingly seeking out dads, as with many other demographic groups, they will be well served to do so via mobile.

A number of commentators noted the strong presence of dads in commercials during the 2015 Super Bowl in February, which hopefully signals a broader trend in their importance in marketing. A particularly memorable spot for a cold remedy this past winter featured a sniffly man in a doorway, apparently asking his boss for a day off work, the punchline being that he was talking to his toddler. The tagline was “Dads don’t take sick days. They take Nyquil.”

So dads are on marketers’ minds and, in honor of June, the IAB Mobile Center teamed up with our Board Member Millennial Media to look at the demographics of mobile dads, what they do and where to find them on their smartphones. Our new infographic, “Mobile Dads: Why Marketers Should Target Them” includes a number of cool insights:

  • There are 52 million mobile dads in the U.S. and they make up 22 percent of the total U.S. mobile audience. 82 percent of dads own a smartphone and 40 percent own a tablet. Dads spend about 57 percent of their online time on mobile.
  • In terms of where to find mobile dads (relative to mobile moms), they access sports content 28 percent more, financial news 23 percent more, and technology news 19 percent more than moms do.
  • Biggest year-on-year growth in terms of mobile dad content categories included beauty/fashion/style (up 61 percent – dads like to look good); digital books/magazines (up 35 percent – dads are reading more); and travel (up 51 percent – dads are planning the family vacation).
  • Looking just at millennial dads, the mobile content categories where they outpace dads in general include: kids/family entertainment (25 percent more likely), job listings (22 percent more likely), and food/recipes/cooking tips (17 percent more likely). This suggests that millennial dads play a bigger role in family meal planning, use their mobiles to help keep the kids occupied and, less happily, that they may be in a less stable position career-wise.
  • Importantly, we also found that mobile dads are very inclined to make mobile purchases: 34 percent of all mobile dads and 48 percent of millennial dads buy things via their smartphones – and dads are bigger spenders; they’re twice as likely as the average mobile user to spend over $500 on mobile purchases.
  • Finally, 10 percent of dads make payments via their phones, rising to 15 percent for millennial dads.

The IAB-Millennial research adds to a growing body of work looking at various aspects of contemporary fatherhood and their marketing implications. Young & Rubicam Toronto has been researching Millennial dads and found among other things that they are much more likely to say they have primary or shared responsibility over grocery shopping for the family than older dads are and that “dad sees himself as the provider of family entertainment,” corroborating our mobile findings.

In May the New York Times wrote about the growing trend of dad-oriented parenting sites, though unfortunately it didn’t discuss mobile’s role. And in 2013 Placecast released findings from a survey showing that 70 percent of dads liked receiving mobile alerts from merchants (assuming they have opted in), and 58 percent of dads said they had taken an action based on a mobile phone coupon or promotion, as compared to 46 percent of moms surveyed.

“Dads with Devices” are an important demographic, deserving consideration alongside the “Mobile Moms” who are already very much on marketers’ minds. Today’s parents are not your parents’ parents, particularly as millennials reinvent roles and share parenting responsibilities even more evenly than previous generations.

While Father’s Day provides a convenient reason to write this article, marketers should take the message to heart, and continue to readjust what might once have been messages exclusively targeted at moms to reach both parents – and to leverage mobile to achieve that laudable goal.

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