Sometimes, in those random and unintentional moments of daydream, I think about what it will be like to have my first child (no, Mum, this is not my way of telling you that I’m soon to be a father). I think about the excitement, fear, concern, support, love, tension, frustration and holy-crap-I’m-now-legally-responsible-for-the-survival-of-another-human-being that my friends and family members have told me about when recounting their own experiences. It’s usually a positive momentary thought until I’m distracted by more important things, like remembering the time of the next Penguins game.
My daydream took a tumble today after reading an article in the New York Times titled Disney Looking Into Cradle for Customers. It explains that Disney is pushing its newest product priority, Disney Baby, in 580 maternity hospitals in the United States. According to the article, “A representative visits a new mother and offers a free Disney Cuddly Bodysuit, a variation of the classic Onesie.” The catch? The representative asks for the mother’s email address so that DisneyBaby.com can send her targeted marketing messages. The purpose of this campaign, as outlined in the article, is to build brand awareness and loyalty, and to get the mother (what, no daydreaming fathers in the mix?) to think about her first Disney park experience with her children at the earliest point possible. You ask yourself, “How do they get access to the mothers?” A consulting firm paid by Disney pays the hospitals for access.
Let me be clear: I think that it is the height of callousness that a sales representative from a corporation, no matter how family-friendly, attempts to collect marketing information from a woman who has just given birth. As someone who has recently experienced a moment of emotional vulnerability that could have been exploited for financial gain (my father passed away a month ago and I had to work closely with the funeral home to make arrangements), I realized just how refreshing it is to not have someone else’s profit motive take priority over my own emotional state. Does Disney really believe that a full-court press by a bilingual salesperson in a maternity ward is the best way to get a new mother to emotionally connect to their brand?
I fundamentally believe in the positive power of marketing. At its best, marketers find people who can use a product or service that will make that customer’s life easier/better/more fun and give that person a compelling reason to buy. However, I also believe that customers should be treated with dignity and respect. I believe Disney is failing that test.
Along the marketing-to-women conversation, I can’t help but notice that the quotes from company representatives were made by two men. I’d love to know — were women consulted on this strategy? Yes, an OB-GYN and a mother were quoted in the article in support of Disney’s strategy, but would most women follow? Do women feel comfortable being exploited like this, not only by a company but also the hospital in which they’re giving birth?
Note: My name is terribly difficult and, beyond the novelty of having ABC as initials, there is no reason for me to pass this name on to a future generation. For $2,500, I’ll gladly sell first naming rights to my child and $1,000 for middle naming rights. I can’t wait to daydream about the future Mickey McDonalds Ciuksza being born.
Perhaps this wouldn’t be so disgraceful if the new mother gave permission first – maybe via a special check-in on Foursquare or something of the like.
Otherwise, this is such an invasion of privacy and yet even more evidence that our health care system does not have the patient’s best interest at heart.
I’m not speaking from personal experience, as I’m not a mom, but from what I’ve seen from friends who have had kids, new moms are a little overwhelmed with advertising anyway. A lot of hospitals/maternity wards/OBs give new moms a welcome diaper bag with free swag in it… which I believe that you end up signing up for. At the very least, you KNOW that someone in the health care system is selling your information… HIPAA be damned.
As a new mom, I can attest that Disney is not the only company doing this. I was bombarded with information from Gerber, Similac, Enfamil, Fisher Price, Graco, Babie R Us (probably more) as soon as the doctor confirmed that I was pregnant. They gave us pamphlets and had us fill out information before I even left the doctor’s office. I received free samples and information for the entire nine months I was pregnant, and still to this day receive surveys about the products that they sent. All from one card at the doctor’s office! In addition, as soon as I was taken to my room after delivering, I was asked to fill out another card to receive a free diaper bag and more “stuff”. I never thought about it! After 15 hours of labor (with no drugs) all I wanted was to hold my daughter and take a nap! Now that I think about it…I wonder what else I may have signed up for…..
Believe it or not, I don’t hate the idea of giving expectant mothers a packet of information from popular brands (though I can see where it would be perceived as crass). Frankly, I think that it could be done well and, as a result, be helpful to the soon-to-be parent. I don’t even hate the idea that you fill out another card for a diaper bag — again, timing could be better (done before labor?) or maybe there could be a free diaper bag no-strings-attached that includes incentives to give your personal information instead of collecting it on-site.
The line I believe is crossed is that a Disney salesperson visits the mother in the hospital. It seems both desperate and tone deaf to the moment. It might seem inconsistent, but I can summarize my beliefs like this — giving something for free that the mother can explore at her leisure is ok, interrupting a very personal moment by inserting a baby clothes salesperson into the hospital room is not ok.