Reading about Playtex’s soft sell “informational” approach in the re-launch of its online Mommyville community I had a flash back to my days at Compaq Canada in the early 1990s. At the time we took a very similar “informational” approach (vs. a product-driven one) for our entry into the consumer marketplace with the Presario. Like Playtex, Compaq’s U.S. counterpart opted for a more product-driven hard sell approach. Compaq wasn’t the leading consumer PC brand at the time, unlike Playtex, but the approach paid off in Canada, and the Presario quickly became the #1 consumer PC brand. You may wonder whether Playtex has as much to gain since it is already the #1 brand in the infant feeding category in Canada, but it also has a long way to fall if it doesn’t take the right approach! It takes a wise and confident brand/marketer/company to be bold enough to opt for a soft sell vs. a hard sell approach.
I think we’ve come to see that the hard sell approach often doesn’t work, particularly in this day and age. People crave information and “peer endorsements” over hard sell approaches from marketers. When it comes to new and expectant mothers, I’m sure this is particularly true (and even more pronounced than with first-time PC buyers in the early 1990s!).
I was pleased to read that Playtex took the high-ground with its soft sell approach to providing information and resources – what I called a “category sell” in my Compaq days. Today it’s also a reflection of simply being part of the conversation (and perhaps being seen as the “go-to” expert). It ends up being a win:win scenario, I believe. This may seem like a risky move, but the upside is that it can leave so much room for a positive halo effect on the brand when it comes time for consumers to make their product purchases…who better to turn to than the company that provided all the information and resources they needed/wanted as new or expectant moms who are “hungry” to know they are doing the right thing with and for their baby?
Perhaps as the #1 infant feeding brand in Canada, Playtex has the luxury of not taking the hard sell approach. Regardless, I think the move is a wise one, and one that will reflect well on the company – and the brand – and therefore in the end its sales. Kudos to them! (We’ll have to see if its U.S. counterpart follows suit!)