If you build it, they will buy it

This is how I picture it.

Lucy is a business student, doing a one-week internship with a company that manufactures baby gear. After spending most of the week contributing to the company’s success with tasks as challenging as making coffee and filing year-old shareholder reports, she is asked by the production design manager to fax some design specifications for a new stroller over to the marketing department.

Curious, Lucy reads through the entire document. She doesn’t have kids herself, and by the time she’s finished reading through the design specifications she wonders if maybe once you become a parent you lose your mind.

“Market research tells us that the next hot parenting trend will focus on upscale strollers,” says the first paragraph of the introductory notes. “In consulting with other industry researchers, we have determined that parents will buy strollers that incorporate the latest advances in technology. They will want a high-end stroller with luxury finishes.”

Some of the key design features of the new stroller include:

  • computerized navigation panel with GPS
  • faux-leather seat liner with heat and shiatsu massage modes
  • iPod docking station with hidden speakers
  • drop-down DVD player built into the sunshade
  • lilac and vanilla or green tea aromatherapy options

Lucy, emboldened by the fact that it’s the last day of her internship, asks her boss if she can ask him a few questions about the design. “Sure,” he replies, “but you have to be quick. I’m on my way to a meeting with the marketing team.”

“Well,” begins Lucy tentatively, “it’s just that this stroller sounds a little bit impractical. My sister has kids, and she says she wants a stroller that is easy to steer, easy to store and has a cupholder — none of which are mentioned in this design.”

“Cupholder?” says Lucy’s boss, aghast. “Not likely. Imagine the mess if one were to spill something on the faux Italian leather upholstery.”

“But have you done any research with the parents, to see what kind of features matter to them?” persists Lucy.

“Why on earth would we consult with the parents?” replies her boss. “They won’t know what they want until we educate them with our marketing campaign. Listen, why don’t you sit in on the marketing meeting with me. I’m sure you will find it enlightening.”

Lucy does indeed find the marketing meeting enlightening. Several creative types (she recognizes them as creative types because they wear expensive jeans torn out at the knees with bright print shirts and have a carefully disheveled air to their appearance) sit around a conference table crowded with Grande Starbucks cups and cranberry-flax muffins.

At the front of the room, the marketing manager stands near a flip chart, making notes as the participants brainstorm marketing ideas. “Okay,” he says. “Let’s start with product labeling. What should we write on the box and in the advertising copy?”

“Let’s label it ‘Free of Bisphenol A'” calls out a guy from the back.

“Um,” whispers Lucy to her boss. “Bisphenol A is usually a concern with things you ingest, like baby bottles. Babies don’t eat their strollers.”

“That’s beside the point,” replies her boss. “People will buy products that are Bisphenol A-free because they’ve heard it’s dangerous, but most of them have no idea what it is. They’ve been told to fear it, that’s all we need to know.”

“We should claim that the ergonomic design will improve parental posture,” offers another participant.

“I didn’t see anything about ergonomic design in the production specs,” whispers Lucy, unable to restrain herself.

“Shhh!” replies her boss. “That’s because there was nothing. But ergonomic is hot right now. It will sell.”

“Oh, and don’t forget about how the colours will stimulate baby’s brain development,” calls out Lucy’s boss before Lucy can interrupt him again with another question. “And how this stroller’s sporty design will foster a lifelong love of fitness and better social development.”

“And, don’t forget to write that it’s a ‘green’ stroller – it doesn’t emit any carbons or dangerous toxins. We should call it the Eco-Baby Hybrid Stroller.”

“Oh yeah! And, we should package it with a complimentary LuLuLemon diaper bag!”

“Perfect!” exclaims the marketing manager, writing furiously. “And we can jack up the price to compensate for the ‘complimentary’ bag. Speaking of price,” he continues, “I’m thinking we should price it in the $1500 to $1800 bracket.”

At this, Lucy spews a half-swallowed mouthful of coffee across the table in front of her. “What?” she sputters, incredulous. “But I read in the design specs that this stroller will cost about $115 or so per unit to produce. Nobody’s going to pay more than $1000 for a baby stroller!”

“They will after they see Oprah giving one to Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman,” replies the marketing manager. “Besides, the higher the price, the higher the perceived value. If people think it’s worth it, they’ll pay any ridiculous price.”

“Make a note to send a couple freebies to Oprah’s people,” the marketing manager says to his assistant. “And then we’ll hold off actually sending them to stores and ‘leak’ a press release saying we can’t keep up with demand. That’ll get the mom crowd drooling with desire.”

Lucy revises her original assessment of parenthood. When you become a parent, you may in fact lose your mind. But when you become a mega-corporation that makes and markets baby products, you lose touch with reality entirely.

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

18 thoughts on “If you build it, they will buy it”

  1. Oh how sad, how funny and how true. I was reading Canadian Family mag on the weekend. This month, they have a photo-product spread called Mini-Me–you know for parents who actually WANT to dress like their kids. Anyhoo, some of the stuff–toddler shoes and pants–retailed at $150. C’mon!

  2. What? You didn’t spend $1000 on your stroller? I chose the $200 Graco stroller and bucket car seat from Sears. I love, love, love it. The best feature is the basket can be collapsed to take stuff in and out even when the seat is reclined. I didn’t know that should be a decision point but now I mention to parents-to-be. I like that it can be folded up with one hand and has 4 positions, too. It was a little more than the absolute base model but the basket was bigger and there was an additional recline position. We’ve replaced the front wheels once in 4 years but that cost only $15 and we’ve got more than our money’s worth. For $1000, I want someone to push the stroller for me while I take a shower. My mom wished I would have bought a version that person pushing the stroller see the baby’s face (like a pram) but that was too expensive an option for me.

  3. Wow girl! You’re doing a stellar job recovering from child birth if your mommy brain can work out a post like THAT!

    One thing – once you’ve finally found a good (parent/child friendly) stroller – wouldn’t it be nice if you could buy ALL of the worn out pieces from the company?!? In this ‘assembly required’ day and age all of us mommies could probably handle rebuilding our WHOLE strollers… (instead of having to find NEW strollers for babe # 2, 3, 4… and be subjected to the consumer brain washing you mentioned!)

  4. Great post! It’s like that dry clean only diaper bag with a built in change pad. You have to dryclean it everytime it’s used. Smart.

  5. This makes me think of all the “Fat free” products out there. My favorite is red licorice. Of course they’re fat free. I would certainly hope they don’t have animal products in one of my favorite theater treats!

  6. Great post. I can’t even imagine what a stroller with all of those gadgets must weigh!

    Lighter is better: a trend that has not yet caught on, but is surely more marketable.


  7. Great story! Here in Italy people spend tons on strollers and car seats so there just may be a market for that here ; )

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