Most of us take clean clothes for granted. But the sad truth is that some people simply can't afford to go around with spotless—or even unstained—attire every day.
In the hyper-self-consciousness of school, where classmates' comments can seemingly leave lifelong scars, this state of affairs can drive truancy and disrupt the learning process. Teachers estimate 20 percent of American students struggle with access to clean clothes, and many believe these kids are more likely to skip class.
"When I wake up in the morning and I find out I have no clean clothes, I usually just end up staying home," says Vanessa, a fourth-grader featured in Whirlpool's Care Counts School Laundry program, in an introductory video on the project's website:
In an effort to quantify the problem and work toward a solution, Whirlpool and DigitasLBi put washers and dryers for disadvantaged kids in a pair of school districts—one in Missouri, the other in California—encompassing 17 schools. The company also kicked in detergent and fabric sheets.
"Up until this year," despite programs providing kids with better nutrition and social services, "we've never ever had anything that would address having clean clothes," says Martha Lacy, principal at the David Weir K-8 Academy in Fairfield, Calif.:
Over the course of a year, the schools identified students with a need for clean clothes and anonymously tracked their loads of laundry (2,000 in all!), plus attendance and grades. All told, more than 90 percent of the kids who took part in the program increased their attendance, spending about six more days in school compared to the previous year. What's more, their test scores, peer interactions and participation in extracurricular activities all improved.
Vanessa sums it up in the clip below. "Having the washer and dryer at the school means I don't have to worry about having dirty clothes," she says. "It makes me feel more excited and makes me feel like I fit in more."
"Increasing attendance by one day a month may not seem monumental … [but] every minute, every day, every student all the time, attendance matters," says Bonita Jamison, assistant superintendent at Riverview Gardens School District in St. Louis:
From a branding perspective, the push earns Whirlpool some social relevance points—which, when you come right down to it, isn't the easiest task for a maker of washers and dryers.
And the marketer looks to repeat the cycle, adding 20 more schools to the program in the months ahead. "We are excited to bring this resource to even more schools across the country," says brand manager Chelsey Lindstrom.
Whirlpool really does appear to be brightening kids' lives, and according to Helen Davis, parent liaison at Moline Elementary School in St. Louis, making the classroom a more caring, comfortable place for those who need it most:
Vice President, Brand Marketing, North America: Bill Beck
Sr. Director, Brand & Marketing Services: Robert Sundy
Sr. Brand Manager: Ryan Morand
Brand Manager: Chelsey Lindstrom
Agency: DigitasLBi & Production
Chief Creative Officer: Ronald Ng
EVP, Executive Creative Director: Morgan Carroll
SVP, Group Creative Director: Mike Frease
VP, Creative Director: Louie Calvano
Associated Creative Director: Chris Jansma
Sr. Art Director: Bryan Haupt, James Collins
Sr. Copywriter: Samantha Bordignon,
Lead Experience Designer: David Plant
VP, Executive Producer: Greg Lederer
VP, Account Director: Kristine Kobe
Account Manager: Julie Wisniewski
VP, Group Director, Creative Strategy: Brian Sherwell
Associate Director, Social Strategy: Rachael Datz
VP, Account Director – Media: Caitlin Finn
Media Supervisor: Ryanne Donnellon
Media Planner: Samantha Harvey
Production Company: C41 Media
Director: Mai Iskander
Director of Photography: Mai Iskander
Executive producer: Carla Tate
Line Producer: Carla Tate
Editing House: Cutters, Inc
Editor: Kathryn Hempel/Emily Tolan
Producer: Patrick Casey
Audio Mix: Another Country
Mixer: David Gerbowsi