Victor Mills, American chemical engineer who worked at Procter & Gamble Co in the 50s, revolutionized the baby market when he invented the disposable nappy. Inspired by his own experiences with his grandchildren, the inventor created the Pampers brand, known for its innovation. It was the first company to replace nappy pins with tape, and then the first to develop extendable ties, absorbent gels and multipacks (1970), but its most famous achievement, Baby Dry, came out in the 90s. (1) Thanks to this new technology, nappies became more absorbent and parents’ lives were transformed.
Let’s take a closer look at this market leader. What is its marketing strategy, its advantage over competitors and its market vision?
Innovation gains consumer trust
With its knack for launching innovative new products on the nappy market, Pampers has established itself as the brand to beat, and is now one of the brands most trusted by mums (Study Millward Brown, TrustR , 2011). (2)
Investing around $2 billion in research each year, P&G bases their Pampers brand strategy totally on innovation and technology. In fact, in March 2013, the Pampers Research and Development centre in Schwalbach, near Frankfurt in Germany was more than happy to open its doors to French journalists and bloggers. (3)
Created in 1979 in the United States, the Happy Meal menu soon found its audience. Its success is partly due to the famous little toy, originally purchased separately and then included in the menu. From basic gifts such as Frisbees or balls, the toys have become more intricate and their quality has improved. McDonald’s now even offer Disney licensed toys. But children’s enthusiasm for the Happy Meal is also down to McDonald’s’ collaborations with recent movie releases. From “Star Trek » to « Star Wars » to « Despicable Me, » McDonald’s has become an essential communication tool to the film world.
However, it is the « gendered » characteristics of these famous toys which have really built up the reputation of the Happy Meal. There’s no need to ask parents around the world to know that the question asked by Mcdonalds staff; “For a Boy or a Girl?” is notorious.
The Happy Meal as a champion for gender stereotypes
Given as gifts, the toys symbolize affection and an intent to please. They also provide a lot of fun for children. But behind this playful front lies a darker aspect to the toys, linked to socialisation. « (…)As both a cultural instrument and a social learning aid, the toy is a key factor in socialisation. This is without doubt the most established, yet most hidden role of the Happy Meal… This is because the toy both triggers and reflects urban communication in the media and in children’s education. It makes that child a product of the times and outlines successive roles that the child will be expected to take on throughout the different stages of life, » writes sociologist Sandrine Vincent.
In the past, socialisation of young children only occurred in certain situations, including the family unit, at school and amongst peers. However, the increasing availability of television and internet access has changed this traditional pattern. Whereas children’s environments generally used to be controlled by parents and schools, nowadays children have unlimited access to media content. This development has brought about a number of concerns: the feeling of a loss of control could lead to potential media intrusion or invasion on daily life… Various groups have attempted to take control of this problem. For example, the European Council provides clear, standardised guidelines which allow guardians to control and avoid any potentially negative media influences on children. However, the amount of freedom that the small screen allows is still widely disputed and feared by the public.
Is Television an accessible resource or a threat to education?
In recent years, the number of murders committed by teenagers has multiplied, and it is commonly believed that the killers may be influenced by excessive consumption of ultra-violent media content. This belief has been challenged by philosopher Marie-José Mondzain in his book « Can imagery kill?” In the book he disputes the idea that exposure to violent content can directly influence behaviour. This imitation theory is based on the assumption that teenagers have no ability to put information into context or the capacity to take information in any way other than imitating it. The fear of such images does not just concern video games, but almost every type of visual content, whether it is reality (TV news) or fiction (cartoons, advertising…). Children’s TV programs are therefore perceived as potentially dangerous.
Young children have an intense brain activity. They set up, through what adults call « games », reasoning and probability calculations to discover the world. According to the psychologist Alison Gopnik, adults should also inspire themselves from these childlike skills to develop their creativity.
« In some sense, children form the R & D [research and development] department of the human species; they are dreamers and creative. Adults make up the Production and Marketing Department. [Children] emit millions of fresh ideas, most of them unfeasible, and we keep the three or four that can be realized » says Alison Gopnik. Fascinated by the skills of young children, this psychologist works on babies’ sophisticated intelligence and capacity decisions that they show when they are playing. (1)