The Wife and I thought we would have ourselves a nice little Saturday this weekend, so we got up, made a delicious breakfast, and took the dog for a stroll.  Everything was going swimmingly as we decided to then dip our toe in the baby shopping waters and see what that world had in store for us.  We parked in the spots reserved for expectant mothers (a nice perk), stepped across the threshold, and our lives will never be the same.

I once attended a sales training course where the instructor taught us that all buyers can be broken down into four categories: Power, Fame, Safety, or Relationship.  Without infringing on copyright laws of the course it can be broken down as follows:

  • Power buyers make purchases to strengthen their position in business or in the world at large.
  • Fame buyers buy to make a splash and for ego driven purposes.
  • Safety buyers will spend today to prevent a future wrong tomorrow.
  • Relationship buyers purchase things because they trust the seller or to help the seller out.

Sure there are times where someone can be a combination of Power & Fame, or Safety & Relationship but the concept is that if you can figure out what box the buyer fits in, then you can target your presentation and sales pitch accordingly.  This is a little lesson that I come back to in a variety of ways in both business and life since.  The guy that taught the class also did not wash his hands after using the bathroom so take it for what it’s worth…

This lesson smacked me in the face as the electric doors slid open to the baby-warehouse-du-jour Saturday morning.  The baby industry takes the idea that their market – new and expecting parents – are all Safety buyers to the Nth degree. 

One way to argue this approach is that they are right in that a parent’s priority is first and foremost the protection of their offspring, and thus that is their purchasing focus as they consume goods.  The opposite argument would be that their approach is the equivalent to profiteering on the naiveté of the clientele.  As with most things I would think that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but the mentality and tactics were loud and clear.  From car seats to high chairs, pacifiers to utensils, everything needs to be Consumer Reports approved or the implications are that you are asking your child to handle a bag of broken glass. 

I want to be very clear in saying that I obviously want the best for my child and look to keep them out of harm’s way in every feasible way possible.  I would like to think that’s generally implied across the board, but I fear the repercussions of speaking ill against the establishment here.  Our sales representative was a very nice gentlemen, but as I listened to him explain how my car seat needs the re-enforced steel frame so that in an accident it doesn’t crumple and fold the child in half, I couldn’t help but be taken aback.  Hearing how the extra Kevlar padding around the head will not only stop bullets but also keep their noggin from rattling around during a side impact (complete with visuals), I didn’t know if I should invest more in a car seat or just buckle down and purchase a tank. 

This whole thing is new to me in a lot of ways.  Generally speaking, I’m not a Safety guy by nature.  Again, I’m not down on safety in general, it’s important, but my general philosophy in life is that I am in control of my environment and how I react to it.  I know that I take this to an extreme more than I should, but it’s just the way that I’m programmed.  Things like bicycle helmets and lights, visors on hockey helmets, and seatbelts in general are in my best interest, but each are items that I opt to forgo more often than not.  I hold myself accountable for what I do and what happens because of my choices.  This safety as consideration number one thing is just putting me out of my element.  Thinking about keeping my little guy or girl upright until they can make their own dumb decisions is some pretty heavy stuff.

You take smoke breaks, I take pump breaks

With all of these decisions and the weight that is put onto every purchase, I can’t help but laugh as some of these products really go to the next level in justifying their existence.  For example, take a look at the picture on the left.  This is obviously an advertisement for a breast pump.  Or is it?  Well yes, it is, but think about the marketing group that came together to discuss this packaging (which features this very same picture on store shelves near you). 

Marketing Guy #1: We need something that says my career is important to me but so is being a mother.

Marketing Girl #2:  Good point.  Let’s put one of those fancy computer-things the kids use in the picture with her while she’s pumping  – that shows this is an acceptable act in a professional enviroment.

Marketing Guy #3:  Great idea.  And have her doing it to both breasts at the same time so it implies she’s working hard, even when pumping milk from her chest.  Women can do both at once right?

Marketing Girl #2: Of course they can.  Let’s try to get someone famous as that will add credibility.

Marketing Guy #1:  Hold on there champ.  We sell breast pumps, not cellular phones.  We can’t afford a big name actress on our budget.

Marketing Guy #3: What if I told you that I could find a model that looks eerily similar to Mary Steenbergen in Back to the Future: Part 3?

Marketing Guy #1:  Is that the one where they turn a train into a time machine?

Marketing Guy #3: It sure is.

Marketing Guy #1: I think you’re onto something there…   

These baby shops are full of crap like this, and every product has a specific purpose and they’re sold to you like you’re cheating your baby if you don’t buy them.  Don’t want your baby to catch tuberculosis from that metal shopping cart?  We’ll sell you a liner for the child seat.  Do you want to give your baby the fun of living on a ranch in the safety and comfort of your living room?  Buy yourself a Daddle.   Are you afraid you child is going to get a cold?  What if I could tell you that we can return your child to the safety and security of the disease free womb by filling a beach ball with Purell and encasing them within it?  Ok, that one I made up but I’m willing to wager dollars to donuts someone has had that idea before me (the breathing logistics probably became the hangup).

So The Wife and I are off and running in the baby merchandising world.  Having just returned from Vegas I found a corollary as both the baby store and Sin City are both equally after your money in any way possible.  It should be a fun ride, and after my indoctrination this weekend,  I get the feeling that comedy will ensue.