I value the marketing strategy of acquiring and retaining consumers to build a brand long-term. Consequently, I applaud Disney’s recent move to target newborns. Baby, baby, baby!
Last month Disney launched its Disney Baby initiative targeting U.S. maternity hospitals. Bilingual representatives visited new mothers and offered a free Disney Cuddly Bodysuit complete with a bedside demonstration highlighting its features and benefits. Disney projects they will give away 200,000 bodysuits by May before Amazon.com begins selling 85 styles; $9.99 for two. Retail giants Target and Nordstrom will follow with more Disney Baby items including hats.
Aggressive move given Disney fielded some heat when they marketed Baby Einstein, their entertainment line of videos and toys for babies and toddlers. The non-profit group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood challenged Disney asserting that the products did not turn babies into geniuses. The non-profit group even offered some refunds to parents in some select cases.
The negative publicity did not deter Disney since they estimate that the North American, baby market including staples (e.g., baby formula) is worth $36.3 billion. Interesting, Disney’s chairman, Andrew P. Mooney indicated: “Apparel is only a beachhead.” Apparently Disney has ambitious plans to sell bath items, strollers, food, etc. Their Disney Baby initiative will evolve beyond the crib. Long-term they intend to draw parents into the company’s broader web of products and experiences – a loyalty program where pregnant women will receive free theme park tickets for signing up to their e-mail alerts. In the words of Mr. Rooney: “To get that Mom thinking about her family’s first park experience before her baby is even born is a home run. A large number of families do not become consumers of Disney products until their children reach pre-school age, when they start to watch Disney Channel programs like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.”
Once again the critics are surfacing. Children Now, an advocacy group claims Disney is taking advantage of families at an extremely vulnerable time. In addition, they believe having access to maternity hospitals as customer hunting grounds is an invasion of privacy. Regardless, Disney continues to push forward and offer free stuff in their quest to carve out their chunk of the baby market, as they build their brand long-term. Imagine getting a free pink bodysuit adorned with Simba when you take your prenatal sonogram and find out it is a girl!