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Baby Bjorn - carried away
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  Baby Bjorn - carried away
BabyBjörn
carried away?
by Abram Sauer
February 2, 2009

BabyBjörn—adorable umlauted dimples and all—has attained a level of success that most brands only dream of. The brand’s widespread reputation for offering both quality and fashion has practically made it shorthand for an entire product sector.

 

By achieving this, BabyBjörn finds itself in the company of, if not yet equal to, heavyweight proprietary eponyms such as ChapStick, Frisbee, Q-tips, TASER and Band-Aid. But can its enviable brand succeed online?

Founded in 1961 by Björn Jakobson, BabyBjörn focuses on making products for children up to three years of age. Its stated goal is to “simplify everyday activities for parents and small children by developing innovative products...” Today the brand is known primarily for its BabyBjörn baby carriers, invented in 1973. Since then, 25 million carriers have been sold, or in the brand’s less crass, more sensitive words, “…25 million BabyBjörn babies have been carried close to their parents.”

Upon arriving at Babybjorn.com, one wouldn’t be at all out of line for thinking one had mistakenly navigated to J.Crew online. Babybjorn.com’s landing page features a large, appallingly-attractive-in-a-real-way Nordic-gene-blessed couple and what might be the top of an infant’s head. It is clear BabyBjörn has taken to heart the strategy of featuring those to whom a brand’s customers might aspire to be.

Inside the BabyBjörn US site (just as inside the regional others), rotating feature images say as much about the parent wearing the brand as about the baby in it. The clean, easily-browsed individual product galleries also demonstrate both the product and how consumers will look in it, especially if they match their clothing to the selected baby carrier.

BabyBjörn, however, makes more than carriers, and the homepage features the brand’s latest offering: the BabyBjörn Babysitter Balance. This product’s Flash microsite again treats visitors to a well-designed display of products and is modeled using smiling babies in kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms.

 
 
Baby Bjorn - carried away

As a website, Babybjorn.com is highly functional, easy to navigate, and perfectly captures the voice and aesthetic of both BabyBjörn products and the BabyBjörn consumer. Translated perfectly to the web, this is the kind of successful branding that has gotten BabyBjörn featured on the Academy Awards. And while the BabyBjörn site won’t dispel the neo-Yuppie associations often prescribed the brand, why should it? There are a hundred infant carriers similar to the BabyBjörn, many for a fraction of the cost and probably, from a cost-benefit standpoint, just as functional. But you won’t look this cool.

But then the BabyBjörn brand is about more than just providing a functional tool for modern baby rearing. The brand has become a way through which parents can define themselves—a way they can say not just “I’m a parent” but “I’m a BabyBjörn parent.”

The key to becoming one of these brands is far more complex than just looking cool. Parents with the kind of disposable income required to “brand” their respective parenthoods with products such as BabyBjörn and Maclaren (strollers) need to be given justifiable reasons beyond “it’s cool.” Brands such as BabyBjörn need to offer parents speaking points on the real-world, practical advantages of their products. They need to offer ostensibility.

BabyBjörn knows this. Beneath the rotating photos of H&M-like models in the latest Björns rests a “Here’s what medical experts have to say” section. The Babysitter Balance microsite features a similar section. This messaging is everywhere on the site.

Beyond its website, BabyBjörn (like Maclaren) is fascinating considering how the brand’s strength and the fanaticism involved in parenting collide to create both severe brand championship and brand backlash. In this respect, the BabyBjörn brand is much like Apple. A good example of this is the brand-organized community BabyBjörn Believers, where parents are brought together because their “experience could have a significant impact on families of young children.” As brand champions, BabyBjörn Believers (or just unorganized, outspoken BabyBjörn fans) are an irreplaceable marketing tool for the brand—the ultimate, proactive “but don’t take our word for it” testimonials.

At the same time, such eager brand champions actually serve to irritate potential customers with what’s perceived as overzealous brand proselytizing. This group, just as fanatic about parenting, finds such zeal off-putting partly because many parents bristle at being told what to do and partly because such a group has an actual name, like a cult.

Read the Babybjornbelievers.com response to the “I'm a BabyBjörn Believer…now what?” section, and one understands why harboring a dislike for the brand has more to do with the brand’s representatives than with the products: “…it’s time to spread the word about the BabyBjörn line of safe, quality products.” Read the “Who are BabyBjörn believers?” section, and one just might become one of them: “James is the epitome of the modern man. Despite the demands of his job, his family is his first priority. He not only reads reviews on the latest technology gadgets, but also goes online to scout out safe and innovative children’s products. As a walking encyclopedia on such topics as potty training, teething and infant sleeping habits, James happily shares his parenting knowledge.”

For James and Björn, the brand is all about family.

 

Abram D. Sauer has written about brands and branding trends since 2001. Visit www.abesauer.com for more of his work on branding and product placement.

*Due to the constantly changing environment of websites, some reviews may no longer reflect the current website for this brand.
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BabyBjörn - carried away?
 
 Abram, great article.

But I would separate brands such as Apple from BabyBjörn in att least one respect.

The branding process is affected by the company's view of their customers. BabyBjörn's view seems systematic/dogmatic, while Apple's is more human/liberal.

Apple would never recruit embassadors quite as dogmatically and "on-strategy" as BabyBjörn.

Quote from BabyBjörn Believers:
"Once you’ve decided to join our family of Believers, it’s time to spread the word about the BabyBjörn line of safe, quality products. You know the methods of communication available to you: Web sites, message boards, user groups and online communities, as well as face-to-face social networks."

Very clear, but not very liberal.
 
Georg Sievert, Planner, Röjning - February 2, 2009
 
 "Once you’ve decided to join our family of Believers, it’s time to spread the word about the BabyBjörn line of ....."Reads almost like an un-optimized translation from Swedish to English.Surprising that a company with such a hip product would communicate in this way. 
Julian Walmsley, Retention Director, H Street Media - February 2, 2009
 
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