Brands Join Bezos Foundation's Vroom Initiative to Help Childhood Brain Development

Goya, J&J and Amazon Adding Brain-Building Tips to Products

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Goya, Johnson & Johnson and Amazon are the first three companies to jump aboard Vroom, an initiative created by the Bezos Family Foundation and creative shop Johannes Leonardo aimed helping childhood brain development.

Vroom's founders -- Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' parents Jackie and Mike Bezos -- started talking about the project with Johannes Leonardo about three years ago. The statistic that stood out to the advertising agency during initial discussions was that "80% of brain connections are formed in the first five years of a child's life," said JL co-founder and chief creative officer Leo Premutico.

He added that lower economic households, single-parent families or even those who have very busy jobs often don't spend as much time interacting with their children, which is crucial for early brain development.

"That was really the moment when we said to ourselves, 'This is bigger than us and and bigger than the foundation and we need to think of a way to come up with something that can scale beyond us and get exposure beyond what we'd be capable of from the foundation just buying media,'" said Mr. Premutico.

JL came up with the idea of altering packaging on relevant products to include brain-building activities for parents. "You don't need any more time than the time you have," said Ms. Bezos, president and co-founder of the Bezos Family Foundation. "You can build the brain in moments you already share with your child whether it's doing laundry or making dinner."

Goya's new pasta product packaging with Vroom content
Goya's new pasta product packaging with Vroom content Credit: Courtesy Johannes Leonardo

The foundation began reaching out to CPG companies to sign on to the initiative, and "some brands got it right away," like Goya, Ms. Bezos said. The company has begun including brain-building tips and activities on several products, such as its Maria Cookies and pastas including penne, rigatoni and alphabets. Goya is also featuring Vroom recipes on its website.

Joseph Perez, senior VP-marketing at Goya said, "Changing the packaging required a lot of collaboration, but in the end we are very happy with the result. We are very proud to be one of the first CPG firms Vroom has partnered with."

While J&J didn't actually change its packaging, it has been including inserts on shampoo bottles that provide brain-building tips parents can incorporate into their everyday routines. The company has no immediate plans to make packaging changes, but will continue evaluating how it can bring more educating materials to parents' homes, according to Kelly Fanning, senior brand manager for Johnson's Baby at J&J.

Johnson's has teamed with Vroom for its Save the Children's Early Steps to School Success program, which provides one-on-one interaction between caregivers and home visitors on a regular basis. The brand is bringing its iconic baby products, such as Johnson's Baby Shampoo, Head to Toe Wash and Baby Lotion containing Vroom tips to "underserved families in rural communities across the country," said Ms. Fanning. The company will also share tips on social media for parents on an ongoing basis.

The "holy grail" for Vroom would be to have tips printed right on diapers "because the distance between parents and their children during diaper changes is about 17 inches and that's optimal for brain-building moments," said Ms. Bezos. She added that there are about 8,000 diaper changes in a child's first three years of life, which provides a lot of time for parents to interact with children.

Amazon got involved with Vroom by providing the foundation's educational content on the Amazon Baby Registry Welcome Boxes, which go out to about 50,000 parents per quarter, said Ms. Bezos. The exterior box design was created internally, said an Amazon spokesperson, but the brain-building content was developed by Vroom. The spokesperson declined to comment on future plans with Vroom, but said Amazon is exploring ways to use the content "to enhance the customer experience, and fulfill Vroom's mission."

Ms. Bezos said Vroom and JL will continue trying to get other companies to join the effort. "Brands are beginning to realize the bigness of what they fill in people's lives," she said. "They see the opportunities and also the responsibility of what they can do to benefit their consumers."

In addition to brands, Vroom is partnering with media companies, like PBS, Televisa and Univision, to spread the word about the initiative. JL is working on a few documentaries and videos for Vroom, which will live on some of the media channels and online.

Outreach to community organizations is also a key element to promoting the program, such as library systems, faith-based groups and children's museums. And the Vroom app, available in both English and Spanish, has been downloaded in 137 countries so far, and has been receiving requests to make content available in other languages.

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