On September 18, Toys“R”Us buckled under its $5 billion in debt and declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company pinned particular blame on their Babies“R”Us business, which accounts for nearly 40% of sales. Specifically, the company bemoaned intense competition and “very, very aggressive pricing online.”
Indeed, Amazon, with its bottom-of-the-barrel pricing, accounts for 19.6% of online baby products sales, versus Toys“R”Us’s 5.1%, according to IBISWorld. And the problem only threatens to get worse, as the number of millennial parents increases.There are already more than 16 million millennial moms in the U.S., and millennial women account for more than 82% of births in this country. Millennials prefer to shop online, and millennial parents care more about pricing than their non-parent peers. These parents over-index for stores like Dollar General and Kohl’s, for example, and under-index for stores like J. Crew and Sephora. They also look to digital sources—parenting blogs, online forums, friends and influencers on social media—for advice and product reviews.
But Babies“R”Us had fallen behind with regard to online shopping. While they refused to enter a race to the bottom in terms of pricing, they did recognize they had major work to do to woo millennial parents. Enter, their new ad campaign, “Be Prepared-ish.”
Launched in July and created in partnership with BBDO, “Be Prepared-ish” gives a more honest (and funny) depiction of parenthood than your typical, aspirational parenting ad. “You will forget stuff. It’s ok,” reads one ad, in large print over a young dad holding a baby. “Children are magical little people. No wait, that’s leprechauns,” reads another, superimposed over a photo of a child who had covered himself and the television behind him in white paint.
A digital-first campaign, Babies“R”Us is also partnering with more than 20 social media influencers and encouraging parents to post stories and advice using the hashtag #iwasntpreparedfor. The idea stemmed from primary research the company conducted that found that 82% of parents felt overwhelmed when their baby first came home, and 63% percent felt they had messed up as a parent.
“Millennial parents, more than any other parent, were very vocal about us being real, us being honest, and us being raw,” says Carla Hassan, Toys“R”Us’s chief marketing officer. “The industry is painting a picture that is actually unrealistic. We want to provide an honest counterpoint in an inspirational way.”
Toys“R”Us is also updating Babies“R”Us’s platform to include millennial must-haves, like subscription services. And it’s working on its loyalty program and registry system. Can these changes and their new marketing campaign turn things around for the company? Only time will tell, but with the millennial parent segment booming, they’re surely on the right track.
Credit: Henry Fabeer