Mum knows best

Mummy bloggers have seen something of a revolution over the last few years and the toy industry is working hard to utilise their skills. Katie Roberts chatted to a number of industry execs to see how they are integrating the social networking sites into their marketing campaigns?
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If you haven’t noticed the increasing army of mummy, and more recently, daddy bloggers, over the last few years, you may have been living in a dark cave. First to really take off in a big way was Facebook, then Twitter and now the mummy and daddy bloggers of the world seem to be enjoying their moment in the limelight.

Mummy and daddy bloggers (MBs) are, as the name suggests, parents who blog about daily life with a family, the trials and tribulations and of course, delights of kids, parenting and all that comes with it.

Who better then, for suppliers to send toy samples to for review? The writers have first hand experience of children playing and have no bias or alliances with manufacturers to affect their opinions.

Roger Martin of Coiledspring explains: "The decision to send products to mummy bloggers was a bit of a no-brainer. They are our target market and are hugely influential both with other bloggers and parents in general. We know from talking to parents that they’ll often trust the review of a parent blogger more than, say, the advertising of a big company."

The trust and respect for MBs is one of the key attractions to integrating them into a marketing plan. Wendy Hill, senior marketing manager, Fisher-Price, tells ToyNews: "The online community is becoming increasingly important in influencing purchasing decisions. Mummy bloggers provide a great way for us to reach out to mums who have a strong voice in the online world for unbiased product reviews."

Due to the unlimited space on a blog, reviews can be as lengthy as possible, allowing for more detailed descriptions, useful when launching more complex products. Lucy Wynn Jones, head of licensing, Worlds Apart, comments: "The detail and insight provided by MBs and their kids is second to none and we feel this will really help explain the innovative design and versatile nature of our new toy."

And of the many manufacturers who have worked with MBs, many say they have seen a direct increase in sales. Will Sharman, head of sales, Maps Toys, says: "We have found that the buzz generated by some of the product reviews we set up resulted in increased sales for some of our retailers."

In order to see such positive results, though, it is important to link with the right MB. Antonia Rainbow, marketing manager, Tomy, explains: "We look at mummy bloggers whose interests match our products – do they have children of the right target age, do they like creative or developmental toys."

Strong ratings for the blogger’s website are also important. Claire McCool, co-founder and marketing director at Drumond Park, offers: "We are careful to choose only those with a large number of visitors per month, otherwise this activity is just not cost effective."

Suppliers which are established in the arena though, may find bloggers approach them. Lynda Freebrey, PR/marketing, Orchard Toys, says: "Save for one or two, all of our blog reviewers have come to us to ask if they can review for us, because they like our products so much."

Once the bloggers have been chosen, firms need to learn the lingo and play by the rules. Sue Barratt, country manager, Meccano Toys (UK), explains: "It’s also about understanding social media protocols like thanking bloggers for their support, engaging with their followers, remessaging, etc etc."

Coiledspring’s Martin agrees and utilises the help of to negotiate the minefield: "It’s a close knit community that links through forums and Twitter so if you do something to upset a mummy blogger then you risk alienating a lot of other mummy bloggers.

"There’s mummy bloggers etiquette which we try to abide by and that means doing the basics like actually reading blogs, making a personal approach, not blanket approaching hundreds of bloggers and then only responding to a few."

While many use the reviews as a regular marketing tool, blogs are particularly useful when launching a new line. 

Sonia Naseem, marketing manager, The In Thing, tells ToyNews: "When launching a product, getting a mummy blogger’s opinion can send the product in the right direction at an important time, so it’s at this stage of the products life cycle that we tend to send out the samples."

However blogs can also be used prior to the launch of additional products withing an existing range to raise awareness, as Vicki Elmer, brand manager, Bandai explains: "We send products out to announce a new range but have also sent out the current Tinga Tinga Tales toys to mummy bloggers to improve awareness of the brand when the new products launch later this year."

But surely giving out products to MBs is a risky business? The very fact that the articles are open, honest and unbiased could surely backfire if the author wasn’t happy with the product being reviewed.

Samantha Harris, marketing manager, Leapfrog, concurs: "Naturally MBs are completely impartial and all reviews are based on their personal opinions and experience with the products. This leaves the brand and the products open to potentially negative reviews. It’s crucial to be transparent and open. 

"Additionally, in the early days of blogger outreach for any brand, it’s important to approach MBs in the right way – they’re not journalists and are not being paid to write and this is a key differentiator not to be forgotten," she adds.

And what happens if the worst occurs and you do receive a negative review? Pete Fuller, marketing manager, Mega Brands UK, comments: "Mummy bloggers have the potential to make or break a product. It is impossible to know exactly how a mum and their kids will react to a product. 

"Luckily we haven’t had a negative review yet, but if we did, we would personally approach the MB to discuss her experience and why it did not meet expectations."

So in all, if you take on board the potential of a bad review, research your mummy or daddy blogger carefully, learn the ‘rules’ of social networking and approach them in the right way, it seems the world of bloggers can be a potential goldmine as part of the marketing mix.

Top ten blogs 16/6/11

1.Red Ted Art
2.Sticky Fingers
3.Crystal Jigsaw
4.Playing by the Book
5.Maison Cupcake
6.Frugal Family
7.Diary of a Desperate Exmoor Woman
8.Madame Guillotine
=.Tinned Tomatoes
9. Attic 24
10.Bambino Goodies


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