Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A merry techno Christmas to you

With less than a month until Christmas final present buying decisions are upon us. And yes we’re feeling the pressure at MumPanel too. Lynne and I (Nicola) have daughters of the same age and they both seem to want exactly the same things this year. We’ve both had serious discussions with Santa (in our house he’s watching when the red light comes on in the house alarm monitors, in Lynne’s house she speaks to the elves on the phone as Santa is so busy at this time of year).

We’ve negotiated around the fact that Santa isn’t keen on the idea of dolls that poo green and flimsy plastic Barbie doll houses. And although we know daft, fun toys are an important part of development we’re both keen to include at least one gift that has some educational value. Both our daughters started reception this year and are in the throes of learning to read. Just this week I was told I pronounced a certain letter sound incorrectly (that would be my Lancashire accent coming back to haunt me). Reading and language development is taught in a very specific way in most UK schools – they initially teach sounds rather than letters, phonics and work on chopping up and blending sounds to understand and create words.

I played with the idea of buying my daughter a laptop (to ‘do’ letters as she says) or an iPad but I couldn’t bear the thought of hundreds of pounds of technology smashing to the floor in a forgetful five year old moment.

Lynne and I had actually struck on an identical present idea without even realising it – the Leapfrog Leap Pad, a child friendly learning tablet. It’s sort of an iPad for kids, complete with downloadable apps. I was first introduced to the Leap Pad at Cybermummy earlier this year and was impressed with both the concept and the price point. And it seems the rest of the world thought this was a great idea and it soon raced to the top of the most popular toy for Christmas 2011.

I mentioned the Leap Pad idea one day to Lynne and she shared her thoughts on the product (she’d already bought one for her daughter). The real downfall with this product is it that it doesn’t tie up with current educational practice in the UK – so it teaches letters rather than sounds, American spelling and grammar. For both our children we want them to take part in activities that will reinforce what they learn at school, especially at a stage when they are just beginning to establish these skills at school.

It’s seems like a missed opportunity that LeapFrog haven’t considered what the UK market and school age children need – something that builds on what they are learning.

It’s been enough to put me off purchasing the Leap Pad which is such a shame as it’s ideal in so many other ways. I’m keen for my daughters to interact with technology (and even Fisher Price are aware that babies want to get their hands on mum and dads tech) but I want it to have at least some educational value (so I’m afraid Santa had said no Nintendo DS this year). And an article in the Guardian last week says there are more preschoolers who know how to use smartphones than tie their shoelaces. That just shows how important it is for technology companies to take into account what's happening at school during the product development stage.

I have a feeling my tangerine and nuts in the stocking isn't going to cut it this year.

If you'd like to know more about working with MumPanel on product testing and development drop us a line.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Mamas & Papas blogger event

The Mamas & Papas blogger day at their Huddersfield HQ was a great success. Our handpicked bloggers got to see how Mamas & Papas develop their products (and a sneaky peek of some brand new products). They also heard the family story behind Mamas & Papas and how that impacts on everything including the quality of the products (each one is still individually signed off by Luisa Scacchetti, co-founder).

The most important aspect of the day for MumPanel was that the feedback that we gathered from previous product reviews is clearly listened to. There are a number of changes being made to the Urbo and Mylo prams based on feedback from MumPanel mums. And we know from our day with Mamas & Papas that they are always listening and learning from mums.

You can read more about what our mums thought of the bloggers day here...

Mamas & Papas - I am in love

My day at Mamas and Papas

The one where I got to visit the HQ

At the heart of the word family

Trip to Mamas & Papas HQ

If you'd like to know more about spreading the word campaigns then get in touch.

Cbeebies Grown-ups

Last month saw the launch of the CBeebies Grown-Ups site which MumPanel played a key role in. The website is designed for parents and carers to find out how they can use CBeebies programme to aid their child’s development.

We worked with mums, dads and grandparents across the UK to determine what they wanted to see on the site and what sort of features would help them help their children’s learning and play processes. If you visit the site you’ll find many MumPanel mum tales and tips.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Mums trust mums for product recommendations

We know mums trust other mums. When we carried out some research recently we found 75% of mums trust their friends and family views the most when it comes to product recommendations. And 67% of MumPanel mums ask their own mums for advice on buying products. We know the rise of facebook and twitter means more and more people will be going to social media and the internet to ask opinions but we shouldn’t forget where mums are really getting their information from.

The big supermarket chains know this and have all recently run campaigns that got mums chatting at the school gate – from Morrisons Disney campaign and Let’s Grow vouchers to Tesco Mum of the Year and Asda Election Mums. It’s vital that companies remember that although some mums are online, gathering information and chatting for many mums their main interaction will be at a school gate, PTA meeting or coffee shop with friends.