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My world’s abuzz with previews for and speculation about the new season of Mad Men, which premieres this Sunday, July 25 on AMC. I can’t help but wonder how “the new” Don Draper will evolve, or what kinds of antics and drama will unfold at “the new” Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The only certainty seems to lay in what we – some 40 years later – already know: as the fictional lives of Mad Men move forward, gender roles, stereotypes and the good ol’ business of selling stuff is gonna start to look a little different. I’m hard- pressed to imagine a world in which women could not run countries, let alone companies, and in which stay-at-home dads didn’t occupy every other table at the local coffee shop (BabyBjörn and all). What I wouldn’t give to see what the boys (and Peggy) would do today, with our heightened consumer awareness, shattered glass ceilings and shift in family dynamics. The San Jose Mercury News recently ran an article about the trend of more men choosing to stay at home after being laid off as a result of the slowing economy. And almost as if on cue, Proctor & Gamble has launched a new Web site called Man of the House that dishes advice on topics historically reserved for the Betty Draper’s of the world: cooking and cleaning, child rearing, there’s even a section called “Looking Good” which addresses aging and style concerns. Speaking to Reuters, Proctor & Gamble Productions spokeswoman Jeannie Tharrington said the site “will eventually be used as a vehicle for advertising P&G’s household and other brands.” In the meantime, the site is relatively ad-free and chock-full of information for what the site’s editor calls “the post-hunt man.” From Mad Men to “post-hunt” Modern Men, it makes for good business – whether it’s theirs or ours.
Maybe I’m just blogging out loud, but it seems like the shift in family and workplace dynamics warrant a shift in how day-to-day household products are marketed. Real-life Mad Men are now Mr. Mom. Boy, has the world has changed.
In the new modern family, dads are sharing – and in some cases taking over – in the household decision-making process. No longer are women ages 25-49 the key demographic for marketers, as they were in 1963. While Proctor & Gamble may not declare that daddies are the new mommies, the company is certainly tapping into this new trend in subtle – and I predict successful – ways. The Mercury News article cites research from University of Oregon sociologist Scott Coltrane, who asserts that the shift not only makes sense, but that it will continue. “Even before the recession, fathers were taking a larger role in family responsibilities as dual-income families became more the norm,” Coltrane is quoted as saying. “We have much more tag-team parenting.”
That makes for tag-team shopping, which makes integrated marketing trickier. On Mad Men and throughout history, we’ve seen how very different men and women are. The old adage “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” isn’t just about relationships. For example, we know that while women tend to be slower to make a decision, they are more likely to be even-keeled about that decision over time. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to consider their current needs (or, in this case, their family’s) versus their long-term ones. The question remains, will that change, too?
One thing is clear: marketers should carefully consider their message – whether it’s regarding a product’s benefits, or the language and visuals used to sell it. It’s unlikely Don Draper will sport a housecoat this Sunday, but the fellas tuning-in are another story.