Disney CSR: Creating Magical Moments Right From the Start??

ob-mk214_juggle_e_20110207145836Latest news reports that Disney is investing in expanding a newborn range for babies. Honestly I'm surprised that Disney hadn't thought of doing this earlier. They aren't exactly marketing it yet but are focusing on creating a market and have taken to 580 maternity hospitals in America.

According to Disney's market research, most parents don’t really embrace the brand until the preschool years, when youngsters are introduced to characters via the Disney Channel. Disney estimates that this leaves it with an untapped market of $36.3 billion annually.

Right now they are distributing onesies at maternity hospitals and then asking new mothers to sign up for email alerts in exchange for free theme park tickets. However, Disney is aiming at a more aggressive campaign that will place them at the center of the baby market. They aim to bring out bath items, strollers and even baby food.

Disney has faced criticism over their products for the infant population. The harshest came after the Baby Einstein line of products. The line claimed to enhance baby development and Disney later released a statement saying that their claims about the products had been exaggerated.

This new move of including Disney products in maternity gift bags has received severe back-lash.  “This is taking advantage of families at an extremely vulnerable time,” said Jeff McIntyre, director of national policy for the advocacy group Children Now. Parents are concerned that children will get too 'addicted' to the brand and this kind of aggressive marketing has been opposed by many.

Disney has been making the CSR lists for being a responsible business for many years now. However this new marketing plan puts them in dubious light.  Andy Mooney, the chairman of Disney Consumer Products has said that the aim of the campagin was to, "To get that mom thinking about her family’s first park experience before her baby is even born is a home run."  This exactly doesn't fit in with overall Disney brand image of cute and cuddly.

This is oddly reminiscent of the model for Disney's Princess which was created a decade ago. Today there are more than 26,000 Disney Princess products generating some $4 billion in sales. Peggy Orenstein calls this the 'Princess Industrial Complex' in her book and she has studied how this has transformed the culture of girlhood — the long-term impact of the 24/7, 365-days-a-year royal press of pink and pretty on our daughters' femininity, sexuality and identity.

Disney certainly seems to be bent of targeting them young. The topic of selling products to children is often controversial and several studies show that  children under 8 years old can't distinguish between ads and entertainment. Until then, they don't fully comprehend that advertising is trying to sell them something.

This kind of aggressive marketing to children under 12 has a strict set of rules in many countries, then why not in the United States? Not only is Disney is encouraging a consumer culture of use and throw, it is also catching them young. Not only does the campaign not fit into their long term sustainability objectives, their predatory approach to it is rather cringe-worthy.

Photo Credit: Everett Collections

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