The face of the American family is not the same as it was a decade or two ago. Gender roles are changing as a result of the modernization of our society. Women are not only entering the work force; they are showing signs of taking it over. Women are working hard, showing that they can add as much value to a company as anyone and rising through the ranks due to their efforts. It is not at all uncommon now for a woman to earn more that her husband. As for the future, current college graduation figures show that women are earning 60% of the college degrees, setting themselves up for higher profile management positions in the future.
This change is a result of time and progress, and it should be heeded by marketers. As women transition themselves into the role of bread winners, many men are simultaneously becoming stay-at-home dads. This means that more and more men are the ones making purchasing decisions. Nielsen reported last June that 32% of households send the husband to the store and not the wife. Yet a lot of advertising and other marketing efforts are still aimed at women. Commercials for household products, children’s clothing, cleansers and all of the things that have traditionally been purchased by women are still targeted at women. This is illogical if the modern family divides work in a way that has men doing laundry and cleaning the house while women work full time. Ads need to be directed accordingly.
Television commercials and print ads should begin to be targeted towards both men and women. Ultimately as the numbers rise, they might need to target men more, but sales are being lost right now by brands that do not try to appeal to both genders. We are seeing more products try to make this transition by placing commercials for not so traditionally “manly” products in commercial breaks for football games. This is a good start, but advertisers should begin changing the commercials to be geared towards men. Men think in a fairly straightforward manner, so selling household cleaning supplies based upon their effectiveness and ease of use is appropriate. Commercials with flowers and soft music…not so much. Commercial producers also need to start casting more men in the commercials themselves. Society is in a transitional period; if marketers want to stay current they should adapt as well.
Television commercials are not the only marketing efforts that need to transition. Merchandisers have set up grocery stores, big-box retailers and the like for women for years. End caps and cash register displays are still set for women. You will not sell as many magazines to shoppers waiting in line if all of your periodicals target women–while a third of the customers in line are men. Try mixing in other magazines and products men might purchase. It is already popular to put razor blades up front (although this is as much about shrinkage as it is about sales) but other point-of-purchase merchandising should be targeted at men. Cooking displays at grocery stores might want to focus on easier meal ideas for the stay-at-home dad who is trying to step up his cooking skills after being laid off.
The recession we are coming out of has put many men out of work (estimates say that the majority of jobs lost belonged to men), but it only compounds the deeper reasons that marketers must shift some of their focuses. Generation X and the Millennials are two segments of the population that grew up with working moms. It was not uncommon for people from these generations to hold different perceptions and attitudes toward gender roles. As these generations age and take over increasingly larger segments of the adult population, households will be comprised of people who see the logic in gender roles being determined by reality instead of by tradition. If you are a husband who can only get a job that pays $30,000 a year and your wife can take her MBA and get something better, then it just makes sense for you to stay at home with the kids and get things done around the house while your wife works. Basically logic will overshadow pride when it comes to deciding who brings home the figurative bacon and who actually buys it at the grocery store. Make sure your marketing efforts are aimed at the right shopper.