23rd February 2016

Is “Dadvertising” Here to Stay?

As a communications professional, I make a habit of keeping up to speed with the latest developments in the marketing sector. During my daily reading, I come across a lot of information about innovative campaigns and new platforms for consumer engagement. One trend that has really struck me in recent months though, is the rise of “dadvertising”.

Described as “advertising that showcases fathers and highlights the key role they play in their children’s lives”, dadvertising as a concept is not exactly new (the term has been traced back as far as 2002). However, in the last 12 months or so, it really seems to have exploded into mainstream marketing in the US, with a host of companies choosing to appeal to dads as well as mums in their American marketing campaigns, a celebrated advert by Dove, among other family-orientated brands.

While it hasn’t yet reached the same heights on this side of the pond, dadvertising is, nevertheless starting to make waves in the UK. Fairy Liquid’s Never Stop Hugging campaign, for example, timed to launch on Fathers’ Day 2015, aimed to encourage dads to never let go of their close bond with their children even as they get older.

These marketing campaigns are obviously a response to wider social changes surrounding the rejection of old-fashioned gender roles over the last decade at home, at work, and in the retail space by both mums and dads. But dadvertising is not taking place in isolation – it’s part of a wider trend in marketing campaigns in the UK and elsewhere away from traditional male and female stereotypes towards embracing greater diversity.

An early example of this was, of course, the Real Beauty campaign launched by Unilever for its Dove toiletry brand back in 2004. The project involved including ‘real’ women in marketing, as opposed to the idealised models that were generally used in the health and beauty industry at the time, all with the aim of engaging with the people actually buying their products.

And now men’s deodorant Lynx – another Unilever brand – is following suit with its Find Your Magic campaign. Due to launch in the UK in the next few weeks, it’s anchored by an ad designed to rubbish traditional notions of male attractiveness and celebrate men’s individuality by boasting a range of men, from a shy teen and a bearded metrosexual, to a gay couple meeting for the first time and a confident gender-fluid dancer. The campaign is part of a concerted effort by Lynx to broaden its appeal beyond its traditional demographic of young, straight 20-somethings to older men and those from sexual minorities.

Even in the realm of B2B, we’re seeing brands challenging the old marketing stalwarts to build relationships with new target audiences. Brands in the traditionally male-dominated construction industry, for example, are changing their tone of voice and identifying new channels to engage with the growing number of female builders, while the manufacturing sector is redoubling its efforts to attract young women to careers in engineering.

What links all of these campaigns together, of course, is the way they are responding to broader changes in social attitudes here in the UK and elsewhere. As a society, the UK is becoming more openly accepting of non-conformity all the time, and those who don’t quite fit into traditional masculine or feminine stereotypes feel far freer to be themselves in the public arena. By reflecting this new diversity in their marketing, brands can ensure they continue to engage with their existing target audiences while reaching out to potential new customers at the same time, building relationships that can help them stay relevant in a changing social climate.

All brands – consumer or B2B – need to anticipate changes not just to market conditions, but to social attitudes too. People are far more loyal to brands they feel a rapport with, to those that reflect their day-to-day lives as well as their values. If brands don’t keep up with changes in consumer lifestyles and attitudes, they risk appealing to an ever-shrinking pool of possible customers, with negative implications for sales and market share. The trick will be to create marketing campaigns that sow the seeds for these new relationships, while nurturing existing ones at the same time.

By Michael Wood, Senior B2B Copywriter