What To Do About Baby: Product Managers Rethink Baby Products

Johnson & Johnson has fallen behind, can they catch up?
Johnson & Johnson has fallen behind, can they catch up?
Image Credit: Chi (in Oz)

Anyone who has a baby can tell you that they spend a lot of time giving their baby baths. When they do this, they require special products – things like baby shampoo. Surprise, surprise, it turns out that the market for baby products is huge. One of the biggest players in this market is a company that we have all probably heard of: Johnson & Johnson (J&J). They have been around for a very long time and providing baby products is something that they are well known for. However, lately their market share in this critical market has been decreasing. What’s going wrong and what can J&J’s product managers do about it?

What Went Wrong At J&J?

So what went wrong at J&J? The market has spoken: J&J’s baby products have lost more than 10% of their market share during the past five years. Their total market share is now less than 37% — way down from where it used to be. This is not going to look good on anyone’s product manager resume. The challenge that they have run into is that there is a fundamental change that has been sweeping though the baby products market. New parents, many of them are millennials, are now looking for baby products that contain only natural ingredients. These customers view J&J products as both old-fashioned and being loaded with harmful chemicals that they don’t want to expose their baby to. Looks like this calls for a change to a product development definition.

New brands such as Honest Co., California Baby, and Earth Mama have been using online customers who recommend them in order to build up a market share. Over at J&J, their baby products line which is large by anyone’s standards at US$1.5B / year is only a small part of the company’s annual $76.5 in earnings. However, this part of the company is important because this is the only J&J product line that contains the name “Johnson & Johnson” and it is the set of brands that cause consumers to trust J&J. The line of baby products that J&J offers is almost as old as the company is. The company was founded in 1886. When people are asked, they often say that J&J is all about baby products even though they make many other things.

The challenge that the J&J product managers are facing is that that the line of baby products represents the face of the company. Its relevance is very important to the company. They are going to have to restore this brand in order to help the company preserve its image. Consumers trust in the J&J baby care line helps to drive sales in other lines that the company offers. This is why some people refer to Johnson’s as being a “trustmark”.

How Can J&J Turn Things Around?

Clearly things are going to have to change if the J&J product managers want to save the ship. They are already taking steps to make the J&J baby care line more relevant to today’s shoppers. They are in the process of remaking their baby products line by removing chemical dyes and substituting them with natural ingredients. They are also introducing digital marketing campaigns and reimagining the product packaging.

In order for the J&J product managers to be successful, they are going to have to be able to overcome a number of different challenges. The corporate culture of J&J has become risk-adverse over time. The company has been aware that the baby products market has been changing, but they have been slow to embrace the change that has been occurring. They find themselves in a situation where they are facing a number of smaller, more nimble rivals that they are going to have to find a way to take on. Finally, they are also going to have to improve how they go about marketing and selling their baby care products.

One of the key ways that the product managers plan on reviving their brand is by getting assistance from a group of parents who have a big social media presence. Their plan is to promote the overhauled products and restore the brand’s relevance. The company has agreed to pay 100 “social influencers” to make product recommendations on Instagram, in blog posts, and other places on the internet. At the same time the product managers are going to be providing free product samples to other parents who play a role in social media. The hope is that this will change how J&J baby products are viewed online.

What All Of This Means For You

The product managers at Johnson & Johnson have the privilege of being in charge of a brand that has been around for a very long time. However, their brand is currently facing new challenges. The market that they serve, young parents, has changed. The parents are now seeking baby care products that are made with all natural ingredients. What this means for the J&J product managers is that they have to take a look at their product manager job description and identify a number of changes that they are going to have to make.

J&J’s share of the baby products market has been falling for the past few years. The arrival of young millennial parents who only want their baby products to contain natural ingredients has caused a change in people’s buying habits away from the J&J product lines. New companies are popping up who offer all natural baby care products. The reason that this is such a big deal to J&J is not because of the revenue that this product line produces, but rather because of the fact that the baby care product line defines how customers view other J&J products. The J&J product managers are in the process of changing how their products are made and they are removing chemicals and replacing them with natural ingredients. The product managers are going to have overcome a number of different challenges such as the J&J corporate culture. A key part of the product manager’s plan to restart this brand is to enlist the help of a number of parents who have a significant social media presence to talk about their products online.

The fact the J&J has realized that their baby care product line has troubles is a key to their ability to fix this situation. They understand that in the world of baby care products, what parents say about a product online can carry a great deal of weight. Taking the time to reformulate their products while at the same time boosting the product’s online presence is the right way to go. We’ll have to keep a careful eye on J&J’s baby care line to find out how their product manager’s brand restart strategy goes.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that J&J should let their customers know that they have removed chemicals from their baby care products?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Just imagine if you were a cigarette product manager. You are responsible for a product that is both addictive and reviled. You’ve been doing quite well for yourself for a very long time; however, now things are starting to change. Young people seem to getting the message and are less likely to start to use your products. At the same time, a new type of smoking product, vaping, has shown up and seems to be doing very well. What is a product manager to do?