Should a disposable diaper company buy out a cloth diaper company, one mom asked recently.
Why not indeed?
It is clear that disposable diapers see cloth diapers as competition to their hefty bottom line. If not, why would they market in such a way that is now about eco-friendliness (less packaging, less materials), “cute” designs (to compete with much cuter prints on cloth diapers), use marketing phrases like “blanket like softness (like… cloth…. and cloth diapers are….. CLOTH!), and spend a lot of money on funding studies meant to make cloth diapers out to be the bad guys. Over the last 4 years I have caught Pampers blatantly makingfalse claims about the benefits of disposables over cloth diapers. I’ve even seen the studies, funded by P&G (makers of Pampers and Luvs) that intentionally use old fashioned cloth diapers to, in all likelihood, make disposables out to be the better choice. They see the writing on the wall that cloth diapers are increasing in popularity.
The old saying goes…
“If you can’t beat them, join them.”
It would be very easy for Kimberly Clark (makers of Huggies) or P&G, even smaller brands like Seventh Generation to buy out an established brand. Rather than trying to stop the trend they could profit from it!
If this happened, what would be the result? Well, a number of things could happen. Potentially the makers of disposables would buy out a brand and dissolve it. Bye bye! Plenty of big corporations buy competitors simply to 86 them and get rid of the competition. In the case of cloth diaper brands there are plenty left so I don’t see this as the best option.
They could also buy out the brand and the patents along with it in order to create their own line. The cloth diaper industry, like any other, has a myriad of patents out that prevent competitors from making anything similar. Buying the brand and getting permission to use the patents would mean that they could make their own line with features the same as the popular brand. When it comes to things that work and work well you would think that a huge corporation would want the best. This would mean that the brand no longer exists but the technology behind it would, under a new brand.
Or, they could buy a brand silently and let it continue to exist but under new ownership and management. Consumers might not even know about the changes. The large corporation could put their advertising dollars behind this brand and crush all cloth diaper competitors, even make national commericials. They could expand into new markets overseas. Bigger dollars mean better selections, a larger presence in the marketplace, placements in nationwide chain stores, and a larger audience for cloth diapers. The science behind diposable diaper marketing is scary- they know exactly how to hook consumers and they spend big bucks doing so. This could be useful for helping the cloth diaper movement… For non tech-savvy mothers just looking for a way to save money on diapers seeing a commericial on TV or a well developed end-cap at Target could be a tremendous help. I would hope an extensive guide to laundering and care was included. Concerns would be how the money sharks would feel about sticking to quality materials. When it comes to profts disposable diaper companies are willing to do what it takes to cut costs (think- Pampers Dry max and the chemical burns resulting). There is even the potential for them to buy the majority of the company and still have it run by the same CEO, but be the majority shareholder so that their board has the final say. There are many options here…
As much as we cloth diaper moms like to think it, we are not the only people deserving of cloth diapers. You might be thinking “I don’t think that way! I want everyone to use cloth diapers!” You might be surprised to know that you don’t if that means selling out to “the man.” Many of us don’t like the idea of a big corporation behind the wheels of our beloved mom run companies. We LOVE knowing that our money is supporting a family, multiple families even, and that these companies are still being run by the mothers who invented them in their garage or basement. It makes us feel good! If, for example, a well known cloth diaper brand to P&G our community would be shocked, dissapointed even. I can already see the outrage from mothers saying that they sold their soul to the devil.
Even when brands make it big enough to be carried, on their own merit, in stores like Target or Whole Foods, the community has mixed feelings. Did they “sell out?” to get there? Are they undermining the hard working WAHM’s behind the small online and brick and mortar cloth diaper shops?
Let’s face it- business owners can’t win. I myself don’t know how I would truly feel. A win for cloth diapers could mean the destruction of this amazing little community. Or not. I’m not a psychic. Still, the mothers outside of this community would see cloth diapers in the store and just be happy that they were there, not knowing how or why, just excited to learn about a new way to save money and the environment.
Update: Just found the original patent I was looking to post- a resuable cover from P&G- looks like there could be competition some day?
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