Marketing to kids in difficult times

Many months ago, when we all sat in our meeting rooms, sipping coffee and bouncing campaign ideas around, I don’t think any one of us marketing folk could have predicted just how much our plans would be forced to change. The effects of the national lockdown on marketing campaigns and the publishing industry in general has been monumental, but when it comes to children’s books, there's a whole extra layer of complexity. 

In the current climate, how can we ask parents to find the money to spend on books? What about those who don’t have time to read their kids a bedtime story? How can we reach kids and their parents in a sensitive, positive way? Many marketeers in publishing houses (or their own houses) will be wondering where to start. Here are some ideas for what seems to be working well right now.

1. Think audio

There are some new opportunities that have presented themselves during lockdown. Individuals are spending more time than ever with digital audio. Fun Kids Radio launched their ‘Stuck at Home’ podcast during the first week of lockdown, and have observed a 44% rise in streaming, with webpage views are up 126%. This is because they are creating useful, entertaining content for children, occupying them and which providing parents with a snippet of free time.

I’d highly advise creating an audio ad and distributing it across a network of interest-based children’s podcasts. Better yet, if you can get your author to record the audio (even on their smart phone) they can capitalise on their author brand, making the ad more sentimental and genuine. By utilising interest focused podcasts, you are sure to speak to your listeners at a time when they’ve chosen to engage. This is a tactical way to maximise on pester power.

Francesca Simon, the author of the wonderful Horrid Henry series, is also featuring on a podcast all about her title character. Her involvement will encapsulate children, those who are familiar with Henry’s adventures will relish in it, and the few that are yet to encounter his mischief will be begging their grown up to buy it for them.

2. Be emotionally intelligent

Now more than ever, brands should be connecting to their audience emotionally, bringing value to their lives by creating useful content. The Children’s Media Conference asked us to find out what children need right now, so that brands can make this available to them. We asked a group of children, ‘How are you feeling right now?’ We found the same answers creeping up again and again.

Many of them commented on their parents’ poor teaching abilities. Amusing as this video maybe, it’s key to remember that parents are not trained teachers, nor should they be expected to be. Your marketing campaign can fit in here, by working a specific title or series into a lesson plan. If you have an ongoing brand or series on your list, that already had a significant success rate, it’s worth creating some educational resources for its fans, as well as some live author content if possible. Many children comment on missing their friends, why not have a letter writing class, or pen-pal themed campaign, championed by one of your hero characters?

Activity like this demonstrates authentic care for your audience, as it caters to the needs of both parents and children at this unusual time. Brands that take the time to listen to their consumers are the ones that will be remembered when this is over. While it’s an ethical move to position your books non-commercially, offer free learning resources and live story-times, it’s also an intrinsic marketing strategy to ensure your audience stay with you for the long-run.

3. Create an experience

With the enforced lockdown came the cancellation of book fairs, launches and signings. As devastating as it is, there are ways to rework these for your audience to access from home. Instagram live now has recently introduced a split-screen feature, which offers a perfect opportunity for a live author interview. Viewers can comment their questions and become a part of the conversation, all from the safety of their own home. I’d suggest partnering with an influencer who aligns with your brand to encourage a nice audience overlap too.

By creating these experiences for your audience to enjoy from their homes, you are remodelling your marketing campaign to be more widely accessible. It is no secret that so much of the publishing world is London-centric, but with live online events replacing those that have been cancelled or postponed, we are in a position to invite anyone who may wish to join to participate in the conversation. It’s a refreshing way to approach a campaign, which will be reflected in the ongoing loyalty of your audience.

At the moment, marketing is tricky across the board: budgets are being cut, driving sales and managing stock can be difficult. However, now is the time to remind your audience that you’re still there, listening to their needs and adapting to the new normal. Position children’s books with tact and emotion, bringing your stories into readers’ homes.