There is a shift in the parenting paradigm that has created a new parenting partnership.  It’s known as “The Dad Factor” and understanding how it relates to our own messages of sustainability is an important lesson for all brands.  As we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day, we have asked father, popular blogger (www.naturalpapa.com), former natural foods industry executive and self-described “treehugging dirt worshiper” Derek Markham to give us some insight into Eco-Dads.

Patti Minglin:  We hear a lot about Moms being movers of the eco-movement, do you feel Dads have been overlooked by marketers?

Derek Markham: I think that marketers are right in some regard – women control a huge part of the consumer dollar.  However, Dads usually buy the vehicles, the gadgets, the gear (outdoor, sporting goods, bikes, etc.), and increasingly, the groceries. Speaking for myself, I see that as a father, my concern for the safety and health of my family leads me to want to know more about the effects that companies I patronize have on the environment and on the health of my children.

Minglin:  How has the role of Dad changed over the past few years?

Markham: I know quite a few stay-at-home Dads, and many in my community are very active and engaged in the day-to-day rearing of our children. Many are also embracing the role of the Dad in homebirth (we’ve had 3 homebirths, and I got to be an integral part of the birth, and also get to catch them). I see many Dads making career choices that let them play a bigger part in the family (flex-schedules, tele-commuting, working from home) instead of pursuing the climb up the corporate ladder.

Minglin:  What should all marketers know about targeting Dads with their sustainability message?  What should they avoid?

Markham: For many men, saving money is sustainability!  We also want to know the details, and I think many marketers completely gloss over or exaggerate the claims of their products (i.e. using the terms earth-friendly, eco-friendly, environmentally conscious) without any facts to back them up. So, avoid any blanket claims of ‘good for the planet’, and focus on how it directly impacts men’s lives and the lives of their progeny. We want to leave a healthy legacy for our children and grandchildren, and bringing that message to the forefront would be one key way to reach men.

Minglin:  Is anybody getting this message right at the moment?

Markham: Honestly, no.  I see the appeal to fear or to emotion overriding any real sustainability promises.  If brands gave more thought to the actual process of sustainability than to the marketing spin, they might find that they will spend less time and money, while selling more.

Minglin:  As the father of 3, what is the best piece of advice you have ever received about fatherhood?

Markham: Be present with your children. Make time with your children and your wife a priority. You don’t get any time that you missed with them back, so take the time to put down your work, your worries, and your day planner and roll on the floor with them and laugh a lot. Too many of us are driven by our careers to the point that we’re burned out at the end of the day and have no time to enjoy our families, and for me, those priorities are reversed. I’m a Dad first, and a wage-earner second.

Minglin:  What wise and wonderful words.  Congratulations on your fatherhood success and thank you for talking with us.

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