How do parents, extended family members, and other gift-givers make decisions about infant products?

To answer this question, Viacom International Consumer Insights commissioned a project to understand how adults choose products for children under age 2 in the UK, France and Brazil.

The study found that infant product purchases generally happen around three occasions: as a one-off gift, for a visit, or for a celebration.

TV advertising has the most influence in raising awareness of character brands. Relatives and other gift buyers (i.e. not the parents) are also influenced by retailers and the child’s parents.

These products are purchased to meet either a functional or an emotional need:

  • Functional products are usually small, low-cost gifts or everyday items like bottles, dishes or clothes. These purchases generally serve a purpose like encouraging reading, helping get things done like eating and potty training, or serving as fodder for rewards and bribes.
  • Emotional products are unplanned purchases for special occasions like birthdays, holidays, or “just because.” These are intended to make a child smile and can be either larger, more costly items that are chosen specifically or lower-cost, spontaneous treats.

Parents tend to opt for items that have a character the child loves or that they personally find appealing. Relatives and other gift buyers often purchase a product because someone requested it for the child or because they just like it.

Benefits of character-branded baby products, include making the child happy, helping with everyday tasks, supporting the child’s development, providing a “feel-good” moment for parents, and making the purchase decision easier for relatives and gift buyers.

Barriers to purchase include being seen as too commercial, the child outgrowing the brand, and the product’s quality, safety and cost.