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Major Marketing Implications In Fisher-Price Sleeper Recall

April 2019 Communication, Marketing

The marketing implications of the recall by the Fisher-Price division of Mattel are so widespread they will be debated for years in college marketing classrooms.

The product in question is the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper.  The product has been on the market since 2009 and Fisher-Price has sold some 4.7 million units, subject to the recall. Since the product was introduced, the Rock ‘n Play sleeper has been blamed for 32 infant deaths.

The recall has been ordered jointly by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Fisher-Price parent Mattel Inc. A joint statement from Consumer Reports magazine and the American Academy of Pediatrics inspired the motion. The problem is when the infant gets old enough to roll over, there is a major danger of suffocation.

The specific issues:

  • The product specifies that the baby be strapped into the Rock ‘n Play, and there is a warning telling the consumer to stop using the product after three months. What if the consumer didn’t read the product instructions?
  • Considering the Tylenol deaths years ago when the product was instantly removed from the market, why did it take Fisher-Price 10 years and many deaths before deciding to recall the product?
  • Is it possible to sell any infant product that can harm the child with the trust the owner will review the instructions to prevent harm? Whose fault it is – the customer or the producer?
  • Did President Trump’s war against regulation have any effect in the continued sales of a highly suspect product?
  • Should caveat emptor (Latin – “let the buyer beware”) apply to products where lethal outcomes are possible because of buyer negligence?

The answers to these questions will be discussed in great depth. Any producer of baby products will have to closely guard against any possible hazards brought with the product.  William Wallace, senior policy analyst for Consumer Reports said in a statement:

“Based on the deaths and injuries associated with the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play, the product clearly puts infants’ safety at risk and should be recalled immediately.”

The Doctor’s group of 67,000 children’s health providers — the American Academy of Pediatricians — put out a statement from Dr. Kyle Yasuda, President, said:

“This product is deadly and should be recalled immediately.  When parents purchase a product for their baby or child, many assume that if it’s being sold in a store, it must be safe to use. Tragically, that is not the case.”

Finally, Fisher-Price General Manager Chuck Scothon issued the following statement that appeared in USA Today:

            “The loss of a child is tragic and heartbreaking.  For almost 90 years, generations of parents have trusted Fisher-Price to provide high quality and safe products for their children, and we will work hard to earn that trust every day.”



About the author

James T. Berger, Senior Marketing Writer of The Wiglaf Journal, through his Northbrook-based firm, James T. Berger/Market Strategies, offers a broad range of marketing communications, research and strategic planning consulting services. In addition, he provides expert services to intellectual property attorneys in the area of trademark infringement litigation. An adjunct professor of marketing at Roosevelt University, he previously has taught at Northwestern University, DePaul University, University of Illinois at Chicago and The Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan (BA), Northwestern University (MS) and the University of Chicago (MBA). Berger is an often-published free lance business writer who has developed more than 100 published articles in the last eight years. For more information, visit www.jamesberger.net or telephone him at (847) 328-9633.

James T. Berger
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