How J&J Research Led From Bath-Time to a Mobile Sleep App -- and More Products in Carts

Global Campaign Includes Original Lullabies

By Published on .

Advertising Age Player
Most Popular

Johnson & Johnson has long known sleep was important to babies and parents. Increasingly it's also good for marketing, having spawned a mobile app at the center of an upcoming global campaign.

The app springs from a system J&J first developed to profile babies' sleep patterns for a clinical research project more than a decade ago. Then, R&D joined with Johnson's baby marketers to see how the tracking system might also help parents. By 2007, the system became a key part of a website with tips and tools to help babies sleep better. And by 2012 that evolved into the Johnson's Bedtime app, now one of the leading baby sleep apps for iOs and Android phones.

Now J&J is looking to broaden the app's reach further with a global "Tonight We Sleep" campaign rolling out to 75 countries in late February and March, just in time for World Sleep Day on March 18. The effort includes a new global lullaby and seven regional versions developed with help from U.K. music house Ceclia.fm and early-childhood music education experts. The lullabies will be incorporated alongside existing tunes and soothing sounds crowdsourced from parents around the world—ranging from the sounds of vacuum cleaners and hair dryers to crickets and waves hitting the shore.

The new lullabies have "all the science of sound embedded," said Debra Bass, president of J&J's global baby franchise, who leads the global sleep project today and was a product director more than a decade ago on the team that first adapted the R&D sleep profiling system for consumer use.
Since Johnson's research has found a mother's voice is one of the most soothing sounds of all to a child, the new lullabies are "very hummable," she said. "Mom can add her own soft lyrics or hum along. That's been done by design."

Even with all those years of research, sleep remains a top concern for parents globally, Ms. Bass said, with 76% of parents in China, 40% in India and 25% in the U.S. identifying sleep as a problem.
"We know that babies grow physically, cognitively and emotionally with better sleep," she said. "If baby and mom don't sleep well, then their interaction with each other is not optimal, and that also has an effect."

But J&J has more than a humanitarian interest here. Its researchers were collecting that sleep data years ago to test the Johnson's Three-Step Sleep Routine, which starts with a bath (possibly using Johnson's Baby Wash and Shampoo), a massage (possibly using Johnson's Baby Oil), and quiet time (which may use those free Johnson's lullabies and soothing sounds). Research showing the process works is now based on more than 300,000 babies, according to Johnson's, and the app keeps collecting sleep data for analysis from more.

Besides producing better sleep, the Routine has resulted in parents putting more Johnson's Baby products into carts, Ms. Bass said, so increasing adoption of the app and the Routine it supports can only help. As an "evergreen program," it can be hard to measure short-term results by looking at a single period, she said. But the cumulative effect for social media and search-engine optimization is a very long build that keeps paying off.

"We want to own every conversation about sleep," Ms. Bass said. "And most of those conversations happen online." All of this "separates Johnson's from other baby skincare brands," she said, by going beyond products to "deliver a bigger experience backed by science."

What Ms. Bass calls the "Johnson's Baby village" of marketers globally have adapted the sleep programs culturally. "In the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, Egypt or the United Arab Emirates -- they do not do a bath at night," she said. "So we created a Two-Step Routine with just the massage and quiet time, and with the data to support that."

A village of agencies pitched in too, from BBDO, which helped develop the new "It's Time to Sleep" campaign and TV ads, to GiantSky, which developed the Bedtime app, to VaynerMedia with digital video. Allidura handles global PR and TPN shopper marketing. R/GA developed the original desktop microsite.

Besides the impact on sleep, and sales, the Bedtime app may help rehabilitate the image of the smartphone in the baby's room, Ms. Bass said. "Normally the phone in the baby's room is a distraction, a guilt inducer," she said. "But in this case it's really a tool."