Corporate Eye

The Evolution of Single Fathers and What Brand Marketers Need to Know

father_and_daughterA recent study from Pew Research found that the number of single fathers in the United States has risen by nine times since 1960. The evolution of the single father consumer demographic has significant effects for brand marketers.

It has long been known through numerous research results that women make or influence the vast majority of purchase decisions, and brands have changed their marketing strategies and tactics to better appeal to the influential mother demographic over the years. However, the growing number of single fathers and stay-at-home fathers is getting bigger every day. This is a market segment that brand marketers need to target with unique messages and campaigns.

According to the Pew Research study, in 1960, just 1% of households (300,000) with minor children in the United States were headed by a single father. In 2011, that number had grown to 8% to 2.6 million. Looking at the data from a different angle, just 14% of single parent households in the United States were headed by men. In 2011, that percentage was up to 24%.

In other words, nearly one in four single parent households in the United States are led by men. Clearly, this is a target audience that cannot be ignored. Ads, promotions, and messaging that cater to antiquated stereotypes of “traditional” families are not just missing an important audience but they’re also losing favor with two-parent households.

Pew Research also found that the role of fathers overall has changed. Today, Americans believe that fathers aren’t necessarily the family breadwinners alone. Gretchen Livingston of Pew Research writes, “Fathers are narrowing the still sizable gap with mothers in the amount of time they spend with their children. The public believes that a father’s greatest role is to provide values to his children, followed by emotional support, discipline, and income support. Public opinion ascribes roughly the same hierarchy of roles to mothers.”

Brands that market directly to the growing niche audience of single father heads of household and fathers who are primary caregivers are in a unique position to seize opportunities to build critical relationships with an audience that shows no signs of slowing down.

How is your brand connecting with this target market? Leave a comment and share your insights below.

Image: Glenda Otero

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.