Advertisers target newborns to build brand preferences

Being parents of young children is more expensive than ever. But much of that spending is driven by marketers eager to capture ever-younger consumers — before competing brands beat them to it.

Marketing campaigns aim at youngest potential consumers and their parents

By marketing clothing for babies, Disney is building brand awareness in the first few days of a newborn's life. (Supplied by Disney)

Being parents of young children can be more expensive than ever. But much of that spending is driven by marketers eager to capture ever-younger consumers — before competing brands beat them to it.

Since being posted to YouTube on Jan, 1, this ad has racked up almost two million views. It shows some of the first babies born over the New Year, from all over the world, along with their mothers.

The brand that’s being advertised is Fisher-Price, which clearly wants to start selling toys to parents the instant their child is born.

Here’s another marketer eager to get its foot in the maternity room door.

By offering products for newborns, Disney can imprint its brand as early as possible. So as babies become kids, they’ll ask for Disney princess outfits, insist on seeing Toy Story 4 and come to expect annual trips to Disneyland.

Another way companies gain access to parents is through the baby itself. In an interview on Q, York University PhD candidate Cheryl Williams described how Fisher-Price’s Learning Letters Monkey app targets babies six months and over.

"The baby is actually bonding with these characters in the app because they're playing with them everyday... And then they're in the shopping cart in the store with their parents and they see the line of monkey toys on the shelves and it's natural they'd be pointing and gesturing. So they've then indicated a purchase preference to their parents before they're even able to speak," she said. 

But it gets worse. A company called Citrus Lane gets new parents to pay to have a box of random baby products delivered to their home every month.

These aren’t things parents have said they need or even want. They’re just a sampling of new products that manufacturers would like parents to try in the hope that they and baby will become hooked.

"The younger and younger children are being advertised to, the more normal it is, the idea of consumption and buying and purchasing and wanting things and developing these needs," Williams said. "So by the time a child is in kindergarten, they have a very clear sense of products and consumerism and materialism and what they want."

Thanks to marketers, parents learn the best way to provide love and care for babies is to buy them the latest toys, fashion and brands. 

Bruce Chambers is a syndicated advertising columnist for CBC Radio.


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