“I wish brands would acknowledge the truth about parenting,” says Greg Pembroke, a stay-at-home dad from Rochester, NY, responsible for the latest Internet phenomenon, meltdowns over everything from broken cheese to riding in the car seat, and has garnered world attention thanks to its raw, relatable message about what parenting really looks like. “It’s not about lounging quietly with your newborn in a sunlit room filled with white flowing linens,” says Pembroke. “Not that we don’t want to be doing those things, but we can’t, because we’re real people. We’re working, we’re out of orange juice, we bought the wrong flavor of Teddy Grahams, and our two-year-old just threw our three-year-old’s favorite T-shirt in the toilet.”
If the feedback on his blog across media outlets like the Huffington Post, Time.com, Today.com, Gawker.com and the Good Morning America show is any indication, other parents are feeling the same. “I’ve heard from people around the world, and it’s amazing that no matter how different our cultures are, toddlers are all alike. So many people have thanked me. They think they’re the only ones struggling, or that their children are somehow different, but really we’re all just trying our best every day.”
For Pembroke and his wife, a full-time physical therapist, that means establishing a reliable routine. Last summer, a NYTimes.com article on stay-at-home fathers reported that the number of men who have left the workforce to raise children more than doubled over the past 10 years. This figure nearly triples when you include men who do freelancing or part-time jobs.
Despite the growing trend, Pembroke (who works part-time as an ad executive with a private radio group) still feels like a minority. “It’s awkward to be the one dad on the playground on a Tuesday morning, or the only man at the museum wrangling two jelly-smeared kids in mismatched clothes,” he says.
Case in point, one prominent media outlet credited the blog to a mom, not realizing it came from a “daddy blogger.” And unlike the moms who TRY to cultivate their online presence, Greg never intended to be in the limelight. He was doing what most parents do on Facebook — sharing random blurbs on life with his sons. Amused by the simple picture-and-caption format, Greg’s friends encouraged him to put the images on tumblr so they’d be easier to share. A week later, he was a feature story on Good Morning America.
People pass around “Reasons My Son is Crying” with the pride of the Olympic torch, using it to ignite and inspire conversation around parenting from those with and without kids. It’s the kind of social media jackpot any brand would love to cash in on.
“On Twitter, parents wrote, ‘This looks familiar!’ then tweeted it to expectant parents, saying, ‘Are you ready for this?’ Even people without kids retweeted, ‘This is why I don’t have kids!’ I created something everybody on the planet enjoyed. Living in such a divided world, that’s really something.”
What can marketers learn from Pembroke’s success story?
One piece of advice he would give to brands is to help parents focus on ways to help busy, modern families make time for each other, and inspire ways to make lasting, positive memories. “Parenting is such a blur, especially in homes with two working parents,” he says. When it comes to ads for dads, keep it functional. “With diapers, I don’t need a comfort message. Just tell me how much it will hold, or if it’s going to leak. I don’t care about price.”
Retailers can do something, too. Guys like Greg might be looking at your space to see how they can make it more entertaining for their children. “Every day we get out of the house and do something fun — even if that means I have to make a shopping trip feel like fun,” he says. “The carts with the steering wheels for kids are the best, but in a pinch, I will push a regular cart around the aisles like a crazy man if it gets my kids to smile.”
Perhaps the biggest takeaway for marketers is the idea of keeping things simple and honest. Good advertising connects with people for the same reason a “parenting tumblr” resonated with people even beyond its intended audience.
It uses a simple message to strike an emotional chord we can all relate to. Today, that’s one reason why this Account Planner is smiling.