Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there — old and new, soon-to-be and already immersed.
Strolling through stores yesterday and unscientifically analyzing advertising over the past few weeks I realized that the fatherhood brand is not doing too well. I’m sure my bright friends at FastCompany have an infographic for this, but the images and products associated with fathers are all over the map. The brand has been diluted.
What represents Dad these days?
Ties of course, but also golf bags, slippers, after shave, tech gadgets, grills (BBQ, not bling), music, tattoos to celebrate the birth of kids (seen a lot of these lately), bikes, tools, spa certificates, clothes and brunch, to name a few.
The brand seems as confused as the men who live it. Are they bread winners? Or do they sacrifice the partner track for seeing their kids? Are they fix-it men, or point and pay types? Do they shave or wear collogne or are they more prone to motorcycles and tattoos?
The mold of what it means to be a father has shifted so seismically in the past generation that marketers are scrambling to redefine masculinity and fatherhood and, as far as I can tell, no one has nailed the image or brand.
To me that’s a good thing.
In my mind modern fatherhood is best summed up in the classic movie Parenthood (and charmingly parodied by the Toyota Sienna SwaggerWagon series). It so plainly conveys the incredible complexity of fathers’ roles and everything they are expected to handle — financial pressures in a two-income kind of world, grappling to be a good role model even if they didn’t have one, trying to remain youthful and cool while exhausted and overworked, trying to fix things, cut lawns and take care of cars while also making time for tea parties, pretend games of fairies and watching a baseball game now and then. Don’t forget volunteering for little league, and possibly even spending some quality time with spouses and partners.
There’s no ad or thing that can sum up these competing and complex realities. There’s no one product or brand identity that can successfully cover the breadth of what it means to be a dad.
So Dads, today as you get your ties and dirt bikes, iPads and after shave, celebrate your liberation from a confining brand identity as you celebrate the kids in your lives that make you the complicated, un-brandable people you are.
Happy Father’s Day.