Green marketing for kids

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Once upon a time, marketing people believed and used the theory that “if you can position your product or service in the minds of your customers first, second or third, there will be a direct relationship to the sales of your product.” First in their minds meant first in sales, second meant second in sales, etc. Like the Olympics, we never remember who comes in fourth, only first, second and third. That model was imbedded in the minds of marketing executives for years. They used this theory to justify the idea that whatever they did to position their product was okay. This philosophy doesn’t reflect a conscious approach, it is based on simple accounting. Whatever is spent is justified by the profit made. Things are changing today, at least for some companies, those on the leading edge of consciousness engaged in ‘green’ marketing.

When you become a conscious marketing person, you choose your words more carefully. You realize there is ‘green marketing’ just as there is ‘green manufacturing.’ Green marketers are concerned about what’s going on around them, from the environment to the school playground. This is especially important when marketing to kids. The mind is the most valuable, most fertile place for planting seeds for the future. Whatever we plant now, we’ll sow later. The media plays an important role in seed sowing. It’s become our third parent, our voice of authority, our source of information. School aged children spend more time watching television than they spend in school. Based on a conscious understanding of long term effects, advertisers should be encouraged to make statements that are true and honest, and choose partners that do the same.

What’s Okay; what’s not okay to market to kids? It’s okay to represent your product honestly in such a way that it educates and informs the customer, but not to manipulate them. Please don’t try to make them think that they have to have your product, or need it. Companies do things to make a customer want something. Unfortunately, sometimes they do so at the expense of making them believe they need it. It’s not okay to manipulate and use information to get people to think they need your product. It is okay to inform and educate about your product. That’s what’s considered green marketing.

When you put the kid first in your approach to the marketplace, then you’ll naturally do what’s best for kids. You’ll end up with a good marketing campaign that does what you want it to do without damaging society. To quote one of the great television talents of our time, Jerry Seinfeld, “You have to think of the audience as a child . . . and you have to do right by the child. They’ll be glad you did.”

When you examine the marketing and promotion of children’s programs, ask yourself, “How much of it is truly quality media?” When it is, how many ancillary products spun off are worthwhile. How much of what is seen today on television, in the theater, in print, on the Internet, is really appropriate for a child to see, watch, and hear? How many products that cross marketing campaigns sell are valuable, useful, worthy? Let’s take a quick look at some exemplary cross marketing endeavors of children’s producers.

Fox Home Video featured a tie-in partnership with the not for profit organization, Rain Forest Rescue when they released their title, “Ferngully 2,” to homevideo. Fox put Rain Forest Rescue PSA’s on the front of the video, put an impack card inside the box promoting membership in Rain Forest Rescue,purchase of seedlings, etc. and donated part of each purchase to Rain Forest Rescue. In return, Rain Forest Rescue promoted the film through their newsletter to their million-plus members, created PSA’s using “Ferngully 2” footage, and linked their website to the “Ferngully 2 website.” This is a good example of green marketing. What does Fox get out of this? Initially, high awareness of the title, generating excitement and recognition through its tie-in with a credible organization. Ultimately, increased sales at retail.

There are two issues here: Marketing to kids and marketing to parents. If you are marketing to parents, do you market it based on what appeals to them,or to what the value is to their children? A good example of this is the Crayola product, handled by Artisan Entertainment. When choosing the direction of marketing the Crayola videos, Artisan took the lead from Crayola and what it stands for in the marketplace: fun, color and education. They packaged the video with an activity book that actually teaches. Glenn Ross, president of Family Home Entertainment/Artisan, calls this stealth learning.

 

Marketing kids’ products is a challenge. Very young kids love to be entertained while they’re learning. Barney is a good example of programming that teaches while it entertains. Yet, we have criticized them for the overuse of ancillary products. Where does a company draw the line with ancillary products? I don’t know. Nevertheless, when companies come out with a plethora of useless items that add no value to a child’s life, everything from sheets to doorknobs, and the program itself has no socially redeeming value, I’d rather have the overabundance of Barney products than those. If these products encourage kids to watch the show, and support the cost of production – it’s worth it.

Another example of green marketing is Artisan’s cross promotion with Make a Wish Foundation for their Hallmark title, “Anabelle’s Wish.” A percent of the sales were donated to the foundation. There were no coupons, no special offers, no mail-ins, no licensed merchandise – except books from GoldenBooks that reinforce the story’s lessons. “Anabelle’s Wish” was the #three selling videocassette last year. Did consumers respond to the Make a WishFoundation tie in? One wants to believe that people appreciated the message. The donation to Make a Wish Foundation was over one million dollars!They’ve sold more this year than last year, so something’s working.

Bonneville Worldwide Entertainment’s first foray into the field of public service announcements/ tie-ins, promoting their quality children’s programs is working with VSDA’s promotion of “Fast Forward to End Hunger” campaign. This campaign encourages consumers to make donations at their local video store which provides food for children within their local community. BWE is putting the PSA onto their new releases beginning this fall. Many other companies have participated in this campaign, unique in that it involves video stores as well as the producers. Sony Wonder has been a long time supporter, sponsoring their booth at VSDA and their in-store displays at video stores.

Independent, Dave Braun, donated profits from the sale of his title, “Let’s Explore Furry, Fuzzy, Feathery Friends” to the not for profit ‘Hugs America,’ aLos Angeles- based charity helping mistreated animals or wild animals that are victims of natural disasters. A young actress who truly loves animals,Angela Watson, from the television series Step by Step, became their spokesperson. Every time she went on a talk show to promote her latest project,she promoted video as it was the charity’s main fund-raising tool. They got national exposure for an otherwise difficult to promote video.

BMG Home Video did a promotion with Rosie O’Donnell’s charity, the For All Kids Foundation, with their Cabbage Patch Kids videos. For every purchase of the Cabbage Patch Kids’ video and a Mattel Cabbage patch kid doll, during September of last year, they made a donation to the charity, totalling $150,000. For their upcoming release of “Wolves at our Door,” part of each title’s sales will go to the Save the Wolves Foundation.

Independents often lack the funds to be very active in cross promoting. However, Dennis Fedoruk, producer of the “Baby’s First Impression” series has successfully cross marketed their video titles with similar titles produced by others and with related product lines. They’ve placed insert campaigns in the food, clothing and safety products market. The most successful was attaching a hang tag special on hundreds of thousands of bibs.

Plaza Entertainment is making a career out of its philanthropic activities. They’re doing a tie in with their title, “Ebenezer,” featuring Jack Palance, and a group called Holiday Feast ’98, underwriting Christmas dinner for 200,000 people. They also have a tie-in with the Boys & Girls Club for “Puss & Boots.”All the actors donated their salaries to the Boys & Girls Clubs which Plaza is matching for a total $200,000 contribution. Says Eric Parkinson, Plazapresident, “We’re trying to do something positive by using the revenues for a greater good. Ultimately, I wish that more suppliers would utilize ‘greenmarketing’ because it helps build a stronger marketplace and an audience of responsible consumers.”

 

These are inspiring stories. Let’s remember how important our work is. It’s not just about children, media and marketing. It’s about serving our children’s future. As Mark Twain said, “Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest.” I’d like to hear from other companies about their exemplary green marketing programs. The Coalition for Quality Children’s Media will post them on its website and give your company a complimentary link to your site for the title you’re promoting.