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Babies bring joy to our lives and many new brands into our homes. I’ve had a lot of experience with baby brands in the last six years. As a Mom and a marketer it has been fun to evaluate them on both levels. I have watched the rise of lots of exciting new brands first hand. Here are my picks of the best brands.

You will notice that all the best new brands have several similar elements in common:

1. First in a new category.
2. Great name.
3. Tons of PR.

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Boppy
$35.00 at Babies R Us

The most popular shower gift in America, Boppy is the must-have tool for all new Moms. The breast is best, say most Doctors, and Boppy makes it possible. I had one in every room I fed my baby. So I never had to reach too far when I heard a scream.

Designed with ergonomics in mind, Boppy provides support to reduce strain on your arms, shoulders and neck. It also can be used for propping a baby and allowing for tummy time. But its main focus is helping Mom’s feed their babies comfortably.

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Dr. Brown’s
3 pack is $14.00 at Wal-Mart

For working Moms that breastfeed, a good pump and good bottles are a must. So I lugged my Medela “pump in style” breast pump all over the world from South Africa to India. But Medela doesn’t make my list because while it is a perfect pump it is a terrible brand. The name alone gives it little chance for success. I still can never remember it or how to say it.

While Medela did a lousy job of branding, the opposite is true of Dr. Brown’s. Dr. Brown’s initially focused on helping babies with colic. The bottle’s patented design helps with reduce air in-take a main cause of colic. Of course, what parent even wants to take a chance with colic. Like many parents, I used these just in case. And once you and your baby get attached to a bottle you seldom change.

Dr. Brown’s started as a narrowly focused specialty product but is now mainstream, not because the product expanded but because the consumer upgraded.

Dr. Brown’s is great example of using personalization in a name, like Papa John’s Pizza or Dell Computer. The name really gives credibility with this product, reinforcing the advantage of having the bottle designed by a doctor. (A kindly grey haired Dr. Brown comes to mind immediately.)

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Bugaboo
$899 at BabyStyle

Best known for tulips Holland is also the home of great design. Bugaboo innovative strollers from the Netherlands are both functional as well as beautiful. Many times a hot brand will upgrade the whole category.

What Dyson did for vacuum cleaners, Bugaboo has done for strollers. While every other manufacturer was trying to make a stroller/car-seat combination, Bugaboo made a streamlined stroller with a look that appealed to parents not kids.

Seeing a Bugaboo for the first time certainly makes a lasting impression. When I first got mine, people would stop me all the time.

Robeez
Robeez
$33.00 at Zappos

While most baby shoes are cute tiny versions of adult/kid shoes, Robeez are different. Robeez are designed especially for babies and toddlers. Barefoot is best for growing feet (according to most doctors and podiatrists) but babies’ feet also need protection and warmth. Robeez have thin soles, stay in place, are flexible and lightweight. As a result they are durable, breathable, skid-resistant and safe. Robeez is the doctor-recommended perfect first shoe. And with all the unbelievably cute designs, you hope your baby stays little just a little bit longer so you can buy more.

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Bumbo
$40.00 at Babies R Us

A huge problem is that babies can’t sit up. Having to lie on your back or stomach all day is tough. New parents don’t realize how long it takes (at least 8 months) before a baby has the muscle strength to sit up. Bumbo offers a revolutionary seat that enables babies to sit upright all by themselves as soon as they can support their own head (around 6-8 weeks.) Bumbo is a brand are built by taking branding risks (not safety risks) and doing what nobody else has done or even thought of before.

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Webkinz
$8-$15 at Amazon

Webkinz are not the same as your older sister’s Beanie Babies or your mother’s Cabbage Patch Dolls. Webkinz aren’t just a copy of the last toy craze they are something totally new and different.

The key to success is being first in a new category. Webkinz are the first stuffed animal that also lives in an exclusive virtual world. After ripping the code off the leg that allows online access for the pet on Webkinz.com kids basically throw the animal in the corner hardly to be played with again.

While many adults have checked out Second Life, millions of kids have stampeded to Webkinz World.

Croks
Crocs
$31.00 at Zappos

Looks aren’t everything. These funky-looking plastic shoes sure don’t look pretty, but wearing them is comfortable and contagious. When seeing a pair of Crocs for the first time, you think what are THOSE on your feet? The shock factor has greatly contributed to the Crocs craze. They are perfect shoes for kids since they are cheap, easy to wear and practical. Plus you can customize and decorate your Crocs to your heart’s content with Jibbitz (a nice second brand from Crocs). And at $2.50 a Jibbitz, that is money in the bank for Crocs.

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Monkey Joe’s
Around $8 to play, Nationwide in the U.S.

In the 80’s every kid wanted to go to the fair to jump on the Moonwalk. In the 90’s every kid wanted to have an inflatable slide on their lawn for their birthday party. Now every kid wants to play every day at a Monkey Joe’s and have their birthday party there too.

Monkey Joe’s is the first chain (in the mind) of indoor inflatable playgrounds. Many companies have gotten into this emerging market, but Monkey Joe’s is the best because it has the best brand. Jump Zone? Way too generic. Too many companies that launch brands in new categories opt for a descriptive words when the best strategy is a new word (Bugaboo) or words used out of context (Monkey Joe’s).

As my kids move into school there are so many new brands to discover. We are all looking forward to the adverture of it.