IQ News: Gerber Toddles Onto Web With Parenting Site

The push for parents’ eyeballs is intensifying among marketers keen on feeding and clothing their kids. Last week, Gerber Products Co. relaunched its site to give it a more consumer-friendly look and feel. The Fremont, Mich. baby food maker is the latest in a parade of companies that have built and promoted their Web sites as authoritative parenting guides. Others include Gerber’s primary competitor in the baby food aisle, Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp., plus Procter & Gamble’s ParentTime and the Pampers Parenting Institute.
As general Web usage at home climbs-and as more women in particular go online -young parents have become the focus of many online marketing strategies and sites. But the tactic of companies designing brand sites that resemble online publications has its doubters. “The idea that Gerber is going to become a destination for children’s health care information” won’t work, said Forrester Research analyst Bill Bass.
Gerber made its Web debut in fall 1995 with a site aimed mainly at pediatricians “because the professional health care community is accustomed to getting information via the Web,” said Barbara Ivens, the company’s director of professional information. The original was considered a pilot venture that received little promotional support.
The revamped site, designed by The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., includes sections on infant feeding and growth, recent issues of the Journal of Pediatric Nutrition & Development and a baby registration form that allows Gerber to e-mail tips to parents. Visitors are also greeted by a characteristically unappetizing splat of green baby food on a tile floor background. Ivens claims the site has an edge over rivals because of its emphasis on toddler diets.
To spur traffic, Gerber has bought keywords based on “infants” and “nutrition” on leading search engines. The company is mulling the placement of its URL on its packaging and ads as well as online buys of banners and sponsorships. “We’re still investigating that,” Ivens said. “Like babies, we have to crawl before we can walk.”