Educational videos designed to stimulate young minds, like “Baby Einstein” and “Brainy Baby,” may actually impede language development, according to a new study published this week in the Journal of Pediatrics. The DVDs have become one of the most popular educational tools for parents, with promises to build the vocabulary and enhance the cognitive development of babies as young as 3 months old. The baby-brain industry now represents about $20 billion a year, according to Susan Gregory Thomas, author of “Buy Buy Baby” (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). But the claims of these manufacturers are largely unsubstantiated. And the new study says they may do more harm than good.
Susan McClain, general manager of the Baby Einstein Co., told NEWSWEEK in an e-mail that the company’s collection “is specifically designed to promote discovery and inspire new ways for parents and babies to interact—such as clapping, pointing to objects and verbally interacting with their baby.” Representatives of Brainy Baby Co.—the other leading educational baby-video manufacturer—were not available for comment.
Prescription: Ok, if you remember I mentioned in previous posts that every so often in a publicists life, a major occurrence happens that can change history in a good way or instantly combust your client and its brand into flames.
So, we have here the Journal of Pediatrics who conducted a study of a $20 billion a year industry ( how much is that every two weeks?). It should be noted that studies such as these are excellent publicity tools as we see the increased exposure of the Journal of Pediatrics in just about every major news source this week. It has all the components of an excellent Public Relations campaign neatly wrapped up, tied with a bow and attached to the brand recognition of the Baby Einstein Co.
The Journal of Pediatrics has out all its guns to push its findings to the front of the news line including using lead author of the study, Frederick Zimmerman as a spokesperson. We even see authors of books and such jumping into the mix taking full advantage of the frenzy.
The root of this PR debacle for the Baby Einstein Co. is that the study was based on educational videos as a whole, not specifically the Baby Einstein Co.!!
Susan McClain’s comment is rather weak and passive and doesn’t defend a brand that is being labeled useless. And, maybe videos from the Baby Einstein Co. are indeed useless in making your baby smarter but, it feels like, seems like and reads like, the Baby Einstein Co. is taking the fall for the baby video industry as a whole. Brainy Baby Co.—the other leading educational baby-video manufacturer is smart. They have not entered the mix with a comment, steering whenever possible, attention away from them, letting Baby Einstein Co. defend the baby video industry and overall existence.
The other issue I have here is that the Baby Einstein Co. used their general manager as the spokesperson in the Newsweek story. In an attempt to salvage what might be left of brand confidence why wouldn’t they use a higher ranking spokesperson? Think about it. If you lost brain cells every time you drank a cup of coffee at Starbucks ( I know that’s extreme) would you want to hear from the stores’ general manager or the CEO?
Prescription: It’s too late to tell a patient whose had a heart attack that maybe they shouldn’t have eaten that rack of ribs last week or tell Baby Einstein Co. that maybe they could have ramped up their messaging of the interactive value of their brand before this study came out. Like a nasty cut, all you can do is wait for hit to heal and hope it doesn’t leave a big scar.
Read the Newsweek story here: