With licensed properties designed to boost baby brainpower multiplying quicker than parents can flick through flash cards, market differentiation can be hard to come by. But that’s just what DIC Entertainment spotted in its new lifestyle brand acquisition Mommy & Me.
‘The other brands out there today are much more about having your child watch a video; they’re not necessarily focused on using media to enrich parent-child interaction,’ says DIC president Brad Brooks. ‘Today’s parents are all harried and time-compressed, and this brand is really about turning everyday experiences like bath time, meal time and play time into quality time.’
That may seem a tad beatific for an entertainment company, but Brooks claims that infant/toddler lifestyle brands represent a niche that hasn’t been adequately addressed in terms of content creation. And Mommy & Me is all about content. The brand began as a playgroup program designed by child development specialist Dr. Cindy Bunin Nurik, and became Mommy & Me Enterprises in 2000. A Mommy & Me video series and an adult-directed activity book were released in August 2001, and the Mommy & Me consumer products team was in the process of building the merch program when DIC purchased the company.
While Mommy & Me’s long-term brand strategy targets infants and toddlers ages zero to five, the brand’s debut line is streamlined to the zero to two set. Initially targeting baby specialty and mid-tier retail outlets, the program will hit Babies ‘R’ Us this fall, eventually driving down to mass to make Mommy & Me an accessible brand for parents and caregivers. Launch licensees include Dolly (infant toys, bath toys, diaper bags, bedding, room décor, lamps and mobiles), ACI (footwear), Heyman (newborn layette and sleepwear), Mamiye Brothers (sportswear, swimwear and outerwear) and Pyramid Accessories (bags, luggage, lunch kits and rain gear).
All Mommy & Me product is child-targeted, with the goal of bringing the parent into the play experience. Each item incorporates a big/little design theme and a Mommy’s Memo of tips on enhancing the play experience. ‘Whether it’s conveyed through apparel, toys or melamine, it’s important that product creates a special parent-child experience, rather than being just another branded toy or bowl,’ says Brooks.
To that end, Dolly’s initial product offering includes the Magical Magnet Stacker (pictured left, US$12.99 SRP), a flower-topped stacking toy that lets parent and baby peel away petals to unearth discoveries such as mirrors, sparkles, textures, noises and colors.
And while the brand name emphasizes Mommy, the program targets dads and other caregivers as well. The launch line includes Daddy & Me product such as Fun Knee Pony (US$9.99 SRP), a lap mat with an interactive horse head that puts a new spin on the bouncing knee game patented by dads and grandpas everywhere.
Phase two of the program will bring toddlers ages two to five into the mix, and Mommy & Me’s senior VP of consumer products Melissa Segal is looking for partners to expand into toddler toy categories including games & puzzles, role play, arts & crafts and activities. Additional categories under consideration include strollers, luggage and accessories.
On the entertainment front, DIC has TV aspirations for Mommy & Me, but is currently weighing format and content options, including two-minute live-action interstitials as sub-segments of a larger morning show. ‘We see TV more as a marketing arm to reinforce core brand elements,’ says Brooks. In-house content development plans include new books, videos and music titles targeted for release in spring 2003 and beyond.