Inclusive design is on the rise in the baby care sector. People want to see a brand that not only embraces natural and organic products but one that accounts for every background and is relatable to all.
The focal point should not just be a mother's relationship with her child as it has previously been, but a brand that covers all types of relationships such as a baby who has two dads, two mums, or even grandparents as primary caregivers.
This is the new normal being explored today by Christy Davies, associate creative director at the brand design agency Echo.
In the past, baby care brands could be accused of covering up the realities of parenthood. Yes, parenting can be a joyful experience, but those less rosy moments: the sleepless nights, painful breastfeeding, and postnatal depression – exist in parallel.
During the research stages for Unilever babycare brand Zwitsal, we found parents will increasingly show greater connection with a brand that demonstrates authenticity. In the baby care space, this means uncovering the reality of parenting, all whilst homing in on the most important part – the relationship between carer and child.
Polina Zabradskaya, Creative Director at AMV BBDO, who recently helped Maltesers steer a more open dialogue specifically about the struggles faced by mothers, highlights an industry-wide reactive shift to authenticity.
She stated the industry is “pushing back against the idea of the perfect mum” to counter brands who are largely responsible for creating that unrealistic motherhood myth. In turn, an important, non-judgemental message is being conveyed increasingly by brands: that a “good enough” parent, as eminent child psychotherapist Donald Winnicott once famously said, is indeed ‘enough’.
Design holds the key to modern representations of parenting
With the changing nature of consumers, sensitive design has become key for brands when communicating an awareness of the difficult moments faced in parenthood.
Parents are increasingly seeking brands that are transparent with ingredient information. They desire assurance of a product’s naturalness, keeping their baby unharmed from any unwanted nasties.
Thoughtful graphics assist with this, and by stripping back the colours in packs and softening them by altering variant colours, you mediate the artificial and more acidic nature of those harsher tones. As a branding specialist, we were best placed to create a design that rebuilds trust in Zwitsal’s ingredients and fragrance.
Design should also consider ergonomics as a key factor. A nice example of this in the baby care formula category is Cow & Gate which was designed so that a caregiver may scoop the solution with one hand, whilst using the other to hold their baby. A design that assists the full-handed parent will go a long way.
Brands setting the benchmark
We are seeing a more minimal, honest, and authentic style of branding across all of baby care from food and toys to personal care. Madeline Lauf, the founder of Begin Health said that “millennial parents are expecting everything to be smoother, to communicate effectively, to look and feel the way they expect it to."
Brands responding to this include Naif Design, with its pastel colours, or HiPP Organic who have introduced a more curved look to their packs.
Meanwhile, Little Yawn Collective has a similar approach to Zwitsal, using characters which are cute and attractive to children in a clean, modern way that still appeals to parents. The appeal is two-fold as they make an excellent design for the home, too.
The modern-day context
As working from home becomes the new norm, it’s not a strange sight to see a colleague in an online meeting bouncing a boisterous baby on their lap. Babies can be hard to manage and there’s no such thing as the perfect baby or perfect parent.
Working from home has given us a glimpse into the personal lives of our colleagues. As a result, it’s increasingly likely for parents to feel at ease showing their vulnerability and, what's more, for brands and society to understand it, with wellbeing products for new parents on the rise.
The trend isn’t exclusive to baby care, either. Take sanitary products, for instance. Every woman has their period, so why treat it like a big taboo and hide it? Brands such as The Bamboo House are leading the way in this space, focusing on and communicating the importance of optimal comfort in selling their ever-growing in popularity period pants.
Tone of voice is therefore important for brand communication to the parent. It's a much more honest approach, and it’s the role of the brand to communicate empathy, to understand and be utterly transparent with the ingredients in their product.
The Future of Baby care
So how is the industry set to move forwards both in terms of consumer behaviour and packaging? Firstly, the changing consumer perceptions in the industry, largely driven by Gen Zers and Millennials, has created general openness when it comes to discussing wellbeing, with the key message being "it's okay to not be okay".
Taking responsibility for your physical and mental health is fast becoming standard and this now expands to parenthood. We recognise the necessity for parents to take care of themselves as well as their child – after all, a happy parent will mean a happy baby.
Secondly, the ergonomic aspect of product and packaging is set to improve. As people adapt to a new norm of working from home, a brand can be braver with a product that now needs to integrate seamlessly into both a workplace and child's environment, with 3D and 2D elements both taking on a new visual language to integrate into a modern millennial home.