Will anyone other than mothers be part of the baby formula?

I grew up in a family. Now I have a family. Both are fairly conventional, except for family members passed away early in my wife’s and my lives.

Having become a dad, I’ve noticed two things about myself: I think a lot more about family, and have been known to turn into a quivering, sloppy, gooey, gushing pile of joy at the sight of ads advertising any children’s product.

Case in point: the SMA ‘You’re doing great’ ads. In those zany days after our son was born, I knew ‘you’re doing great’ were the words my wife needed to hear often. I was so proud of her and in love with her and our little man. The ad was so perfectly pitched, and I’d never noticed it until then.

Over time, I began to feel many family-/parenting-related ads weren’t representing me. I noticed men in the equation tended to get pushed to the background or cast as overly-engrossed (0:15 seconds in the SMA ad) or annoying, like in the brilliant ‘Emma’ ad for Le Tréfele toiler paper.

Everyone loves this ad. I love this ad. That guy needed to be brought down a peg or two. Mums know best. Sure what do us men know, anyway? We’re at work all the time getting indigestion. And this affects our sleep and parenting. That’s why I need Zantac, the scientifically-inclined male head-of-household’s little helper.

I can’t say their TV ad has helped me emotionally connect with their brand. Or maybe it has. I don’t have grey hair (yet), I don’t get indigestion, I don’t wear a bad suit or have 1990s Bargaintown catalogue interior design taste, but I know when someone’s telling me the day might come and I better be prepared. Which is, strangely, why I’ve remembered this brand name.

But I began thinking about why more kiddies ads don’t appeal directly to dads/partners. Well, I can imagine why: brands know who tend to make decisions around these things, and these ads are designed to reflect where mums are at, their feelings, hopes and dreams and, occasionally, concerns. Q.E.D.

It’s fine. But the nature of families is changing.

So, it was very interesting to read one of DDFH+B’s latest think-pieces pointing out that, while family structure and the meaning of family has changed massively in recent years, many brands have not been good at representing the new reality and reaching people’s needs. As a quasi-millennial dad, I want to be more involved in my son’s upbringing and decisions about what we feed him, put on his arse. The onward march towards a much greater diversity of family types is introducing a much richer landscape in which these kinds of brands are competing, including blended households, intergenerational households, same-sex parent families.

So the question is: would a brand find a way to stand out by doing something ‘radical’ like appealing to men, intergenerational households or same-sex parents? How might that affect brands, their personalities, etc? Would, for example, baby formula begin to be gendered along the same lines as cosmetics where you have women’s moisturisers and men’s face protectors? Or would brands like SMA or Cow & Gate pursue a midway, sticking to their core identities, but spreading an inclusive message?

In the context of economic austerity and its effects on society, and with the wave of marriage equality spreading across the US, Europe and beyond, and possibly in Ireland, it seems obvious that these kinds of brands may have to change the way they position themselves, who they appeal to and how they talk to them.

Interesting times ahead, perhaps …

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