To Reach ‘The New American Family,’ In-Store Displays Must Embrace Digital Diversity

Virtual reality and Big Data continue to be the hot topics, but BabyCenter’s Julie Michaelson is looking at the practical aspects that will actually drive the 'modern family' to stores.

It’s all too easy to be seduced by all array of emerging tech toys being displayed at large-scale events like this week’s SxSW. But brands checking the latest advancements in virtual reality need to mine the practical use cases in order to create actual engagement for products by consumers.

In a series of panels at SxSW, BabyCenter talked with marketers who are wrestling with previously taboo subjects such as race and gender-types. The bottom line is clear: Despite polarized populations across the U.S., Julie Michaelson, BabyCenter head of Global Sales, says that in-store displays need to recognize the changes in how families look and are structured in order to resonate.

GeoMarketing: What were some of your takeaways from your SXSW experience?

Julie Michaelson: Data is definitely a hot topic in every area of advertising, from better targeting potential customers to informing the creative in the ad itself. Moving forward, data will enable us at BabyCenter to better focus on our mission to educate, inspire, and improve the health of pregnant women and new families globally.

We were looking at diversity of the American family in our panels, but the theme of diversity in attracting and retaining tech teams also really resonated for me. We’re a San Francisco-based company, and we want to make sure our staff represents the diversity that we see in our community — we have a few positions open right now, and that’s a priority for us.

Your panels were about marketers embracing diverse family types in advertising. Do you see opportunities for that trend to go beyond the ads themselves and take on further life in in-store display, mobile activations, and more?

Marketing that embraces diverse family types is already moving beyond big and small screens to go in-store.

Target removed gender-based merchandise displays for toys, entertainment, home. LEGO just announced new set featuring stay-at-home dad with stroller and working mom in business suit to reflect modern families.

And, as the head of marketing for Tylenol said during one of BabyCenter’s SxSW panels, the person waking up at 2am to take care of a sick child has changed — now it is often a Dad. Promotion in-store needs to reflect that reality.

A lot of the other discussions at SxSW that we heard this year had to do with personalization and virtual reality. Do those sorts of high-profile technologies have any resonance for BabyCenter’s retail-oriented advertisers?

Virtual reality was a hot topic at SxSW this year and I think it’ll become a great asset in marketer’s toolkit. I can visualize a number of uses for brands trying to reach today’s parents — from a newly pregnant woman being able to virtually try on maternity outfits with a baby bump in VR dressing room to virtually test-driving rides at amusement parks before booking a family vacation.

And now for our bonus question: What was your favorite place in Austin during your attendance at SxSW? 

There were some incredible brand activations and pop-ups at the conference, but I have to say that the zucchini cornbread at Corner in the JW Marriott was pretty spectacular!

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.