Father’s Day is coming up this weekend, and, like Mother’s Day, consumers are looking to spend big bucks to show their loved ones how much they are appreciated. Last year, spending on Father’s Day was estimated to surpass $12 billion in the U.S., which equates to over $115 per shopper.

With over 75% of Americans celebrating Father’s Day, it’s a huge opportunity for brands to bring out a more human side to their business and connect with consumers on a personal level. Creating marketing messages that are less about product promotion and more about showing gratitude to the important people in our lives is a way to not only show compassion, but build rapport with target audiences.

Sure, there are plenty of ads out there promoting the “best gifts for Dad,” whether it’s a new set of golf clubs, tickets to a sporting event, or the latest in tech. But the ones that really resonate with consumers, both now and long-term, are those that focus on the real meaning of Father’s Day. Even brands that typically take a more lighthearted approach to marketing often set aside the norm for a more heartfelt message.

Now don’t get me wrong, companies still emphasize their branding throughout these ads; they just tend to be more subtle and less focused on the product or service they want you to buy. These advertisements pull at our heartstrings, make us laugh, and, most importantly, relate to our lives. And if a brand can relate to its audience, don’t you think that audience is more likely to purchase from them?

Let’s take a look at some of the best examples of Father’s Day marketing to-date – make sure you have some tissues close by.

Dove Men+Care

This ad from 2015 has been recognized on countless digital media outlets for its realness and relatability. To create it, Dove took to the internet and collected real video footage of the moments that 12 men found out they were going to be a father. From wives presenting them with their pregnancy test to others surprising them with baby clothes or other gifts, the priceless looks on their faces can’t help but make you shed some of those feel-good tears.

Dove Men+Care’s message throughout their marketing campaigns focuses on making a man stronger to take care of his family, and this theme shines through at the end of the ad with the tagline, “Real strength means showing you care, even from the very first moment.” It’s a great way to connect with those who may not be fathers quite yet, but are looking forward to being one in the future, as well as remind current fathers of how excited they were when they first found out this life-changing news.

Angel Soft

You might be wondering why a toilet paper brand would take anything but a humorous approach to Father’s Day marketing, and I’ll admit I was skeptical too. But Angel Soft hit the nail on the head when it came to advertising that was sincere, relatable, and evoked emotion.

Their 2015 ad took a unique approach to Father’s Day, recognizing families that don’t have a father figure present in their life. The ad shows children of widows and single mothers thanking them for taking on the role of both parents and acknowledging all of the struggles they went through to raise their family and earn a living.

From being a support system to taking on some of the more “traditional” father roles, like fixing a car, each son and daughter spoke to the ups and downs that their mother went through to give them the best life they could. They all pause during their segments to regain composure, showing the raw emotion and appreciation they feel towards their mothers. No matter what your family’s circumstances might be, you can’t help but relate to these feelings of loss and, ultimately, perseverance.


DICK’S Sporting Goods

This Father’s Day ad from 2012 focuses on the common father-son bond over playing and watching sports. Like his father did for him, this father serves as a lifelong coach and supporter for his son playing football. Shown through the acts of helping his son run drills and work out (while providing encouragement along the way), it’s clear how much the father is respected and appreciated. It all leads up to the high school senior game, where his son remembers all of the help and advice his father gave him over the years.

The ad speaks to the tradition of parents passing down their interests and talents to their children, and how these commonalities bring them together. It’s a story that any father can relate to and sheds light on the family pastimes that are shared for generations.

Google Chrome

Of the ads featured, Google has the most overt product promotion, but the storyline and message still greatly overshadow any push to use their internet browser and email services. This ad from 2011 shows a father setting up a Gmail account for his soon-to-be-born daughter, Sophie. He starts sending her emails when he first finds out he’s going to be a father and continues throughout her early childhood, documenting baby pictures and other memories like losing her first tooth, taking dance lessons, and going on family vacations.

In the final email, he explains how he’s been regularly sending her these memories since before she was born, and how he can’t wait to share them with her once she gets a little older. It’s an ad that’s relatable to any father as they realize how quickly their children grow up and reflect on the lifetime of memories they’ve made.

Despicable Me 2

Contrary to the emotion of the previous ads, this promotion for Despicable Me 2 brings a humorous side to Father’s Day. If you’re familiar with the animated movie series, Gru is the protagonist and “reformed villain” that is now a devoted father to three girls. The theme of the ad is that “every dad can be a hero,” which ties into both the movie’s main message and Father’s Day seamlessly.

Even though many dads try to be tough and masculine, they are also willing to do anything for their kids. And in Gru’s case, that means dressing up as a princess for his daughter’s birthday party. The pure joy on her face as she sees her father in costume embodies that “superhero” image we often have of our parents when we are younger.

Appealing to consumer emotions is often the primary focus of holiday advertising, and Father’s Day gives us the opportunity to acknowledge the important male figures in our lives. These ads were so successful because of how easy they were to relate to. There weren’t any celebrity endorsers, outlandish scenarios, or complex settings; the focus remained on what Father’s Day is all about. These ads are proof that brands don’t have to have a self-centered mentality all the time to be successful. By taking a step back and creating a more relatable dialogue, they ultimately positioned themselves more positively in the minds of their customers.