I have just returned from a visit to meet my new nephew. He is adorable; see for yourself:
Over the past few days, as I spent time with my sister and her husband, I realized that new parenthood opens the door to a whole new world of brands, and that brands marketing to new parents have some advantages and disadvantages in building up goodwill with new consumers.
Apparently, hospitals give out sample packs of formula, as do pediatricians. But which formula a parent starts using first might matter a lot in terms of purchases over the long term because healthcare providers caution that switching brands may cause discomfort for babies. It seems hospitals understand that, and therefore may implement a policy of alternating the brands they give out to avoid the appearance of endorsement. But whichever brand a parent starts with is likely to be the brand the parent continues to use.
What an advantage! Being the first to market is one thing. Being the first in a consumer's household is another. And in the case of newborn products, that may be the deciding factor for brand loyalty if there is a risk in switching brands.
The fact that healthcare providers use certain branded products in the course of providing services also carries an implicit message to patients, however unintended. For a new parent unfamiliar with the various manufacturers of products for newborns, the brands encountered in the hospital or a doctor's office can influence later purchasing decisions. Facing a store shelf full of products, a new parent could easily decide to select the brand encountered at the hospital either because of a perceived endorsement or simple familiarity.
Manufacturers of baby and new parent products have a distinct advantage over competitors if they can convince healthcare providers to use their products. That sends a message to new parents of trustworthiness and may incline them to purchase other products bearing that brand when they otherwise have no basis for selecting one product over another. The advantage increases for certain products if they can convince healthcare providers to give away free samples of the product. That alone might be enough to capture the 'loyalty' of a new parent if switching brands might disrupt the baby's peace or development. Of course, the flip side of that is that manufacturers of certain baby products may have an especially difficult time convincing a new parent to try a different brand of a product that seems to be working well.
Competitors in every industry have to put in the time, money, creativity, and other resources necessary to build the goodwill in their brands with consumers. Each industry will also have its unique opportunities that might give brand owners an extra advantage in building a consumer base. It is up to each brand owner to identify those opportunities and make the most of them.