Marketing FAIL

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I, like nearly every blogger who has been around for awhile, get a great many PR pitches in my inbox.

99.999% of them go straight into my trash I am not interested in promoting anything for a company, nor do I care to tweet or otherwise pimp their product. 

One I got on Friday caught my eye. And not in a good Way. It was "Moms Against Cooties" - which is just a terrible name. It was this sentence that set my chaps on fire, however:
Moms Against Cooties is a national initiative to teach moms how to best avoid bringing home these sicknesses from daycares, focused on motivating moms to educate their children's daycares on the proper ways to fight germs!
But wait, there is more:

Moms Against Cooties offers posters for moms like you to bring to your child’s daycare, showing them how to properly disinfect, pre-written email communications ....

and the final straw:
We also appreciate any feedback you could offer on how we can better serve you as a mom to educate your child’s daycare on proper disinfection techniques. 
Lots of other bloggers got the same pitch, and PhD in Parenting even looked into who is behind the campaign. Not shockingly it wasn't some concerned Moms, but rather the chlorine industry.

So, I did what they asked and offered my feedback:

As an Early Childhood Educator, I must share that the term 'daycare" is offensive to we who have multiple degrees in the field. I have yet to care for a day, yet have cared for many children. Child Care, or Early Learning Center is preferred.

Secondly, any licensed child care center/home follows health and safety guidelines as mandated by their state licensing bureau. They are checked on these practices by licensing coordinators. If a Center or home is accreditation by NAEYC or NFACC then the standards around health and safety are even higher. 

It is somewhat condescending to assume that child care centers are ignorant of how to prevent disease. In fact, in my over 20 year experience it has been more the issue of parents sending their child in with contagious disease, often when they know their child is ill and should not be attending child care. I personally watched parents dose their child with Motrin in the parking lot to hide a fever.

Perhaps your sponsor would be better served by emphasizing that parents who keep their children Home when ill are preventing illness, rather than insult child care providers.


Dawn Rouse 

Then I used my host of degrees to sign off. Because I was MAD. 

As I have cooled down, I looked at WHY I was so angry.

And arrived at these issues:

1. Child Care Professionals are Ignorant of Health and Safety 
2. Child Care Professionals can't be trusted to do the right thing re: Health and Safety
3. Lets recruit Mothers, who may already be very nervous about sharing care of their children with other women to hand insulting things to child care professionals. 

The marketer replied to my initial email response, which was surprising...since I didn't expect a reply.

Our intention was certainly not to insult child care providers--sorry if our campaign came across that way. I certainly agree that parents bringing their child to daycare or preschool with a contagious is the biggest problem child care centers are facing today.

Moms Against Cooties salute moms like you and child care centers that follow health and safety guidelines. We are just trying to educate on a different way to clean and disinfect that child care centers may not be incorporating currently.

Thanks for your reply and feedback. If you would like to be removed from our mailing list, that is not a problem. :)
A different way of disinfecting? Holy not bothering to do ANY research Batman. You know I had to respond, right:

EVERY child care that holds a license in the United States uses the 10:1 Bleach solution, and has been since they developed licensing standards. We wash tables, floors, and children's toys in the solution daily.  When I directed child care, my staff also used the high pressure dishwasher to do a second sanitizing rinse with the heat.

I am not sure if anyone shared this information with the people who thought this idea up. 

Furthermore, if a Mom walked in  and handed my your sheet I would  be polite, but also wonder why on earth she was doing so! 

I would direct you to the websites of such organizations as NAEYC to look at the standards that Child Care Centers are using, as well as any State Licensing Bureau/Agency.

PS - The term cooties is also pretty offensive and tends to be used to single children out or otherwise bully them by other children. Not to mention the issues with head lice being called "cooties" and the myth of head lice being passed by poor and unclean children.

Here is what I didn't expand on in this response. If a Mom handed me this sheet, I would think she was insane. I would also think she had not read the parent handbook in which it was always stated that we used a 10:1 bleach solution to disinfect. 

Walk into ANY child care center and you can SMELL the bleach. Most Infants and Toddlers have had bleach gotten onto their clothes ( usually from the diaper table not being completely dry when they lay down on it)  and Every Child Care Professional has bleached clothes. Because Bleach is so affordable and so effective AND breaks down to salt and water over time, it has been the disinfectant of choice for Ages.  It is written into nearly every licensing standard in every state. In others it may be labeled as a "chlorinedocuments.

Yet all of this wasn't what made me angriest.  What really sent me is the attempt to sabotage the relationship between Parent and Child Care. There is a not so subtle implication in this marketing attempt to remind parents that they are wrong for sending their children to child care.  As a result of this, their children get sick.
If only the child care did a better job of caring for the child, then the child wouldn't get ill. 

Also implied is that the Child Care needs Educating! And here is how you, The Parent, can do it!

The relationship between Parent and Provider is delicate. There is anxiety on both fronts. 

As I have lived on both sides of those fences I can tell you that the parent fears being judged, fears leaving their child with the wrong person who isn't going to like their child, won't hold them, won't cherish them or might even hurt them. They worry that something good, or bad will happen and they won't be there to see it or prevent it. 

Child Care Professionals? They are doing a job they love. They may even be passionate about it, but they are getting very, very little money. When one starts doing the debit and credits on this work, one of the reasons that child care professionals do stay is because they love their jobs so very much. It isn't because they are getting paid so well, or love having bleach ( or vomit, or poo, or urine or every other bodily fluid known to human kind) on their clothes. It isn't because the work is easy. And it sure isn't because the Adults who come with the children are so delightful. 

Any of us in ECE can tell you a multitude of stories about parents we had to smile at when being asked to do things that were so above and beyond our job descriptions as to be ludicrous. No, I am not talking about kids with allergies or even the kids who needed nebulizers every four hours.  

No, I am talking about being asked to let a Four year old drink Chocolate milk from a Bottle kinds of things.  The "I would prefer that you used individual cotton balls dipped in warm water to clean my infant sons bottom, not because he has an allergy, but because that is the way I would like it done" kinds of requests. (Yes, I have had that asked of me)

There is tension and there is stress. Sometimes this collides into disputes about sick kids. 

Which brings me back to the little "handout" that the group suggested that should be given to your child care provider. 

Kids gets sick. Kids in Group Child Care get sick more often in the short term. In the long term, I think that kids who have been in Child Care get immune systems that can repel most everything.

Because ECE professionals know, intimately, the way germs and viruses spread we have policies about sending sick kids into child care. Very often, parents feels that those "rules" are overly strict.  Like the fever free for 24 hours rule.  Now some parents bite the proverbial bullet and just keep their sick child home.  I know - I  had to practice what I preached and there were days when I PRAYED she wouldn't develop a fever because I HAD to be at a meeting the next day. Or even later that day. 

Others? Well, Other parents feel the rule doesn't really apply to their they will give him/her a dollop of Motrin in the parking lot. That should keep the fever down for at least 8 hours - which will buy them most of the day at work. For others, they HAD to go to work. No work, No pay. Or, No work often enough because they keep a sick child home, then no job.  They simply had no other option.

The thing is that while the Motrin keeps down the symptom, it doesn't stop that child from infecting ALL of his/her peers. So, despite all the disinfecting by the ECE professional the child is breathing on his and her peers.  We can all wash our hands and be completely undone by a sneeze to the face, or the vomit filled embraces of the toddler who just threw up and needs comfort.

This little "handout" twists a knife. This "handout" which "educates day care workers"? It shifts blame and accusation back to child care for making children sick.  Of course, at the heart is Blame for the mother, who should really be at home anyway. If she was, her kid wouldn't be getting sick. 

Geesh, I haven't even really touched on the term "cooties" and why that is so amazingly offensive.

It doesn't surprise me that a corporation is vaguely behind this. In fact, it heartens me that it ISN'T a group of Moms utilizing child care for I would deeply worry about the quality of the care they were utilizing. 

Unknowingly, this marketing campaign blundered across me. I have no doubt they now sorely wished they hadn't, but how many others got this little email and thought "Yeah! Great! I'll Pass that Out!" - only to chip a little piece away from their relationship with their ECE Professional? Or to assign blame to themselves or their ECE Professional when their child gets ill?  And for what? A Product that nearly all child care centers already use.

Marketing Fail.

Updated to add exactly WHO is behind this little marketing fiasco:

Who We Are:  The Water Quality and Health Council is an independent, multidisciplinary group sponsored by the Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade association.  The group comprises scientific experts, health professionals and consumer advocates who serve as advisors to the Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council.

2 Baleful Regards:

Anonymous said...

Ditto to all you said.It's just what the field needed, another way to make parents paranoid. By the way,I teach the mandated Health and Safety Course for all new Family Child Providers in my state and we have moved far away from the old 10:1 solution.Turns out you don't need anywhere near that. The strongest solution we use is a tablespoon of bleach to a quart of water. That's for the infamous "bodily fluids". The solution for food surfaces is 1/2 teaspoon to a quart . Our licensing reps are displeased when they can actually smell the bleach.

Dawn said...

It makes sense that it was too strong - During my time in child care centers - so 1988 through 2002, I used to joke that you could always smell the bleach when you walked through the door!

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