Strong entry point
In Hill's words, dads are a "strong point of entry" for Disney. Many of the kids Disney spoke to as it built out the research said they had been introduced to franchises such as Star Wars or Marvel "through Dad".
The brand decided to carry out the research after being alerted to the trend via its audience trackers, which regularly monitor how kids and parents are connecting with Disney in about 10 of its 14 core markets.
Separate 2015 data from IPG Mediabrands' Initiative indicated that millennial dads in particular become more receptive to brands’ advances after becoming fathers. Almost half (45%) said brands play an important role in their life compared with 39% of non-dads and 38% of mums. So it’s little wonder then that Disney is keen to understand the demographic better.
One of the key learnings for the media giant was around bonding. It discovered that while bonds between mothers and children are more rooted in the latter's likes and dislikes, dads are consistently more likely to start from their passion points and build relationships with the family based on those.
Hill referred to this understanding around emotional connections between dads and their children as an "important pin point" in Disney's research, as it seeks to tell stories that represent its own understanding of dads in a modern family set up.
This is especially true when it comes to its recently launched DisneyLife streaming app, which landed in the UK and Ireland in October.
While not sharing specifics, Hill said: "What we're finding with [the app] is that it's an opportunity to provide the right content in the household and to bring co-viewing opportunities together.
"For the first time ever we've got data on who is using the service, and what we're looking to see is how we can bring these bonding moments together."
From Mr Incredible to Darth Vader
Disney also found that along with the four constant emotional drivers, major external factors were at play driving a change around what it means to be a dad.
These changes included a move towards co-parenting, gender equality and an increase in the age at which people decide to have children. All were in evidence across EMEA, though were moving at different paces by market.
For example, the socially progressive Sweden was at the vanguard, but post-recession Spain – where extended family is still a big part of day-to-day life – was a little behind.
For Disney, these learnings will be taken into consideration whenever it's making a new movie, advertising a resort and beyond. For Hill, it's clear the popularity of Disney's movies is a sturdy platform upon which it can speak to a new generation of dads via the rolemodels it depicts.
Pointing to the recently unveiled Incredibles 2 trailer, which depicts the father character Bob Parr as a modern day dad, Hill mused: “We’ve often looked at the mums and the female leads in our films. But actually when you look at characters like [the Lion King's] Mufasa, and Parr, and even Darth Vader, who has some very questionable parenting skills ... it shows the great influence that fathers have in our stories."
She added: "We shouldn’t just stereotype them, which I think as generation we probably have done. And we’ve gone through a big change in our generation: dads are becoming house husbands and the main caregivers. They are a source of protection, comfort, enthusiasm for their families. So I think it's important for us that we tell new stories."