Agency Roundtable:
Baby Products and Their Marketing...Time for a Change?


In 2007, the US fertility rate was at its highest point since 1971 at 2.1 births per woman. Reflecting that stat are retail sales for babies, toddlers and preschool-aged kids....excluding diapers, food and apparel, those product sales hit $7 billion in 2007. That's up from $4 billion 10 years ago. New babies are something Door Number 3 staffers know a little about. First time to the "parent" title are Creative Director & Principal, Prentice Howe (daughter, Cameron, born July 8), Account Service Director & Principal Suzanne Kyba (son, Ashdon, born April 19), and soon-to-be dad Taylor Harkey, Art Director. They sat down recently with Door Number 3 President, M P Mueller, to talk about what works and what doesn't in baby products and marketing.

M P: What do you think of the baby products out there and the marketing behind them?

S: I think there is a big void. Everything is so targeted to women, that trying to bring my husband Kevan into the process was a big effort. I had to work at it because every magazine, store is geared to women, all foo foo, and don't appeal to the interested father and most fathers are these days.

T: What I've noticed is basically the fathers are playing a larger role in raising kids. So if you want to attract the fathers, you have to involve gadgetry, especially on the big ticket items.

P: Yeah, my stroller even has a cup holder.

T: Pick any onesie you want. But the stroller system, crib, and car seat, I'm going to have a voice in. Now you see some men's magazines, like Maxim, have articles on raising babies.

S: Which points out that there is a void in the market for a magazine dedicated to men who are becoming involved fathers.

P: There is such an opportunity for a baby superstore to come in and do what Target did: giving every person, across income levels, access to stylish products.

S: It's like there is a complete absence of good design in the baby market. No style. I search the back of the parenting magazines and look one by one for cool products and can't find any.

T: Babies R Us has a complete monopoly in this market and 80% of the products are not cool.

P: You are also whisked into a world of primary colors at Babies R Us. And I hate primary colors.

S: I just dropped $500 on basics at Babies R Us this weekend and not sure what I got.

T: Older parents have more income, money to spend, and expect to pay premium prices for more sophisticated, good products. People want systems that all work together and are all in one.

P: You walk in your nursery and there is this lineup of equipment: the rocker, the car seat, the swing, The Bumbo Baby Seat, The Tummy Time Surfboard Floormat…..that’s the thing baby lays on and it supposed to look like they are surfing. Someone needs to put all the baby gear into one giant Bowflex so they can shake, swing, hang and burp. I'd pay top dollar for that.

S: A few of the products that I got that are systems I've had to go and replace with individual components because they are not made or designed well. I made a $250 investment in a combo car seat - from infant to toddler - something that grows with them and it's now sitting in the dining room and won't be used. No cool Pak N Plays either. But you find out that anything that makes babies happy, who cares? My baby will sit there and laugh at the goofiest monkey things and ignore the sage and earth tone animals.

M.P. What brands are doing it right?

P: Modern Nursery. Boon, Fawn and Forest do it well. Nice, stylish, interesting products, mostly available on line.

T: Orbit has a really cool brand, awesome website, cool logo. Coolest thing we bought is the Orbit Infant System, which is cooler than the Bugaboo. A chair, base station and stroller. It's all like you sit it down and it locks into place, it spins around and twist it forward, back.

P: Do they even have to get out of that thing before they graduate high school?

T: Celebrity pregnancies are so well covered by magazines that their baby accessories become the must have flavor of the day. The mosquito netting/sunshield on the Orbit, is called the Papparazzi shield. Pretty awesome. I'll use that when exiting Chili's.

P: Cool dad products are rare, but the Diaper Dude Bag, is great because you don't have to carry around the ol' floral changer. I also want to get a GelPro mat to put in front of the changing station because that's where we do all the heavy lifting. Have you heard of Baby Bonkies? They are velcroed swaddlers in stylish prints. I think they sell them at Neiman Marcus.

MP: What is your favorite or most useful baby product?

S: The Fisher-Price swing. Definitely a lifesaver. They swing front to back and side to side. Anything swaddle related and makes swaddling easier.

P: Most useful accoutrement? The bottle dish rack. Sits next to the sink and you can hang bottles upside down to dry. Good system because you are constantly using bottles and lose track of what's clean, what's not. I like organization; makes your newly-chaotic house feel more calm and clean.

T: How about Hooter Hiders?

MP: You're joking.

T: No!
It's basically a blanket with features where the mom can breastfeed and still make eye contact with the baby. It's on our list.

P: Dr. Smith's Diaper Ointment is a great product. Even works on me - makes for a great aftershave lotion.



Book Summary: Buying In


In his book, Buying In, Rob Walker, the New York Times Magazine "Consumed" columnist, brings us into the world of "Murketing" and examines the secret dialogue that occurs between what we buy and who we are as individuals. Through anecdotal tales of world-famous brands–from Polo to Hello Kitty and Red Bull to Timberland–Walker asks and seeks the answer to, "Does the brand define us as individuals, or do we as individuals define the brand?"

He first addresses the "Desire Code," which are all the factors we use in our purchase-making decisions. These include value, convenience, quality and pleasure. One key to cracking this code is understanding that consumers are on the hunt for authenticity in their lives, from experiences to the products they buy, in order to establish themselves as individuals. Walker also suggests consumers desire to be part of something much larger than themselves, and are constantly trying to resolve the tension between individuality and belonging. The need to try and resolve this tension is the source of the stories consumers tell about themselves and can influence who we tell these stories to.

Enter Murketing. Walker coined this term to describe the increasingly murkey waters of non-traditional marketing and how it has entered our daily lives. Murketing takes on many forms, from word of mouth "agents" (perhaps cleverly disguised as your best friend), product placements in online games, billboards wafting cookie scents and even sponsorship of a kiteboard expedition to Cuba. The latter was pulled off by Red Bull in its nascent marketing efforts. It worked well for them. The brand has evolved to target daredevil airplane pilots and clubgoers just as well as the regular Joes in the office, computer gamers and gym rats because each group has embraced it as a way to project their own personal brand of bravado.

Walker pens about the consumer culture and how it can increasingly be influenced by business, community and individuals. Walker refers to "badges," taking a symbol or object and using it to project something about ourselves. For example, buying a car, piece of jewlery, iPhone etc. and using it as a symbol to say "I am" eco-friendly, fashion forward or tech savvy/cool. Some prefer to share those badges loud and clear (I have the latest, most expensive purse with the largest logo smack in the middle). Others prefer the "invisible badge" and Walker examines their preference to keep their badges to themselves. It's through the invisible badgers relationship to the brand that the true power of the brand is realized. In other words, a brand strikes gold when the consumer has created meaning for the object from his or her own perspective and re-tells and remarkets the message to their own audiences. It's how Timberland boots enjoy great success with weather-hardy New Englanders and the hip-hop scene in New York City. Both groups like the functionality the boots offer, but it's how the boots become part of each groups' stories that give the brand its flexibility and authenticity to create marketing magic.


Creative Corner
Fresh off the assembly line, here's a glimpse at some new work from Door Number 3.

Habitat For Humanity


Integrated Campaign. Today in Austin, over 60,000 working households live in substandard, overcrowded or cost-burdensome housing. Door Number 3 reached out to Habitat, helping them build awareness and solicit desperately needed donations. The people featured in the campaign are real. Sadly, their stories are, too.


American Bank of Texas


Integrated Campaign. ABT offers the charm of a small town bank with the resources of a large financial institution. This new integrated branding campaign highlights their ability to deliver personalized attention to customers across the bank's 17 branches in Austin and the Texas Hill Country.



Aspyr


Naming and Branding. Aspyr's latest game for the MAC/PC and Nintendo DS platforms is FutureU, an SAT prep game created in collaboration with Kaplan, the SAT Authority.

Bigfoot Networks


Print Campaign. Bigfoot's Killer Network Interface Card (NIC) provides a much-needed boost in gameplay performance, and more, for players of online computer games.
Client Shout Outs

Meyer's Elgin Sausage recently competed in the People's Choice BBQ Contest in Long Island, NY, competing with sausagemakers from across the country. Meyer's placed 1st in the Standard Category with their smoked garlic sausage, tied for 2nd in the specialty category with their smoked Tejano sausage, and placed 3rd in the hot category with their brand new jalapeno and cheese sausage.

American Bank of Texas, NA opened their 17th branch, this one in Temple, Texas.

The Hotel Palomar in Dallas will donate $10 to the Trust for Public Land each night you stay when you give the code TPL.

The Dallas/Fort Worth Area Tourism Council just launched its 13th tour on visitdallas-fortworth.com — the Foodie Tour takes locals and visitors on an epicurean adventure throughout the area.




Happenings


Umlauf • CEDRA • Leigh • Marsha

The print campaign for Umlauf Sculpture Garden recently received several accolades from the annual Texas Association of Museums Conference, including a Gold Award in the print category and a Judges' Favorite award.

Cedra's fun microsite, getyourdrugon.com, created by Door Number 3, was featured on Creativity.com and recognized as the "Ad of the Day" on Adweek.com.

We are pleased to announce two new staff hires. Leigh Barbolla joins the Media department as a Jr. Media Planner/ Buyer. And Marsha Daigle keeps the lights on as our Accounting Manager.

Creative Director & Principal, Prentice Howe, was elected to the board of the Austin Advertising Federation.




Stuff We're Into

Beer on a Whim
It no longer matters if you haven't seen the inside of a frathouse in years. This nifty kegorator does all the hard work for you, including brightening up your home (or office).
Krups BeerTender

A Hill Country Eco-adventure
An amazing ziplining escapade through this beautifully-wooded area of the Hill Country. We recently spent an agency retreat there and can vouch for the view. Also, for those who have a taste of the exotic and romantic, Cypresss Valley offers a private tree-top suite for rent each night.
Cypress Valley Canopy Tours

Mobile Me
There's pretty much no reason anymore to not have an iPhone, now that the reduced-priced 3Gs are out. Now you can keep your iPhone in sync with your home and work computers with this nifty new service from Apple.
Go mobile

The New Way to Blog
Tumblr is all the rage right now in the blogging world. What makes it stand out is its extremely simple interface and a scrapbook-like approach to blogging. Blogging sites like Wordpress are great for long, text-based stuff, but Tumblr is more piecemeal and includes options for quotes, videos, images, even your last hilarious IM conversation.
Tumblr

The Mothership!
Oh man, we are so ready for space travel. Superbillionare Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic debuted the Mothership Eve, bringing us one step closer to seeing the earth from space. Got $200,000? You, too can take a ride.
Mothership Eve




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