So, I’m going to have a baby at some point in the near future… the very near future. Our official due date is September 13, a mere six weeks away! This has big news for all of our friends and family, and everyone has been wonderful, sending us warm wishes, gender-neutral gifts and (often unsolicited and somewhat weird) advice. And, by “everyone,” I even mean some of the largest companies in the world; the friendly folks at Proctor & Gamble, Disney, Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly-Clark, Target, Burlington, “R” Us and Bonnier have all sent coupons, samples and literature to us in the last six months. (Note to Bonnier: One issue of Parenting is sufficient. I have six!) Pictured is just a small sampling of my mail to date:
Now, you and I already know that companies such as Target will monitor consumer purchases in order to decide when to start sending the baby circulars around. And, I knew once I completed gift registries I would be bombarded with stuff. But, there were those months between when I found out I was expecting and when I actually completed registries, months that were full of teeny weeny diapers, cord blood donation solicitations, baby bath samples, free Butt Paste and a host of other “necessities” for a newborn. Not that I mind—I’m sure we will use a free diaper or thirty, but the whole experience has a Big Brother-ish feel to it. I tried to figure out how giant, global corporations figured out that a Baby Spitzer is on the way.
I can’t think that my shopping habits tipped them off—unless, of course, the analysts are monitoring my ice cream consumption—as we shop as needed and at whatever store is convenient, which means four grocery stores, two big box stores, a few local vendors and the farm down the street. My prenatal vitamins are completely off the books (samples from the doctor), and I am hopeful that my hospital registration stayed private under HIPAA rules. I did not “like” or post anything on Facebook. Was it my Amazon search for a Pack ‘n Play? Did they somehow see the EPT purchase at Walgreen’s? I would love to figure out how the consumer universe was informed of my pregnancy before my own parents knew.
From the business perspective, I can’t blame a single company for wanting to capture the new parent market. After all, even if you try to resist the deluge of product that is available—and believe you me, there is STUFF—there are certain things that you simply have to buy along the way (maternity pants for mom, diapers for baby, Xanax for dad, etc.) In fact, although we are trying to be smart and avoid the billion-dollar “parental money warp,” the fact of the matter is we have a new human on the way that will require food, clothing and shelter or at least new bedroom furniture and adorably themed jungle merchandise… and a Sophie the Giraffe. Not to mention the special bath products, laundry detergent, food vessels, required safety and transportation implements… the baby list is endless. And, in my house, new baby also involved atypical spend, with my husband buying a new digital camera, a new car, 40 boxes of new flooring and several tandem truckloads of topsoil. (His reaction to the positive pregnancy test? “I need to go to Lowes!” True story.)
So, while we are primed to spend right now, I guess I will consider it good business sense that we are being sent so many samples, coupons, trials and magazines for this new phase of our life. (Interestingly, all of the magazines we get are 80% advertisements for the products that have already sent us samples and coupons.) Perhaps this is a blanket effort to engage the mommy bloggers and trendsetters; maybe it is just trying to establish some credibility and brand loyalty while I still have some functioning brain cells. Many of the top brands haven’t changed from when I was a child, so there is only a need for a reintroduction to the specifics of today’s products. Nowadays, though, consumers can trumpet the good and the bad of these products through word of mouth, now expanded beyond playgroups to the entire world, which makes getting the good messages out early and often of the utmost importance. Now, if I could only figure out (1) how they knew to get me at the right time and (2) if they have discovered I don’t do online reviews, heavy social networking or mailing list subscriptions… a little part of me is afraid that, if they see I am not a brand champion, the free diapers will come to an end!