Innovator Interview: Carter’s Jenna Bromberg

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When Jenna Bromberg joined Carter’s as vice president of brand marketing & creative in July 2020, she hit the ground running. During her first eight weeks, she was tasked with leading the two of the company’s brands – Carter’s and OshKosh B’gosh – through creative and marketing rebrands. The OshKosh effort was just in time for back to school.

When Jenna Bromberg joined Carter’s as vice president of brand marketing & creative in July 2020, she hit the ground running. During her first eight weeks, she was tasked with leading the two of the company’s brands – Carter’s and OshKosh B’gosh – through creative and marketing rebrands. The OshKosh effort was just in time for back to school.

“Our job really was to remind parents – so many of them who were Osh Kosh kids themselves – why they first fell in love with the brand,” says Bromberg. “We needed to start by ushering in a bold new creative approach and this really style-focused direction to continue to keep the brand relevant and top-of-mind. Our design team has been evolving the product over the last few years to keep it as timeless and iconic as ever. Consumers really do love the product and love the style, so this was much more a marketing communications mission than a true brand reinvention.” 

Back-to-school was unlike any other year this year, with many children returning to school for the first time after being participating in virtual school or homeschooling for 18 months. This timing offered the brand a great opportunity to be a part of this iconic moment. In July, the brand dropped the “Today is Someday,” campaign which was designed to update the 125 year old brand by paying homage to the personal childhood experiences of iconic celebrities including Outkast’s Andre 3000 and Big Boi, as well as Mariah Carey, whose daughter Monroe Cannon, portraying her mother at age 10 in the spot.

“We wanted to reintroduce into culture ahead of what we know to be one of the biggest children’s wear shopping moments of the year, Back to School,” Bromberg says. “Back to School 2021 was even bigger than usual since a lot of students were coming back to the classroom for the first time in almost a year.”

Bromberg, who was recently named to Brand Innovators Women to Watch in Brand Marketing Class of 2021 list, has also been busy evolving the positioning for Carter’s, helping launch a new organic baby brand called Little Planet by Carter’s, developing Kid Cycle a partnership with TerraCycle, and debuting new collections for the company’s Tween Squad and our Bold Basics collection.

Prior to working for Carter’s, Bromberg held senior marketing positions with Pizza Hut and Hilton. Brand Innovators caught up with Bromberg from her office in Atlanta to discuss the rebrands, the holiday season and the optimism of 2020 babies. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Since joining Carter's you have been tasked with a major rebrand of the family of brands under the Carter's umbrella. Can you talk about this process and what you accomplished?

We started by executing pretty extensive consumer research. We built a new comms platform and launched a wildly successful campaign with celebrity talent like Mariah Carey, who was played by her daughter Monroe. The focus was really reaching millennial parents in a way that allowed a reappraisal. It was about reminding them of the brand they know and love and driving a modern perception of it. And we did it with the functional benefit of showcasing a lot of our iconic timeless products like the world's best overalls and lots of our denim-anchored styles.

We also have this emotional element that inspired future generations to Dream Big. After that campaign, we followed up with a collaboration with the streetwear brand KIPP. They worked with us to design a very cool collection inspired by the OshKosh vintage archive.

Last holiday season you ran the 'Hello, Optimism,’ and ‘Made for This,’ and a tri-branded holiday sweepstakes that drove the highest volume of contest entries and engagement in brand history. After last year’s efforts, how are you thinking about this year’s holiday season?

It is all about engaging families throughout the season and helping them prepare for family time and gifting. What we found as we talked to consumers is that parents have really shifted their priorities this year. They have been focused on what they deem, really important, and for a lot of our families that is togetherness and family. They are looking ahead to the holidays with a lot of excitement and optimism. They want to share joy with their families and the people that are closest to them. We want to create experiences that make that easy, even amid the stress of the holiday season.

This year we are teaming up with Molly Sims, Vistaprint and a stable of other exciting partners for what we are calling the ultimate holiday giveaway. We are doing 50 days of exciting offers, giveaways and sweepstakes to help families check off a lot of their holiday to-do lists, like ordering their Christmas cards and getting their Mom wardrobe ready to go and even entertaining the kids. We also have Molly Sims curating a list of must-have items. Families can sign up daily for chances to win, things like Carter’s gift cards.

Can you talk about Carter’s brand pillars and how these foundations shape your approach to marketing?

Carter’s is the most recommended baby brand. Carter’s has continued to lead the way for generations and we really have raised the bar for the children's wear category by innovating consistently to deliver on family’s needs as their needs evolve. So the product quality, value, comfort all the way to those little touches that Carter’s has always been known for like the two-way zipper on our sleep and play that helps you with midnight diaper changes has always been exceptional. 

What we find is that children's clothing is so emotional. That first body suit that you put on your child, all the way through to the outfit that they pick the first time they ride the school bus. We see that memories and milestones are practically woven into the fabric. Emotion and optimism are the core pillars of the brand. There is joy, there is hope, there is sentimentality, all of those feelings that an expectant and new parent feels when they hold that tiny body suit at a baby shower – it is magical.  

We also know that parenting is imperfect too. Our take on optimism at Carter’s means relating to and acknowledging the challenge and the messy moments of parenting and still helping them see the optimistic bigger pictures and really tap into that magic and joy. Our ‘Hello Optimism’ video spot last year in 2020 was the most overt application of that strategy. It starts in a dark hospital room and describes a lot of the challenges that families faced in 2020. As the spot progresses, the darkness starts to lift and we land in labor and delivery and you see this family welcoming their new baby into the world. The spot ends on the celebration of all of the babies that were born in 2020. Amid so much darkness and difficulty for so many, the babies that were born represented the three million reasons we have to be hopeful, that we can make tomorrow better than today. You see acknowledging the challenge and the stress and the difficulty but still landing in this place of optimism and looking forward.

In 2021, we launched Made for This, which is our new communications platform and brand campaign. We found, outside of the cultural insight, the real true parenting insight is you’ve got parenting books and Instagram and all of these millions of resources that people now have at their fingertips that are all trying to tell them the right way to parent. They are made to feel insecure constantly. Because we have all of these resources. As we spoke to all of these new parents in our ethnographies and focus groups, we found that some were doubting themselves. They were walking through the depths of new parents wondering, “Am I really made for this?” 

The key insight was we wanted parents to believe in themselves. We developed a new brand spot called “Voicemail from Mom,” in which a new parent couple is washing their baby in the sink and in the background you hear the Mom’s mother, grandma, leaving a voicemail for her daughter. She is telling her, “It will get easier. That little baby’s eyes light up when you walk into the room, and that’s what really matters.” You hear that grandma giving the new mom reassurance. It felt so natural. It is that juxtaposition of that stressful bath time routine and the reassurance that just felt so right and moving.

Before you were at Carter's, you spent years holding roles at Hilton and Pizza Hut. Can you talk about what you learned in these roles and what learnings you have brought to your current role?

The position that gave me the biggest prep for this gig has been my role of Mom. My son is five and he wore a Carter’s bodysuit home from the hospital. I had a ton of heart for the brand as a consumer and I was the Mom who wondered early and often whether I was made for this. I really relate to the mindset and experiences with the other parents in our community. It means a lot to me to be in a space where we can serve as a lighthouse for parents like me. I am motivated every single day to tell these stories that help inspire a generation of parents.

I came up through social media at Pizza Hut. I grew the function as the space evolved and continued to become part of a marketer’s core toolset. Later on in my career, I moved into product and brand marketing and advertising roles at Pizza Hut. I used social and social content to hone my creative skillset through video content and digital activations, which you are seeing a lot of at Carter’s as we look to build communities of parents where the parents are engaging with parenting content, which a lot of time is places like Instagram and Pinterest, and even more so now, TikTok.

At Pizza Hut, I had a couple of faves that really broke into culture. One was partnering with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie to create a lifesize version of the famous pizza thrower toy. We brought it to Comic Con. Later on, I created the PieTops shoes, which were high top sneakers that ordered pizza for you. That certainly prepared me for some out-of-the-box thinking. At Carter’s, I think the pace of QSR and those big crazy bold ideas that helped us break through at Pizza Hut, definitely help us break through here at Carter’s on sales overnight goals and brand overtime goals.

At Hilton, that was about creating distinct swim lanes among a multi-brand portfolio. It was much more about execution and evolution of brand positioning and I led the largest brand in the portfolio, which is Hampton by Hilton, and I was working on a multi-year brand positioning project to help evolve and modernize, which is the first thing that I did at Carter’s. So that certainly helped lay the foundation for both the brand strategy work that I have been doing here.

What predictions do you have for 2022?

We are going to continue to inspire this generation of parents. Carter’s is in a unique position and children’s specifically is in a unique position in that we are introducing ourselves to a generation of consumers who have never had these brands in their lives before and they are entering this really emotional season of life. It is really cool to be a part of it. For Carter’s specifically, we are going to continue connecting with the next generation of parents every day through partnerships, brand creative and of course, our amazing product offering that helps meet the needs of children and young families. We also have some unexpected surprises too.

We are also focused on sustainability to help meet the goals laid out in our first ESG report, which we released in 2020. We are also focused on extending our brand in new ways, so we will be focused on content that really connects with parents in a relatable way that really taps into that emotion. We’ll be in those spaces and places that drive conversation. The world looks quite bright. We are very excited about 2022 after our community of families are coming out of what has been a tough couple of years. There is a lot of hope and energy and a lot of joy and togetherness with our families. 

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