Disney Marketing in Maternity Wards

Disney recently started an ambitious program, Disney Baby, that will put company representatives in 580 maternity wards across the country peddling Disney baby products to mothers who just gave birth. It doesn’t surprise me that Disney is extending its brand to dominate this newborn market. This is Disney, the brand champion; it’s what they do. But, what is a bit disconcerting about this, is the strategy they are using to do it.

About five years ago when I learned I was pregnant, I immediately started getting bombarded with post cards or emails asking me to sign up to mailing lists. I’m not sure how these companies discovered I was pregnant but it was fine because most of these requests came with free baby gifts. So months before I gave birth, I had already received countless cans of formula, diapers, creams, nail kits and other products for my baby. Even in the hospital room, diaper bags filled with wipes and more formula was there waiting for me. And before being released, I was given the choice of either a car seat or stroller. It was great!

So what makes Disney’s program different from all the other companies trying to target new mothers and babies? Well, I didn’t have a Gerber representative sitting in my room after 18 hours of labor trying to tell me about what makes Gerber so grand. According to the New York Times, Disney will use bedside demonstrations to market their products and ask mothers to sign up for email alerts from Disneybaby.com. Really Disney? This is one of the most important times in people’s lives. It is a time when mothers are balancing feelings of utter joy and pure exhaustion. And while still in the hospital with the help and care of nurses, we are trying to savor our last moments of peace before taking our newborn home and having to fend for ourselves. Do you really think we want to talk to a Disney representative who will spend our precious moments talking about how Disney onesies (those are baby bodysuits for those of you who are unfamiliar with baby talk) will remain soft and durable even after washing?

The whole thing reminds me of a time share presentation. How they promise you a free trip if you sit through a 90-minute presentation. None of us really want to do it, but we really need that free trip. So to Disney, I say this for all new mothers: “Just give me the damn gift and get out!” You will rarely hear this sentiment from parents as you are approaching them during one of the most vulnerable times in their lives. Because like new mother Elizabeth Carter told the New York Times, we need those gifts.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/business/media/07disney.html?pagewanted=1&src=un&feedurl=http://json8.nytimes.com/pages/business/media/index.jsonp

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3 Responses to Disney Marketing in Maternity Wards

  1. Christine says:

    This article ties in with many others I have read recently, particularly blogs like the one from Peggy Orenstein (www.peggyorenstein.com), who in her most recent book even claims that ‘Cinderella Ate My Daughter’. Disney really seems to be invading into the lives of its consumers a lot more proactively recently, particularly when young children are involved. Although this could be considered a very smart branding strategy – catching your consumers from the earliest stages – it does make one wonder about their brand and social integrity.

    I am not going to lie, I am a major Disney fan. I grew up with the films, the books, and the soundtracks, and I still crave their many stories about friendship, love, and deserved happy endings. But even I can’t help thinking that Disney products and merchandising has reached a ridiculous level of commercialization, and that their integrity as a family brand focused on values is suffering from it.

    Yes, Disney is an entertainment company with the aim of making profit, but it seems that there is an increasing disconnect between their stories’ focus on the importance of immaterial values, and the ruthless commercialization of these stories. Maybe selling increasing amounts and types of merchandise will bring Disney short-term profits, but in the long-run, their value-centred brand image will very likely suffer immensely.

    Disney has always distinguished itself as an entertainment brand through its unique focus on quality and artistry. Everything they sold us was carefully crafted and promised, if not guaranteed, a certain worth, an enrichment of our minds and imagination. An inflation of branded toys, dresses, cups, books, etc., on the other hand, does not tie into this brand image at all; instead, it almost sends an entirely contradictory message – buy this and this and this and it will enrich you materially, and therefore, spiritually.

    Given that Disney merchandise has always been one of their most lucrative businesses (I once read it started with the release of ‘Snow White’), it is unlikely that Disney will give it up entirely any time soon, nor should they really. Instead, Disney should really ask itself as a brand what their message will be, and whether excessive merchandising will be consistent with this message even in the long-term future.

  2. Shelley says:

    I am a major Disney fun , too!! Same with Christine. And I like the “baby edition” of the toy doll. I have a little Tigger, he is in a baby suit and it have bell in his belly. So when I shake it , it will have beautiful sound, which will make me happy.

  3. marthaad says:

    I’m sorry, I’m a Disney fan and grew up with Disney products but this is going too far. Really? Reps in hospital rooms promoting their products? Are they really doing so bad in terms of sales that they need to do this? I don’t think so. Wow!