Friday, February 11, 2011
Disney Baby: How to Create Thin Value
Marketing to preschoolers is so passe. Disney is setting its sights younger. Much younger. Disney Baby, the company's controversial new venture, aims to cultivate brand loyalty in the delivery room, and even sooner. The New York Times describes the new program thusly:
"A Disney representative visits a new mother [sometimes within just hours of giving birth] and offers a free Disney Cuddly Bodysuit, a variation of the classic Onesie.
In bedside demonstrations, the bilingual representatives extol the product’s bells and whistles — extra soft! durable! better sizing! — and ask mothers to sign up for e-mail alerts from DisneyBaby.com."
The Consumerist adds:
"On one hand, the goal is to get new moms using Disney Baby products. On the other, it's also a chance for Disney, which says that many children don't become familiar with its brand until pre-school age, to introduce the company to children from the get-go.”
Disney gains bedside access to new parents through a company called Our365, a company that sells in-hospital newborn photos and also has financial ties to Fisher-Price and Proctor & Gamble.
We've already ventured into seriously disturbing territory here, but Disney Baby doesn't stop at the maternity ward. Andy Mooney, chairman of Disney Consumer Products, describes a long-term push designed to draw new moms and even moms-to-be deep into the folds of the Disney brand, backed, of course, by the full might of Disney's marketing machine. Mooney calls the possibility of hooking a new mom before her baby is even born “a home run." Apparently, the cult of Disney begins in the womb.
It's bad enough that Disney wants to commoditize giving birth, but the fact that they think it's innovative marketing, that indeed, they're "extremely excited" to turn hospitals into customer hunting grounds, demonstrates a spectacular breakdown between institutional profits and the good of humanity.
This is thin value at its worst, a marketing approach that profts by taking advantage of people at a very vulnerable, emotional (and deeply private!) time, while also instilling brand awareness in the impressionable minds of children from day one.
What's so striking to me is that nowhere, in all of this, does Disney even entertain the idea that what they might be doing is anything less than wonderful. Who doesn't want free Disney stuff, after all, and the sooner the better? But this isn't really about free stuff. It's one thing to give something away to new parents. It's quite another to bring a sales pitch to the delivery room, no matter how profitable it might be.
There's nothing thick or enduring about that.
Contrast Disney Baby's thin value with a sector that's creating thick, real value for new parents - believe it or not, the mobile apps industry. Creative engineers are developing apps that help you with everything from tracking your nursing schedule to figuring out how much to pay the babysitter. Here's a fun list of some of the best iPhone apps for new parents.
An app that helps you research food additives or keep track of your baby's naptimes might sound like a small thing, but based on their popularity and the rave reviews from parents everywhere, these mobile apps are creating genuine value for moms and dads.
The key word here is help. Unlike Disney Baby, which is all about profits, mobile apps are designed to actually help parents. In their own small way, they ease the demands of new parenthood by helping to organize, clarify and save time. Most importantly, they do something a free Onesie never could - help new parents maintain their sanity. Priceless.
Robin Cangie writes about 21st-century prosperity, institutional transformation and whatever is on her mind at robinoula.com. Follow her on Twitter at @robinoula.