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Babies R Us: Enjoy the Poopy Diapers And Smashed Peas

In Bid to Steal Amazon's Share, Retailer Embraces Parents' 'Messy Moments'

By Published on .

Credit: Babies R Us
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When Nina Kim was pregnant two years ago, she registered for baby products at Target and Amazon, stores she already shopped regularly. And since the birth of her daughter in late 2015, the New Jersey-based mother hasn't altered her habits, eschewing baby brand Babies R Us for more general retailers where she can purchase a variety of items, including groceries, along with her diapers and baby gear.

"I've historically always been a loyal Amazon and Target shopper so I felt more comfortable there," she said.

A new brand positioning from Babies R Us is aiming to change Kim's mind. The Wayne, NJ-based brand, which was founded by Toys R Us in 1996, is introducing "Be Prepared-ish," a new campaign that offers a more authentic look at the actualities of parenting -- poopy diapers, smashed peas and all.

"There's nobody in the parenting category who is celebrating those realities of parenting—the messy moments," said Carla Zakhem-Hassan, who joined Toys R Us as chief marketing officer of both brands last February after 13 years with PepsiCo. "It's a real opportunity to take a pain point and shed light on it to say the messy moments are the beautiful moments of parenting."

Hassan, who has a 10-year-old daughter, noted that since she arrived the brand has conducted its own research to better inform the new positioning, which is a departure from Babies R Us' traditionally spotless, everything-is-awesome branding. The company found that 82% of parents feel overwhelmed when the baby first comes home, and 63% of parents feel like they've messed up as a parent.

But in the battle for diapers, Amazon is already winning. The Seattle-based retail giant commanded 19.6% share of the online baby product market as of last October—a whopping amount compared to Toys R Us' 5.1%, according to market research firm IbisWorld. After introducing Amazon Mom several years ago as an incentive for new mothers to shop the brand and get discounts on baby products, Amazon rebranded the offering to Amazon Family in 2015 to better attract dads as well.

Toys R Us even alluded to Amazon's growing dominance in its annual report, without actually mentioning the ecommerce brand by name.

"Competitors' subscription models for diapers, formula and other consumables may eliminate the need for customers to visit our stores or ecommerce websites," read the report. "We believe that this ecommerce activity has adversely affected our sales and profitability."

Last year, Toys R Us reported a 1.4% decline in same-store sales; net sales were down 2.2% over 2015 to $11.5 million.

But Hassan said the chain, with its brick-and-mortar locations, is well positioned to combat Amazon. Created with BBDO, the new work will include digital video that will be promoted through social channels and through the brand's sites.

"Everything we see, more and more, these moms are in chat groups, or Facebook groups," said Hassan.

Babies R Us is also reworking its loyalty program. Earlier this year, the brand hired Andrea Zaretsky from American Express as senior VP-marketing, loyalty and CRM, and plans to unveil an overhaul of the program later this year. In addition, it's retraining its employees to provide a better level of service, and understanding, to parents and prospective parents.

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