“The entire infant industry is based on fear”

Infant Marketing

I don’t have any children — although someday I would like to. (I don’t necessarily have a timetable for this, although in general I’d say “sooner as opposed to later,” since I think I turn 34 in a couple of weeks. Oh shit, I do turn 34 in a couple of weeks.) But I’ve been helping my friend Erin — her husband is one of my best friends — with a startup operation called Primary Book Club (you should check it out) and as such, I’ve been writing a lot about kid issues and stay-at-home mom issues and local libraries and all that. After I write this post for my own blog, I need to go write about toys that are best for learning the alphabet. Google is probably going to think I’m creepy, or else desperately in need of a child. These are the struggles of my daily life. 

I was initially Googling around the idea of baby toys, then I figured I had learn a bunch and went off down some other rabbit holes. (As you can see, I’m extremely on-task at work right now.) I hadn’t looked at any content from Wharton in a while — they tend to have interesting research/trend stories, as most good business school websites will — so I navigated over there and came to this article, thinking I might groan out loud because it was another attempt to classify millennials as one group of people with exactly all the same beliefs and aspirations (which isn’t possible — not every Boomer was the same, not every X’er was the same, etc.). Instead, I found an interesting quote:

“The entire infant industry is based on fear,” he noted, adding that Disney is “a great example” of a brand that understands its market. “You are going to buy the most expensive stroller [and] you want the best diapers. You are learning how to be a good parent, especially when you have your first child.”

After that quote, the article goes in a different direction and starts talking about the importance of telling a story and setting up brand loyalty and using social media and all that. I’ve talked about those things before on this blog, i.e. here and here.

Like I said, I don’t have a kid — but I can relate to this. When I talk to Erin about Primary Book Club, that’s one of the things we go over: when you write content posts for something aimed at newer mothers, or mothers of young children, you have to walk a pretty fine line — because almost every mother is terrified that she might be doing the wrong thing, or buying the wrong thing, and she doesn’t want to think that she is (this thread kind of implies that fathers are passive in the parenting process, which I don’t actually mean to imply).

My boss at my current job, who has a 14 year-old and a 12 year-old, usually tells stories of having to travel to visit her husband when her child was under 1 (the first child). She was consistently terrified of doing the wrong thing at airports, on airlines, etc.

So it’s interesting — an entire industry predominantly based on the fear of the consumers within it. The only other industry you could make a similar argument about is maybe health care, and even that has some gaps in logic. I don’t work within the infant marketing space — but it would seem that really crafting your content around careful “How-To” posts and best practices, as well as bringing in authentic mothers who’ve faced some of these challenges, would be more important there than in almost any other industry. I feel like everything about marketing and social — where I tend to read and do more work — is structured the same way, but the cultures are very different. There’s no fear in social media. If you do that wrong, there’s a good chance your boss isn’t even paying attention (honestly). If you raise an infant wrong, well, that’s a societal blight.

Ted Bauer