When I was a kid, I was never allowed to watch Disney movies at home. But, as I was also abundantly aware when I was young, this is highly anomalous for anyone growing up in the United States, where Disney aggressively targets children. The one demographic that they don’t seem to have tapped are infants, who are surely too young to understand the subtleties of the cult of the Disney princess. And of course, how could Disney aim advertising at kids who haven’t even been born?
Well, apparently cornering the market on toddlers isn’t enough for them. Last month, Disney began to distribute its newest product, Disney Baby, in almost 600 maternity hospitals across the country. Representatives would visit new mothers and distribute a free Disney Cuddly Bodysuit, which is basically a onesie. The free products are a part of Disney’s new priority, which is to enter the market for young children, even infants.
One woman explained, “It surprised me that Disney was in there promoting something right as the baby was born, but we figured as new parents we weren’t in a position to turn free things down,” she said.
But Disney isn’t going to stop with bodysuits, which will go on sale in June after more than 200,000 are distributed for free. They’ll aggressively place themselves at the center of baby market, which the company estimates is worth $36.3 billion annually, with bath items, baby strollers, and even baby food.
They’re even trying to draw pregnant women into the company’s orbit before children are born, by creating loyalty programs where women would sign up for email alerts in exchange for free theme park tickets. “To get that mom thinking about her family’s first park experience before her baby is even born is a home run,” said Andy Mooney, the chairman of Disney Consumer Products. He added that most kids don’t start to develop an awareness of Disney until they’re toddlers. This is something that the company would obviously like to change.
This whole campaign seems pretty tacky to me, particularly the way new parents are targeted. Although Disney is not trying to be subtle about their new advertising, parents are vulnerable after they’ve just given birth, and the thought that the Disney empire would reach kids as soon as they’re out of the womb is, frankly, disturbing. But maybe it’s no less disturbing than Disney’s current consumer products for children.
What do you think? Does it matter, and is this consumerism gone hideously wrong?
Photo from Flickr.