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Branded From the Beginning
By Liz Nickles with Savita Iyer
Winter 2013

Liz Nickles is president of the consultancy Black Label Financial Brand Development. Savita Iyer is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Businessweek, Investment Advisor, and other publications. From Brandstorm: Surviving and Thriving in the New Consumer-Led Marketplace (Palgrave Macmillan). ©2012

One of the best ways to get a brand in the game is to be there from the start, literally. Today, there is an infinitely scalable benefit to this because the Web allows immediate and incalculable access to a person’s life. Branding starts immediately, when Dad, or whoever is the family chronicler, whips out the video camera or the iPhone and records the baby’s first breath. As I write this, the Optimum cable service is running a commercial in which a new parent announces, “She was on Facebook before she was born.” Once the video is uploaded onto Facebook’s Timeline, a virtual brand is born—and broadcast to the ages.

What kind of branding can a newborn with a theoretically blank slate have? Plenty, for those who know how to create a touchpoint. Homerun to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, which proudly announced its new delivery—as official hospital of the Boston Red Sox, where its website officially proclaims that “our newborns are all Red Sox babies!” It continues: “From our compassionate nurses to our extraordinary expertise and leading-edge technology, there are many benefits to having your baby at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. As the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox, one more great benefit has been added to the list: your baby will be a Red Sox Baby!”

Families of every baby delivered at the hospital receive a baby cap and canvas bag adorned with the Beth Israel and Red Sox logos. The hospital website features a virtual photo gallery of the Red Sox Babies in their tiny logo caps.

OK, let’s grant that that’s cute. Especially if you’re a Red Sox fan. But let’s look closer. You, yourself, are not just a Red Sox fan. You are immediately a Red Sox Family. Red Sox Baby, Red Sox Mom, Red Sox Dad, Red Sox Grandpa—etc. Logo merchandise for everyone! There are forty-three types of Red Sox baby clothes on the Major League Baseball merchandise site. A three-piece starter set is available including logoed bib, bottle, and pacifier. Don’t forget the Red Sox diaper bag for Mom and, of course, the logoed stroller blanket. Baby hasn’t gotten his first tooth, but he’s off to a great start as a brand ambassador for the Boston Red Sox.

I’d like to think that as an experienced marketer I have been immune to immersive branding tactics as a parent. Full disclosure: At six months, my son could recognize the Golden Arches from the highway, and when he saw the picture of Big Bird on his plastic baby bottle, he not only grabbed for it—he went berserk trying to pull the picture off. Twenty years later, Big Bird hasn’t figured out a way to keep him in the fold—although I’m sure the Yellow One has ensured a place cribside when my son has his own children one day—but he still pulls over like Pavlov’s dog at the first glimpse of McDonald’s.

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