Baby gear company Summer Infant needed a jumpstart. It wanted to reach expectant parents and parents of newborns to 3-year-olds through positive national coverage in parenting media and beyond, reinforce the brand’s message of support (“Baby has you. You have us.”), spark positive social media conversations around the brand and drive sales—all in time for Mother’s Day.

Summer Infant’s VP of marketing was a true believer in PR’s ability to transform. Her new PR agency of record, Adam Ritchie Brand Direction, was tasked with creating a signature concept.

Adam Ritchie Brand DirectionA trip to the movie theater resulted in a flash of inspiration which was crosschecked to determine viability. Marquees were filled with superhero films. Families from all backgrounds were spotted lining up at ticket windows. The agency dug into the national superhero obsession and the role these movies play in family entertainment. Secondary research showed women and men were equally excited about these films (Brandwatch). Wonder Woman had recently become the top-grossing superhero origin movie of all time (Forbes), Black Panther had crossed the $1 billion mark (CNBC) and audiences were asking for greater diversity (Brookings Institute)—specifically more women in these films (Morning Consult).

The agency hopped into its brand-mobile and floored it to Summer Infant to discuss how superhero content was embraced by their audience and fit their message of support. Summer Infant agreed parents want to be superheroes to their children, always save the day and their products gave them extra abilities.

The agency shaped these insights into a concept which would tap into the superhero trend, tie in the empowering message of the women’s movement and break through with an unforgettable visual. It would create a pregnant superhero. A woman with top-notch gadgetry to heighten her powers. She’d be Batman with a baby bump, and nothing would stand in her way.

Read on to see why Adam Ritchie Brand Direction won a Gold Medal in the “Best Visual Storytelling Campaign” category in Bulldog Reporter’s 2019 PR Awards.

Campaign Planning

The client loved the idea and wanted more than one character. The agency suggested banding them together as a unit: the world’s first team of pregnant superheroes. They’d come together from all walks of life and all stages of pregnancy to kick butt and celebrate all moms as heroes to their little ones. (“Baby has you.”) Each would be equipped with a Summer Infant product as her tool of choice: a monitor, a potty, a stroller and a bath seat. (“You have us.”) They’d be the living embodiment of the brand message.

The agency went further and suggested the characters be based on real-life pregnant micro-influencers from across the country, in the target audience, to bring a concept based in fantasy into reality. It outlined the criteria for the four women who would make up the group, and emphasized diversity.

It was important for the characters to break old comic book stereotypes of women drawn by men, so the agency asked Summer Infant to hire a female comic book artist. Illustrator Viera Boudreau was chosen to bring the characters to life with powerful art that would turn heads and drive the narrative.

The M.O.M. Squad was born.

Best Visual Storytelling—Adam Ritchie creates diverse “M.O.M. Squad” superheroes

Its members were Agent Momitor, Professor Potty, The MotherLoad and AquaMom—each based on a real pregnant woman with her own story to tell. To connect with moms, we would shine a light on the superhero in each of them.

With a major juvenile products industry trade show to support before we could start, it had to be content creation at the speed of pop culture. Most campaigns are brand- or product-focused. This campaign was designed to be both. Many campaigns focus on a single holiday. This campaign used a pair of one-day holidays as goalposts to land results between. It would kick off just before National Superhero Day (April 28) and culminate on Mother’s Day (May 13). We had 2.5 weeks to conduct the outreach.

Implementation & Execution

We scripted a video trailer introducing the female comic book illustrator, showing the real women morphing into superheroes and inviting consumers to share and tag the supermoms in their own lives.

Moments after the trailer was finalized, we took it to the most influential online parenting outlet in the country: The Bump. Once we broke the news, we used The Bump placement as proof-of-concept to broaden our outreach horizons and propel the story out of parenting media and into noncompeting outlets in lifestyle, women’s, pop culture, news and business segments, with angles tailored to each.

Summer Infant launched a microsite and promoted Facebook posts where consumers were asked to tag their personal supermoms. Three consumers would receive the full line of products used by the heroes, and Summer Infant gift cards. An email blast was sent and the video trailer was promoted with TrueView.

We created a different take on the news release, and made it an open letter to Marvel Entertainment, extolling the virtues of pregnant superheroes and inviting them to write future M.O.M. Squad adventures together with Summer Infant. It was a lighthearted note to boost media interest and the brand’s SEO.

We offered the inspirational women behind the M.O.M. Squad characters for interviews—along with the female comic book illustrator and the client—and suggested editors might ask readers what their own superpowers would be. This showed the story’s potential for engaging readers and helped sell the pitch.

Campaign Results

We secured stories across six different media segments and reached 93.3 million target consumers. The messaging we placed carried Summer Infant’s message of support and changed the tone of previously skeptical company coverage: “Summer Infant supports you” (The Bump). “Summer Infant’s mission to sing moms’ praises is an overdue and important one” (What To Expect). “This badass team of comic book characters gives heroism a whole new perspective….it [could] challenge the way our society thinks about mothers” (GirlTalkHQ). “This innovative brand is all about family” (Celebrity Baby Trends). “Summer Infant has taken the superhero concept to the next level” (New York Family). “What I love about this campaign are the stories being told and the conversations being started” (GeekMom). “Illustrative and empowering” (Trend Hunter). “Who can’t get behind a little mom-as-superhero action this Mother’s Day?” (The Washington Post). The compelling artwork we commissioned was used up front in every story.

We doubled the brand’s social media interactions (likes/comments/shares) from the previous period and reached 5.4 million target consumers. The M.O.M. Squad resonated with users who tagged their own supermoms and said, “Hannelore Moore literally is a super hero already! Love you Hanni! xoxo.” “Stephanie Stevens you are a superhero Mom to those charming boys!!” “Alex Umstead! We are totes M.O.M. squad superheroes!!!” M.O.M. Squad members posted their characters and said, “I am in tears seeing this actually come to life!”

In a week, the combined earned and paid campaign drove 29,934 YouTube views (70x the brand’s previous video performance), a 56.40% view rate (retail benchmark: 15.7%), a 10% email open rate and a 6% clickthrough rate. The story spread and generated 3,974 landing page sessions. Coverage backlinked to each product’s purchase page and contributed to a 13.3% increase in quarterly sales.

Months after the campaign, its assets continued being shared by consumers around the world. PR sparked the creative process, marshaled the client’s internal resources and drove an inter-agency team to carry an idea across disciplines and channels. It owned idea creation and multimedia storytelling as only PR can. The client called it “inspiring…an excellent return on investment…generated excitement within the organization” and added, “The brand had not received this level of coverage [in all of its 33 years].”

There were no celebrity spokespeople. No big spends. Just an original idea to celebrate the heroics of everyday women and elevate them to superhero status, while helping a brand recover its superpowers.

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Adam Ritchie

Adam Ritchie

Adam Ritchie is Principal of Adam Ritchie Brand Direction in Boston.

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