Parents: Unto you a consumer is born

September 24, 1993|By Anthony Giorgianni | Anthony Giorgianni,Hartford Courant

Congratulations. You are now the proud parents of an 8-pound bouncing baby consumer.

And those phone calls and letters won't be from just relatives and friends.

Scores of businesses know that you and your baby represent a new and lucrative marketing opportunity, and they will be competing fiercely to supply your sudden demand for diapers, film developing, photographs, infant formula, toys, financial planning and baby sitters.

As a new or expectant parent, you are likely to find your mailbox stuffed with offers for personalized books, carpet and upholstery cleaning, picture framing, child dental services and breast pumps. Your telephone will be ringing with calls from people trying to sell you life insurance, arts and crafts, music lessons, magazines, hair care and skin care.

Companies are leaving offers for free coupons in your doctor's office, gift packages at the hospital and even free merchandise on your doorstep when you return home with your newborn for the first time.

To find you and your baby, they're scouring newspaper birth announcements. They're buying subscription lists from magazines, mailing lists from marketing specialists, customer lists from other retailers.

Leslie C. Morin said she was getting tired of the advertising pitches she has received since the birth of her daughter Olivia June 4.

Among those who have contacted her are five insurance companies, two photography studios, two beauty salons, a formula company, a person selling personalized books -- even the American Red Cross, offering a course on cardiopulmonary resuscitation for infants. Ms. Morin said she has received more solicitations with this baby than she did with her other children, now 3 and 5 years old.

"I think it's a good way to advertise, but it's going on three months now, and I'm still getting things. It is annoying," Ms. Morin said.

Still, Ms. Morin took advantage of one offer. She filled out a coupon for free infant formula that was in a packet of information provided by her doctor. Not only did Mead Johnson Laboratories send a free sample, it sent her money-saving coupons for additional purchases.

Paula Hankard said she didn't respond immediately to the solicitation she got from an Olan Mills photography studio after the birth of her son David in January. But later, when she decided to get professional photos for David's baby book, Olan Mills was the first name that came to mind.

Theresa Pisani, a telemarketing sales manager for the studio, said newborns are "a good potential market, because there's nobody that likes pictures more than mothers of new babies."

Ms. Pisani said the studio's telemarketing program relies on newspaper birth announcements and lists of newborns sent by Olan Mills' regional office in New York.

Like other new mothers, Ms. Hankard said the solicitations began almost the moment she found out she was pregnant.

Hospitals and obstetricians said they don't sell patient names and that it would be unethical for them to do so. But almost any brush with a company providing goods or services to new or expectant parents may put you on a list of new parents.

For example, the direct-marketing division of Cahners Publishing of New York sells lists of those who subscribe to its magazine, American Baby.

Dianne M. Rodgers, office manager of Manchester Obstetrics-Gynecology Associates PC, said the office does not provide the names of expectant mothers to any companies. However, patients are given postcards that they can fill out for free infant formula from Mead Johnson Laboratories of Evansville, Ind., or Ross Laboratories Inc. of Columbus, Ohio.

"That is the only way a lady's name leaves our office," Ms. Rodgers said.

She said she does not know whether the companies provide their customers' names to others.

A spokeswoman for Mead Johnson says the company does not provide the names to anyone. Ross officials could not be reached for comment.

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