Fisher-Price’s Diaper Line Positioned Near the Bottom

Fisher-Price is playing in a new segment: diapers.

The Mattel unit rolled out its Happy Days & Nights line last September at Babies ‘R Us and Toys ‘R Us, and now it will expand distribution to Kroger next month. The diapers are positioned between private label and national diaper brands, said Mark Weppner, consumer products director at Fisher-Price. The toy maker teamed up with AHP, a Duluth, Ga., firm that is the nation’s largest maker of private label diapers.

Ads, created in-house, tout the line as “premium protection without the premium price.” The premium claim is bolstered by features like a “Size Right” color-coded diaper fitting panel (green for just right, red for too tight and yellow for too big) and the inclusion of both day and nighttime diapers in one package—both industry firsts, Weppner said.

The latter addresses diaper needs throughout the day. In the daytime, diapers are changed often, but at night, moms seek “extra wetness protection,” he said. “Moms can have that best experience in the night and not have to wake up in the morning and deal with wet sheets, new clothing and a bath.”

Fisher-Price is supporting the launch via blogger outreach. It’s also running digital ads and advertorial in custom publications like Playing With Your Baby and Loving Your Grandbaby, freestanding magazines published via a partnership with Meredith-owned American Baby, and distributed in hospitals and OB/GYN offices. The launch, though, comes as the U.S. birthrate has leveled off from its 2007 high of 4,317,119—per industry journal Pediatrics—as families delay starting or growing their families in an economic downturn.

Concurrently, sales of disposable diapers, a $1.8 billion industry across food, drug and mass merchandise channels, fell 2 percent in the 52 weeks ended Feb. 21, per SymphonyIRI Group. (Data from the market research firm, formerly known as Information Resources Inc., does not include Walmart sales.) Both Kimberly-Clark and Fisher-Price estimate private label’s share of the category to be about 20 percent.

Though some believe that consumers have been gravitating toward pricier diapers—as evinced by recent launches from both K-C and Procter & Gamble—Fisher-Price is betting on the value end of the market.

A diaper launch from Fisher-Price makes sense, Weppner said, since the brand is well-known among moms and already sells such entry-point products like diaper bags and potty seats. But while the former targeted moms early on in parenthood, potty seats appealed to those entering the “trailing end of the diaper experience,” Weppner said.

Fisher-Price is not the first major brand to venture into an adjunct, child-focused category. Johnson & Johnson branched out into the toy business in the ‘80s, though it later sold it.  Pace University marketing professor Paul Kurnit said Fisher-Price’s success will hinge on the product’s utility, rather than the positioning: “Value is great, but in today’s marketplace, consumers want the product to perform.”