For many parents, the day a child becomes potty-trained is cause for celebration. Not only has their kid progressed to a new stage of their life, but it also means that they’re done dealing with one of parenting’s messiest products: diapers. Each year Americans spend more than $10 billion on Pampers alone, accounting for 12 percent of Procter & Gamble’s sales. Although that makes Pampers the biggest brand in P&G’s portfolio, their North American market share still trails Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies line. What’s more, cheaper private-label diapers have begun to take a slice out of Pampers’ business as well.
With so much competition, P&G can’t afford to let Pampers fall behind. So while parents get to wave goodbye to their kid’s dirty diapers after a few years, dedicated teams of researchers spend their days studying the smelly things in labs located across the world. For instance, employees at the company’s five baby-care centers spend hours observing how infants move, sit and fall. They even drop weights on soiled diapers to test their durability and scan fabric fibers with high-powered microscopes to measure their absorbability. In one odd study, 200 parents who received free Pampers for a month were required to send their “used” items back to P&G. Researchers then froze the soiled diapers and weighed them to see how much liquid they had absorbed.
All these strange tests show just how difficult it is to design the perfect diaper. Babies come in so many different shapes and sizes that one researcher claimed “fitting a diaper is like trying to fit a snowflake.” If a diaper’s on too tight, the infant could be subjected to tears-inducing chafing and diaper rash. But if it’s too loose, then let’s just say the baby’s parents will have a bit of a mess to clean up. Either of these situations is enough to drive a consumer to another brand, which is why P&G comes up with more than 150,000 diaper designs every year. The company also has approximately 5,000 patents granted or pending involving baby-care. However, these innovations in diaper technology can sometimes leave customers wagging their noses. In fact, Pampers’ Dry Max line faced a backlash after parents took to the Internet accusing the brand of causing diaper rash. U.S. regulators soon got involved and cleared the diapers for crapsumption.
- Why is P&G constantly looking for ways to improve their Pampers product?
- What promotional tool is important to reach first-time parents?
Source: Lauren Coleman-Lochner, “Procter & Gamble’s High-Tech Quest for the Perfect Diaper,” Bloomberg BusinessWeek, March 13, 2014. Photo courtesy of Dhini van Heeren.