Munchkin Just Wants to Be Loved. No...Really

“Our mission is to be the most loved baby lifestyle brand in the world.” The 30-year-old Munchkin brand of baby and toddler products proclaims this brand goal loudly on its home page. And, yes, it monitors and measures that love by obsessing over customer reviews. In fact, as VP of Marketing Kristin Pagano tells us, products that fall below a certain online review threshold get put on a kind of double secret probation. Get the grades up or get expelled. But with over 400 products and 4,000 SKUs across every aspect of feeding, moving, securing, and cleaning babies and toddlers, Munchkin seems to have a great GPA – 4.9 to be precise. We’ll let Kristin explain. You can listen to the entire podcast at this link.



MediaPost: Product development and expansion has been critical to your growth as well as part of the brand strategy. What is the process? 

Pagano: We are really focused on innovation and what makes our products different. So, if you look at anything we’ve done it’s really about how do we create innovative design, and we have over 320 patents right now. And so how do we create something that's actually different and compelling and useful to moms and parents and make their lives a little bit easier? 

Recently we've expanded into things like strollers. And now we've got a stroller that has got the most compact fold on the market, because we know, as parents move in this post-COVID transition, they're looking for opportunities to travel again. And this folds so compactly, it fits into a nice bag and moms and dads can just fit it into that overhead bin. So, it's really about design forward thinking, and how do we come out with that advantage that no one else is doing and something differentiated in the market.

MP: So, is that the strategy to expand into products that people are already familiar with, but where they have a problem that needs to be solved, the better stroller, the better sippy cup? 

Pagano: It absolutely has to start with the customer insight, and what problem are you actually solving for moms. You mentioned sippy cups because it's one of our favorite categories. We really reinvented that category with our Miracle 360 cup, and it was an entirely new way to drink out of a sippy cup where they can drink all around that 360-degree edge. That changed our trajectory in the cups category where we're now the strong number one in that category with innovative design and we've sold over 75 million of that specific cup alone.

MP: So, let's talk about the new product launch strategy then. What have you learned about launching a new product in this category? What does the media look like, the narrow customer base? 

Pagano: Because we have such a limited audience, we do have to be disciplined with how we go to market, and you have to understand how these different products are purchased differently, whether it be a sippy cup or bottle brush, where we know the decision is happening at point to purchase. That's going to have a much different marketing spend than something like a highchair where we've really focused on helping build that relationship with those prenatal moms and focused on driving registry. So, we worked with all of our retail partners on, how do we build from that point of purchase when they're first starting to learn about those items and really connecting with them at point of registry. But we also do have a connected TV media campaign running right now on our gear campaign, because we know it has a broader halo effect for the Munchkin brand. So, focusing on those higher ticket items and those premium items that bring her earlier in that life cycle, and earlier in that journey. But we can be focused and really narrow down on a target audience through connected TV that you couldn't previously.

MP: So, when it comes to product launches, what is the media strategy there?

Pagano: Those are really usually more disciplined. I know you mentioned timing as well as an earlier question, and we really focus on a 36- day development process. So previously, we would have been focused on those retail brick and mortar launch dates. That world doesn't exist anymore. And we really focus on how do we get the products to market on the right timeline to make sure we've got the best product to market. Sometimes you'd rush to meet that date, sometimes things would shift along the way. So now we focus on getting the right product to the market at the right time, and that can be flexible, because we know we've got Amazon and all these other avenues where we can launch at any time, start to build that flywheel, start to build those reviews before it ever hits a brick-and-mortar store. So, our focus is really on getting the right product to market, and then focus on driving those reviews and driving that flywheel before it ever hits that brick-and-mortar location.

MP: How much are you using media for awareness? Do you have a network of influencers that you're using in order to get those early reviews? What primes the pump here?

Pagano: We do work with Amazon and their buying program, but we also do our own influencer seeding as well to help generate those initial reviews through all of the seeding programs that we do. But primarily it is kind of a grassroots effort for sure.

MP: How much has this category been impacted by changes in retail structure? The closing down of a lot of outlets and chains that I think probably would have featured a lot of your products, obviously, the pandemic move to online. What does the mix of sales look like now?

Pagano: With the closing of retailers like buybuy BABY, it absolutely does impact us. But we pivot and we shift, and I think we've done such a great shift to that .com piece over the past 5+ years. We're about 40% online at this point and 60% brick and mortar. But what's fascinating is what we do know about the way our customers are purchasing. While Target is a very big customer for us, what we've learned is over 2/3 of our purchases at Target starts online. So, they're using that competitive advantage where it starts online and then they're picking up in store. That actually had a pretty dramatic impact on the way our company did business, because, as we looked at our portfolio -- let’s say our sippy cup line as an example. One peg at retail used to hold multiple colors, it would hold a pink cup, a green cup of blue cup, and a purple cup. Well, if you think about what's happening on a .com perspective, you can't go pick a pink cup because the UPC is the same. And when the store personnel go to pick up the cup, they don't know which color to pick. So, it really changed our number of SKUs we had overnight almost because we had to go back from an operational perspective, and sort everything in our portfolio. It leaves less choice on the shelf, but it has the right choice for the consumer. So, it's just a different way of thinking.

MP: Where are all of these online shoppers starting? And how are you mapping that journey to get them towards either a very specific retailer or online retailer?

Pagano: It can start in a variety of places. And that's the great part is we are okay wherever your journey starts, and we just need to make sure we have the right contact at those different points, whether it be,, or as well, and making sure that our content appears exactly in the elevated way that we want to show it. We've got all of that A+ content on Amazon, all of our videos, all of our different selling collaterals up in a timely and very polished way and the way that we present ourselves to those consumers. And we know, even when they go in store in their shopping, they're still going online to check reviews on product pages. And so, having that balance and that right level of care when we come to all of our .com content, I think, has been critical to that success.

MP: You mentioned reviews are king. And I know you actually are pretty demanding on your own product team that when a Munchkin item ranks below a certain rating, they get an ultimatum to correct or cut the product. 

Pagano: Absolutely. One of our core goals within our company is that we have products that are rated 4.5 and above, and that is woven into everything throughout our product development and marketing cycle. We are monitoring those actively. And that's how we know that we have 1.3 million 5-star reviews, and if an item falls below a 4.0, we have one year to fix that item, or we will stop producing that. Customers are telling you what they want to buy, and we need to listen to them.

So, we take that feedback very seriously and make those adjustments necessary to have products that are hopefully 4.5 and above. It's not a low threshold, and I think corporately overall, we are at 4.9, a number we are very proud of, and hope to continue to grow. 

MP: Your site is very upfront and bold in its mission statement. It says, “Our mission is to be the most loved baby lifestyle brand in the world.” What are the KPIs for brand love for you?

Pagano: That's a really tough question, and it's a really lofty goal, and one that we know we keep having to deliver the right product and the right messages to our customer base to achieve that. But one is brand awareness, obviously. And we know we've got above 92% brand awareness which is exciting to see. We are tracking our net promoter score. We are tracking different KPIs like that from a research perspective. But we can also very easily find this in our reviews as well: how people are talking about us, what that sentiment is out there, social as well. We've got a really active following there. That dialogue is two ways, and it's happening constantly. So those are all the areas we're monitoring to making sure we're tracking to be that most loved baby lifestyle brand.

1 comment about "Munchkin Just Wants to Be Loved. No...Really".
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  1. Peter Modaffari from Independent Contractor, July 22, 2023 at 10:02 a.m.

    Munchkin is a wonderful company whose core values speak for themselves.
     I can also say (having worked with them over the many years as a studio artist) they are well organized and their company communication practices are unmatched.

    And then finally their neverending successes at creating an awesome and inovative products. 

    I salute!  

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