Chances are at some point you've purchased or worn Carter's, but you've probably not seen much in the way of advertising from the company. The country's largest children's brand boasts it sells more than 10 products for every child born in the U.S. But its measured media budget is practically nonexistent, as it prefers to focus on direct mail and search.
"We're not a brand that has invested a lot of dollars in what I would call a traditional or integrated campaign," said Greg Foglesong, Carter's senior VP-marketing and e-commerce.
But that 's all about to change with the launch of a major integrated marketing campaign surrounding "What to Expect When You're Expecting," the Lionsgate movie based on the must-have parenting book. Launching May 18, the movie features an ensemble cast including Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Dennis Quaid and Chris Rock.
"It's the perfect vehicle to target pregnant or new moms, but it also has significant appeal for friends and family -- gift givers," Mr. Foglesong said.
Given Carter's rapid growth, the timing is also right to increase its marketing, Mr. Foglesong said. Sales were up 21% to $2.1 billion last year, and the company opened just shy of 60 stores. Between its flagship Carter's brand and sibling brand OshKosh B'gosh, the company controls 16% of the children's apparel market.
Carter's, the official baby clothing brand for the movie, worked with NCM Media Networks to create its first commercial in years, which will run in cinemas. It's also running a gift with purchase promotion, in addition to print and digital ads.
Ad Age : How did this opportunity come about?
Mr. Foglesong: It started about a year ago. The movie was actually filming here in Atlanta and Lionsgate reached out and asked if we'd be interested in providing clothing for the movie. We provided Carter's and OshKosh. Through that our relationship expanded, and by the end we were working with them as the exclusive baby brand for the movie.
I've seen bits and pieces [of the movie]. There's a scene where a gift bag is brought to a baby shower and the Carter's brand is prominently featured. We're excited about it. It will be a very funny movie. And it has broad appeal, which we also like.
Ad Age : You spend practically nothing on measured media. Why did you decide to do this?
Mr. Foglesong:You're right. It's representative of the evolution of our marketing here at Carter's. We are evolving our thinking around marketing and looking to increase our investment and test some new channels. This [movie program] is representative of the type of integrated multi-channel campaign we'd like to do more regularly.
If you look at our business, we are the leading brand in zero to seven children's apparel, with about a 14% share. That's leading us to think a little differently about our marketing. We'll continue our investment in direct, because moms love to receive our 'catazine.' And for many moms the process of choosing baby clothes begins with research on the Internet, so we will continue to expand our presence online through all channels of online marketing. But we're becoming more active in traditional media, seeking those channels that appeal to a new mom, things like parenting magazines. We're looking at those opportunities more aggressively.
Ad Age : Will you look to work with an agency as you increase your marketing activities?
Mr. Foglesong: We don't have an [agency of record] today. We have ongoing relationships with agencies focused on specific areas of our business, like search engine optimization or social media. As we expand our marketing efforts and evolve our sophistication, we would potentially be looking more broadly to build a stronger, deeper relationship with a traditional advertising or branding agency.
Ad Age : Your database grew 28% last year. From a marketing perspective, how are you using the data you acquire to better market to customers?
Mr. Foglesong: We have a seven-year relationship with mom and child. We call it "birth to bus." We use [data] to understand where the child is in age and target marketing that 's relevant to age and gender of the child. We target different direct mail vehicles to different moms, like the 'Baby Essentials' catalog for new moms. ... And we have developed marketing programs that periodically reach out to [gift givers] as well.
Ad Age : Your e-commerce business just launched in March 2010 and is growing rapidly. Who is responsible for the site?
The marketing department. It was a strategic decision. It recognizes the fact that , from a customer standpoint, the website is as much a marketing vehicle as it is a sales channel. The website has become a tremendous brand vehicle for our company. It represents the brand in a way that 's hard to do with stores.
The silver lining of launching e-commerce later is it allowed us to avoid some of the mistakes made by other retailers, that push-pull of online versus stores. Our philosophy from day one has been very multi-channel. There are no silos. We view it as one customer experience, and we think the brand really benefits from that perspective. If a customer buys Carter's, we are agnostic as to what channel the purchase is made from.