You’ve arrived home with your first, newborn baby… the front door closes… then it hits you – you’re on her own! Where’s the midwife? Where’s the nurse? This is a real baby, an actual mini-person. You wonder how you can possibly have been left in charge of it…
Becoming a first time parent is an exciting rite of passage, an amazing but highly emotional, confusing time and consumers look to brands to help them protect and nurture their newborn child.
We know that from the moment first time mothers find out about their pregnancy they immerse themselves in research, from books to magazines to the internet. For babycare brands, this time presents a conundrum as many are not sure how decisions are made on which brands to use. Brands know that consumers engage in a lengthy period of research but struggle to understand consumers’ exact path to purchase, especially as there is a lengthy time period between first researching products and the purchase actually taking place.
Trust is, of course, a key factor here for new parents. Being left in charge of your new baby can be a daunting responsibility for many first-time parents – not least the realisation that they are solely responsible for their child’s well-being. Not surprisingly then, new parents rely on brands they feel they can trust. Trust can come from their own experiences – perhaps the brands their parents used, or recommendations from close family and friends.
Mothers in particular are likely to have recently developed a whole new network of advisors – newly acquired friends through ante-natal classes, nutritionalists, homeopaths, and a mental directory of parents of all ages who have had particular experiences with their babies, ready to be consulted if needed – mothers whose babies wouldn’t sleep, had trouble feeding, or had sensitive skin. Mothers are very conscious that every child is unique and also that their mood, their health, the way they respond to products – be they food, skincare, nappies – can change from day to day, even hour to hour. The real experiences of other mums in similar situations can therefore carry great weight.
Learning from real life experiences of others is key. Brands can provide an authoritative voice, but parents will not necessarily take this at face value and often view the information with a healthy cynicism. The internet is a great resource to quickly uncover real life experiences, and social media has revolutionised this area. This is underpinned by a sense that no matter what anyone says, you’ll only know when you’ve tried it.
However, it’s not all about shared experiences, and in some categories what ownership of a particular brand says about you as a mother is as important as the need for the brand to care for the child. In a study conducted for a pushchair brand, for example, we found that drivers were either baby-led (comfort), mother-led (practicality, manoeuvrability etc), or design-led, as one of the roles of the pushchair brand was to create a perception about them. For this type of consumer, brands which are not considered to be in vogue have to fight harder to be noticed. In such cases they often have to offer fadditional incentives, such as free car seats etc, just to stand out.
So how can brands get onto the consumer shortlist and make it to the nursery? Although healthcare professionals are not allowed to endorse brands, the brands used within hospitals are often considered to be top of the range and therefore the best for their baby. In research we have conducted we have found that Medela breast pumps have benefited from this type of endorsement, and were considered to be more advanced than their competitor set. When we factor in the price point (at times over £300), this may have appeal to those consumers who correlate high price point with more kudos.
It is increasingly important for brands to manage their internet presence both in terms of official sites and social media. When it comes to awareness among first-time parents, brands can struggle to permeate into consumer consciousness unless they have been recommended by others – they therefore had to work harder in store as their lack of internet presence can cause them a disservice.
With the internet becoming more and more important in terms of advice, having a healthy online presence on search engines and social media can really help brands to gain the trust of mothers. Whilst direct personal recommendations remain pre-eminent, mums are increasingly being supported by the collective experience of a global community of mums. As brands seek to understand what consumers are saying about them online and how this affects perceptions about their brand, the importance of keeping up to date with social media debates and discussions is more important than ever.