Gerber Graduates – Wobbly World

Category: Packaged Food

Brand: Gerber Graduates
Client: Gerber
Primary Agency: Draftfcb
Media Agency: MindShare
Contributing Agency: Zipatoni


Keep Mom in the Baby Aisle

In addition to three stages of baby food, Gerber had launched various toddler foods by 1990. In 2006, although Gerber was experiencing a year-over-year growth rate of 15% with their toddler foods, they knew they could get much more share of stomach in the toddler category. At that time, 90% of competitive share came from table foods, and a small bit from an increasing number of direct competitors. A true toddler category of foods had yet to be created. We saw this as their golden opportunity.

Moms were loyal to the Gerber developmental stages of feeding – to a point. Penetration of 1st stage foods was 60%, but by 3rd stage foods, penetration dropped to 36%. Mothers of toddlers feel pressured to prepare healthy meals for their child. By aligning their toddler's eating with the rest of the family, mom was reaching a developmental milestone and leaving the baby aisle behind. We had to find a compelling way to keep mom in the aisle and better transition her to toddler foods before we lost her forever (Source: Client data 2006).


Our campaign strategy involved two clear objectives:

  • Clearly establish toddler food as a category and Graduates as a brand

  • Recognize toddlerhood as a distinct chapter in mom/child's life and connect the Graduates brand to that experience.


Not another Stage of Babyfood, a New Phase for Mom and Baby

Up until this time, Gerber had treated toddler foods as an extension of their baby food line, both in how they branded the products and how they communicated. After doing a store audit of Mass, Grocery, Drug and Natural retailers, we quickly assessed that a specific “Toddler Section” did not exist in the store. Also, there was inconsistency across channels in the way products were displayed. Products themselves were a blend of toddler and baby food, eg. with toddler food in baby jars and 3 rd stage foods and Graduates grouped together on-shelf and online. The branding architecture was loosely held together under the Graduates and Gerber logos, but hierarchy was not clear.

Within what was considered toddler foods, multiple branding architectures for products existed: Fruit Splashers, Mini Fruits, Pasta Pickups and Li'l Entrees all competed for consumer recognition of a discrete line of toddler food. Our first recommend was to simplify the branding architecture on individual lines to help better establish a toddler brand: Graduates from Gerber.

Relevance, Relevance, Relevance

Most importantly, toddler food and baby food were also advertised jointly. Even the classic Gerber line, “Shouldn't your baby be a Gerber baby?” was merely adapted for toddler, “Shouldn't your toddler still be a Gerber baby?” Gerber's infant campaign, though moderately successful for infant, scored much lower perceptually and attitudinally for toddler moms.

Our challenge was to develop a brand that would connect and really resonate with Moms of Toddlers to establish and grow a category of Toddler Food. Specifically, we would be deemed successful if we:

  • Expanded Gerber's compassionate brand image into the toddler age range and solidified an awareness of Graduates as a “brand for me,” and a product “made by a company that understands my needs and my toddler's needs.”

  • Increased cross-segment usage gaining a foothold as a viable meal and snack option for toddlers

  • Increased our penetration of dinners for 9–24 months households


Graduates from Gerber: Steady nutrition for a wobbly world

Client Leverageable Truth: Nutritional Evangelists

The Agency fielded a custom brand health study and found that Gerber remains one of the most loved and trusted brands in the United States amongst the general population, outscoring Coca Cola, Levi's, Nike or even Starbucks. With this iconic status comes responsibility and the permission to think BIG THOUGHTS. For Gerber, that goal is “To cut childhood obesity in half in the next 5 years.” Kurt Schmidt CEO, Gerber

“Start Healthy, Stay Healthy” is their unifying mission statement. Stakeholder interviews revealed this mission to be more than packaged goods puffery. From knowing where each veggie comes from, promoting 5-a-day fruits and vegetables, offering organic options before the market demanded it, or initiating the largest study ever done on the nutritional state of infants and toddlers, Gerber is a company with an unwavering commitment to the health and wellness of infants and toddlers.

Advertising had been used to educate moms on the developmental needs of infants (and toddlers) and the safety measures inherent in feeding their delicate systems. But copy testing revealed these educational messages were not as relevant or resonant to Moms as they entered the toddler phase.

Knowing nutrition would absolutely be central to our brand promise, we sought to better understand mom's perspective on life and on nutrition.

Consumer Relevance: Toddler Tornado Transforming Two Lives

After reviewing secondary literature sources on the developmental traits of baby and toddler, we focused our discovery process on understanding the difference between life with baby vs. life with toddler from mom's lens. What was different? When did it change? Where did food fit into the equation?

A series of ethnographies and friendship playgroups with a mix of first-time and experienced, working and stay-at-home moms (and their toddlers) revealed that life with a toddler is a totally different world than that with a baby. Moms were somewhat blown away, after a year of quiet cuddling, to suddenly find herself engulfed by what can only be described as the Toddler Tornado. Predictable becomes unpredictable and order becomes chaos. Everyday becomes a new adventure - cluttered, loud, and on the move - and moms develop a new set of needs, attitudes and compromises to get them through it, especially when it comes to feeding.

Unlike the impressionable stage of baby, it was evident that by toddlerhood, moms were feeling more confident or at least more ingenious as mothers. As a baby grows stronger and becomes more independent, moms also begin to be more pragmatic. They can think beyond just what is best for baby, and can factor in what's important to her (the mom) as well.

Learning this, in communications we would never preach to her, but absolutely embrace her ingenuity and support her on the ride that is the Toddler Tornado. A shift from the infant approach, this story was as much about her as it was about the child.

Competitive Opportunity: Convenience without Compromise

To determine what might be the competitive opportunity, we conducted Pediatric interviews, web searches, store visits, and more peeking in moms' cupboards and freezers. This revealed that unlike baby food, there is no roadmap to toddler feeding and no clear “toddler brand”. Table food is the unwashed “competitor” with the addition of more specific toddler-appropriate products like Cheerios trying to carve out this space. Although moms are eager to get their child onto table food, they aren't sure as to what toddlers should eat, how much, how often, or the most important question – why aren't they eating?!

Moms aspire to a perfectly nutritious toddler diet, using healthy, fresh ingredients, abiding by Food Pyramid and instituting the family dinner. But we found that most moms were compromising in the face of realities. Busy lives combined with an ever-changing toddler mind, means that moms take a broad view on their approach to nutrition. Food is only nutritious if you can get your child to eat it. They allow themselves the compromise, and in some cases that compromise had become a slippery slope... Based on Gerber's proprietary research, French Fries had become the #1 vegetable in a toddler's diet.

The ownable opportunity space is to offer moms foods that are both convenient, nutritious and developmentally appropriate: traits Gerber Graduates can offer. Our communications would not try to compete with her desire to offer table food, but supplement her efforts (offer a tool) when things don't go to plan.


The organizing idea that drove 360 communications: “Graduates from Gerber: Steady nutrition for a wobbly world.”

As important as this idea was to the integrated marketing process, so to was the brand personality that acknowledged both Mom and child: “A brand that embraces the rambunctious world of toddlerhood and celebrates Mom's ingenuity through it all!

Seeking to represent the authenticity of real moms, creatives visited the front lines of toddlerhood and simply radio-ed back what they were seeing. They reveled in the chaos and depicted truly heroic stories of moms steadfast in battle. The campaign came to life through the idea of “mom interrupted”.

TV was a series of product testimonials from moms in the midst of the wobbly world. Of course, they're too busy to give a full testimonial, so they're interrupted seconds into these quick :15 spots. Just enough time to state the problem and hail the solution. Casting was careful to have women/men/toddlers that were relatable – not perfect moms/parents, but women who were doing the best they could and laughing their way through it. The campaign was planned to surprise mom everywhere along her media routine.

Print was a snapshot of the television and placed in environments where moms were actively seeking information on how to navigate the new challenges she was facing in the wobbly world.

Probably the most poignant depiction of the organizing idea was done on the web, where Creatives built a site section called the “Toddler Takeover”. was designed to convey the new and chaotic world of toddlerhood and position Gerber Graduates as an essential tool in mom's arsenal. The website provided her objective tips/tricks, in-depth content and interactivity to connect with and involve moms.

The Agency also created two new mailers for moms of toddlers ages 14–15 and 16–19 months. Each mailer included proprietary content that provided nutritional information to help moms with practical and healthy feeding solutions appropriate for the rambunctious world of toddlerhood. The articles were short and easy to read since we knew these moms don't have a lot of time. The creative vision for these mailers was that they should be “the instruction booklet that didn't come with your kids.”

Communications Touch Points

Reach: $5–10 million

Total Media Expenditure: National


The Wobbly World campaign met or exceeded all of the quantitative goals previously outlined.

We increased cross-segment usage from a pre-campaign level of 53% to achieve our goal of 54%.

The campaign increased penetration of dinners for 9–24 months households by +4pts, or 21%, and snacks did even better. Penetration for those products increased +3pts or 27%.

Finally, we exceeded our goals on two key brand measures.

Gerber Brand Awareness

Anything Else Going on that might have Helped Drive Results?

Retail Marketing embraced the idea as well, redesigning the packaging to increase the prominence of the Graduates branding. The design decreased the Gerber Baby iconography and diminished product sub-brands to provide greater clarity and prominence of Graduates. FSIs (with coupons) were developed to provide purchase incentives for moms to try Graduates. Once in-store “Steady nutrition for a wobbly world” floor graphics and shelf danglers were used to call out the key products featured in the advertising.

The Wobbly World results were independent of a Heavy Up TV spend test, which indicated an additional 2.2% lift can be garnered across the entire portfolio and a 13.7% lift can be achieved on featured products (Minis, Tub Meals, Lil' Entrees) (Source: Client data 2006).

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