Sometimes, even a baby needs an update. Gerber Products Company was founded in 1927, and in 1931, the ubiquitous Gerber baby illustration was officially made the company trademark. Since then, the Gerber baby has been recognized as a sacred brand icon all over the world. According to Wikipedia (which means it may not be true), the company started looking at a new baby in 2011 but as of 2013, it appears that baby Ann still remains the Gerber trademark photo. As a worthwhile exercise, let’s play devil’s advocate concerning potential updates to the baby logo:
Argument #1 – The baby is iconic. Everything points to an exploratory that started and culminated in a study that reached this conclusion: Don’t change the baby. At the same time, brands modernize logos all the time because they realize they need to stay relevant in an evolving consumer and cultural context. By not updating, Gerber runs the risk of losing relevance as women become moms. Gerber is pursuing other brand touch points, such as a slew of iPhone apps, so we know the brand is trying to stay relevant. However, Gerber should also consider the relevance of its overall look, tone and feel
Argument #2 – The baby has global recognition. Gerber offers 190 products in 80 countries and the baby is already a widely recognized visual. However, this baby represents a small segment of the global population and may be missing out on that attribute of “a brand for me.” Elsewhere on their website, Gerber shows some diversity, but it is important to consider the overall imagery as well. Brands like Downy have continued to evolve the look and presentation of their toddler, including moving from illustration to photography.
Argument #3 – The baby is our most powerful asset. This leads to the thinking that the baby doesn’t have to change if the brand expression surrounding it is updated. What happens next tends to feel a little like “Frankenbranding.” When a brand doesn’t bring every aspect of its visual expression into alignment, the overall impact is not as effective.
We’re not saying that the baby shouldn’t be the hero, but it would be interesting to explore what modernizing the baby in line with an updated overall brand expression might do to bring Gerber more relevance in today’s changing consumer and cultural context.
p.s. Mystery novelist and retired English teacher Ann Turner Cook is the Gerber Baby.