American Provenance Births Baby Products For Cool Dads
American Provenance’s understated baby personal care products are based on an unconventional hypothesis: Not everyone with a baby wants babyish personal care.
The natural brand’s baby oil, diaper cream and baby wash avoid pink and blue tones in favor of pale green in the packaging, and rattles and cutesy cartoon characters in favor of stylized buffalo graphics by tattoo artist Andrew Holdorf. If the labeling didn’t use the word baby, it would be easy to mistake the products for adult merchandise.
“We wanted to set ourselves apart,” says American Provenance founder Kyle LaFond. “We are totally crazy. We do our own thing, and try to forecast and be ahead of things. A mentor of mine told me years ago that you need to be 10 to 12 steps ahead of everyone else. That’s in my mind as I launch new products.”
“A mentor of mine told me years ago that you need to be 10 to 12 steps ahead of everyone else. That’s in my mind as I launch new products.”
Unlike Johnson’s Baby, with its 100-plus year history on babies’ bottoms, American Provenance’s blank slate in the baby field gave it an opportunity to tailor its products to today’s Millennial parents eschewing gender stereotypes and supporting stay-at-home dads. Inclusiveness was a guiding principle in developing the look of the products.
“They’re gender neutral, and intended for any baby or parent regardless of race, age, sexual orientation or identification,” says LaFond, adding about his brand’s packaging choices, “Unless you’re a buffalo yourself, it’s really tough to tell males from females. The green color captures the fact that we are a natural company, and the products aren’t gender specific and can be used by anybody.”
Although dads may not be the main purchaser of baby products, they’re increasingly taking on family duties such as childcare and shopping. Almost two-thirds of Millennial dads desire to be an equal parenting partner, according to research by Boston College, and some 80% report shared or primary responsibility for shopping for their families. With the changing family dynamics as a backdrop, American Provenance sought not to alienate dads from its baby products.
“I wanted them to be a bit more mature so they could appeal to new fathers,” explains LaFond. “There are more stay-at-home dads than ever before, and that’s a trend that’s going to continue. A stay-at-home dad might be uncomfortable with a diaper bag filled with a bunch of stuff that’s too baby. They want something that, when they walk into a coffee shop with it, it doesn’t scream it’s for a baby and a baby alone.”
Retail buyers haven’t universally embraced LaFond’s approach to American Provenance’s baby personal care products, which are sold at the supermarket Hy-Vee. “I thought it was going to be overwhelmingly positive, but it was really a mixed bag. There was a significant generational difference,” divulges LaFond. “The younger buyers were incredibly enthusiastic and understood the message, but some of the more experienced or older buyers had more of a difficult time.”
“There are more stay-at-home dads than ever before, and that’s a trend that’s going to continue. A stay-at-home dad might be uncomfortable with a diaper bag filled with a bunch of stuff that’s too baby.”
Shoppers don’t seem to share the older buyers’ hesitation. In their first few months on the market, sales of the baby products are in line with LaFond’s expectations and, in a surprise, grownups have latched on to the baby oil for makeup removal due to its sophisticated design and the gentle fractionated coconut oil in the formula. “It’s crazy how many uses there are for baby oil,” he exclaims. “With our baby oil, when someone sees it in your bathroom and you don’t have a baby, it doesn’t raise too many suspicions.”