September Father’s Day a strategic marketing ploy?

father and adult sun laughing at a barbeque

It’s the first Sunday of September today, more commonly known as Father’s Day. The day when we acknowledge and honour our fathers and the father figures in our lives.

But where did it come from and why do Australians celebrate it on a different day to the majority of the world?

The most common Father’s Day date is the third Sunday in June, a tradition deriving from the US and now followed in more than 70 countries.

Why do we celebrate the first Sunday in September?
One of the first mentions of Father’s Day in Australia was seen in the Newcastle Sun on 4 September 1936.

Read: The advantages of being an older dad

The article promoted a Father’s Day meeting at the Baptist Tabernacle, with reference to hopes the day would become as popular as Mother’s Day:

“A new day for the Calendar is ‘Fathers’ Day’, 6 September. Mothers’ Day has become very popular, and maybe ‘Fathers’ Day’ will,” it read.

No reason was officially given for the choice of date, but it is a widely held belief that the month was chosen for commercial benefit.

September spaces Father’s Day almost perfectly between Mother’s Day and Christmas in a calendar year, giving shoppers ample time to save for all.

Holiday fatigue
The theory behind holiday fatigue is that consumers grow tired of being constantly reminded of the next big event they need to spend money on. They need time in between to recover. Hence the September Father’s Day placement.

The months of April to June are full of special events in the Australian calendar. There’s the Easter long weekend, Anzac Day and the Queen’s Birthday. Some also celebrate Mother’s Day and the lesser-known Labour Day and May Day.

Placing Father’s Day in the mix would lead to people being less likely to embrace it and spend, spend, spend.

You only have to look at the uproar caused by hot cross buns hitting the shelves early last year to see an example of holiday fatigue.

“Clearly labelled Easter hot cross buns in December,” one Facebook user wrote. “Has it all got just a little bit too commercial? Do we really need to see hot cross buns so soon? Or are they no longer symbolic of Easter and should now be an everyday food?”

Meanwhile, Australian performer Tim Ellis said, “You could have at least waited until after the Boxing Day holiday to start flogging us hot cross buns.”

Read: The annual Easter rip-off

A strategic placement?
There’s another theory that the date was planned to coincide with the start of spring. The perfect season to market typical outdoorsy ‘dad’ gifts.

After all, every dad likes golfing, fishing and camping, right?

It does seem very strategic but Adam Ferrier, one of Australia’s leading consumer psychologists, believes the date was just chosen for convenience.

“I can’t imagine it being that strategic. I think it’s fortuitous for Father’s Day that it falls in the third quarter of the year because not a lot seems to be happening at that time so it’s a pretty free part of the calendar,” he told

While Mr Ferrier doesn’t think Father’s Day was placed in September purely for marketing reasons – he does agree that marketers and retailers are behind the growth of the day.

“Father’s Day and Mother’s Day and any other kind of calendar event kind of feel like they’re all becoming much more eagerly anticipated by marketers because of such a need for content now, there’s such a need for them to always be in the market and for them to be always communicating something about their brand,” he said.

It’s that exact need for content that is driving these days to become bigger and bigger.

“Marketers sees calendar events as an opportunity to communicate what their brand stands for in a way to get attention. The more each brand individually does this, the bigger the event on the calendar becomes and then the more brands get involved so it kind of becomes like a virtual circle,” Mr Ferrier added.

Read: Five free, fun Father’s Day pressies

All about marketing and retailers
It’s easy to label Father’s Day as a victim of marketing strategies but it would have been an incredibly seductive idea to men’s clothing manufacturers, tobacco makers and any shop that sold manly products.

And it’s certainly not the only holiday that retailers have transformed.

What do you think of Father’s Day? Do you celebrate it? Why not share your Father’s Day traditions in the comments section below?

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Written by Ellie Baxter

Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.

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