For working families, choosing a child care and early childhood education program is an important and often confusing decision given the many options. So, to engage parents and their children, and even teachers, in its curriculum and story, KinderCare Education, a private provider in accredited early learning nationwide, created the Tiny Schoolhouse experiential tour. Activating at family-friendly locations this summer and inspired by the tiny house trend surrounding its headquarters in Portland, OR, the program also celebrates the brand’s 50th anniversary.
“From a marketing perspective, we’ve been infusing energy into the brand this year with a whole number of things,” says Jeff Spiegel svp and cmo at KinderCare. “We have a refreshed brand identity that plays off the shapes of our bell tower logo. We’re looking for new ways to reach hardworking families with young children, and we felt that the Tiny Schoolhouse was the way to do that, and to do it in a more modern, creative and engaging way.”
The Tiny Schoolhouse activated June 20 to July 7 at the State Fair Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ, and will activated Aug. 1-4 at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago; Aug. 14-18 at the Arlington County Fair outside Washington, D.C.; and Sept. 13-29 at The Big E in West Springfield, MA. More stops or evolutions of the tour are planned for the fall.
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The activation footprint includes a white picket fence perimeter, welcome signage, a red school bell constructed at kid level that they can ring, and play areas with large foam shapes where kids can create and use their imaginations—a key component of the KinderCare curriculum. There is also a zone where the brand is conducting informal interviews with families in each market for a pulse-check of where families are, what matters and what’s interesting to them.
Inside the schoolhouse, which has the KinderCare red roof and bell tower branding, there are activity stations at eye level all around the perimeter for children as well as information at adult height explaining how the activity below them ties into the KinderCare curriculum. For example, an activity maze at eye-level for kids has them counting and moving fruits and vegetables around the loops. Above that station is information for parents on KinderCare’s nutritional standards. Next door to that is a wall of wooden knobs related to operational topics, such as security and emergency preparedness. Nearby, while parents are scrolling through information on a tablet, kids can play a coordination game below.
“We’re targeting families with young children and that’s all forms of families—parents, grandparents or other caregivers,” Spiegel says. “But a secondary audience for us is current and prospective employees. It’s one of those events that can really entice people to think about early learning, or if you’re already in the industry, to have pride in what you do, whether you work for KinderCare or not.”
The program is one component of KinderCare’s overall marketing strategy that includes digital, social and p.r., and other experiential efforts. Events the brand activates include baby shows across the country, pop-up family studios at museums and learning labs at community-centric events featuring local center teams and educators. The Tiny Schoolhouse footprint itself was designed to be modular, adaptable and flexible based on the marketing objectives or event, according to Spiegel.
“Everything that we’re doing this year and how we’ve designed the touchpoints are directly connected to our curriculum and learning centers, and we’re seeing that as a new way to introduce families to what happens in our centers,” he says. Agency: Grow Marketing, San Francisco.