Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Baby Show - what's changing but really staying the same

This weekend saw The Baby Show hit Birmingham so Lynne and I went down to see the latest innovations and trends in the baby and mother world.

The show was very busy and we managed to squeeze in a chat with Mamas and Papas who were showing off their fantastic prams including the Urbo and Mylo (we worked on a spreading the word campaign for these two pushchairs last year and it's great to see the changes suggested by our mums being implemented).

The biggest thing to come out of the day for us is that although there are always innovations and new products coming to market things essentially stay the same for mums - we want to feed, clothe, protect, entertain and care for our kids. And mums will find the best products for that.

It's always interesting as both a mum and a marketer to watch buying behaviours at the baby show, as it is an environment where mums are exposed to so many products and ideas in one place. It's very clear from observing mums on the stands and watching their shopping bags that what works for one mum won't work for all mums. In my case I made a beeline for the Close stand (makers of the newly branded Caboo carrier, formerly the Close Baby Carrier).

I was a bit of a sling addict with my two, purchasing and trying about half a dozen before I found (and loved) the Caboo. I'd tried so many different slings because I'd taken advice from different places, other mums, friends, internet forums and review sites. At MumPanel we know if brands want to influence a mum's buying decision it's important to connect with her in these different places. But as well as connecting you need to show mums WHY your product is right for them and that's about understanding a mum's journey and creating appealing messaging.

We spotted some products that we thought would have mass market appeal - the compact, mobile Milton dummy steriliser, for any mum that has ever recovered a fluff covered dummy from her handbag (excellent gap in the market identification by Milton). We also thought the VeraTemp no contact thermometer (initially developed by a pharmaceutical company for healthcare industry use) was fantastic - no more messing with in-ear or forehead thermometers, plus it works alongside a mother's natural instinct to check a child's temperature by putting their hand on their forehead.

As mums we were particularly impressed with The Gro company. They had lovely products to buy but also offered helpful safe sleep advice, making the shopping and brand experience about more than just buying another piece of baby kit. We'd love to see Gro develop sleep sacks or another sleep bag solution for older kids.

And while we're on the subject of stands, it was great to see stands staffed by team members from the actual companies (Superdrug instore staff were particularly lovely and introduced me to their own range of nappies, which I didn't even know existed). Sometimes companies have no choice but to use outside staff or PR companies to man exhibitions but it's worth bearing in mind that a mum to mum (or parent to parent) connection that's honest is incredibly powerful.

Finally a big thank you to Plum for supplying my ticket for the day (and for the very friendly welcome on their stand).

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Spreading the word campaigns

When we talk to clients about spreading the word campaigns we like to be clear about what we’ll achieve by the end of the campaign. Spreading the word is just that, getting a message out there through word of mouth. Because of the advent of the internet and social media that might also now include Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and other networks that pop up and create communities around them.

Social media is in essence just a way of amplifying what you might say to one mum at the school gate or to your neighbour over the fence. The message is the same but you can now say it to thousands of people at the same time instead of just one. At MumPanel we think it’s important that any spreading the word campaign takes account of a mum’s natural journey, so if they’ve never used facebook then we just want them to concentrate on the places they do speak to other mums – playgroups, their gym glass or their kid's swimming lesson. It’s also worth keeping in mind that different mums have different paths – some of our mums will never use social media, some practically live on it. If you want to market to mums then you have to speak to all influential audiences, not just the ones who are part of the latest marketing channel.

So where does spreading the word fit into marketing? If we hand out samples and use our hub mums and bloggers to talk to mums about a product will there be a sudden rush to the shops? Maybe. We need to positively impact customer behaviour so they take action and buy – we can do this by creating brand awareness and flagging up information for mums as they move towards their purchasing journey. Spreading the word should happen pretty early in the information giving cycle and continue so mums are constantly kept aware of a product in a very human way. But spreading the word shouldn’t happen in isolation – the best campaigns are part of an integrated approach (with clear objectives). After all what’s the point of spending time and money spreading the word about a great product only for our mums to be unable to find it in the supermarket because of poor point of sale? That’s an easy way to make mums instantly forget about your product. If you want to create a strong spreading the word campaign you need to start with objectives, be clear about what you want from it and then back it up with a great product or service and clear messaging.

If you’d like to know more about spreading the word campaigns with MumPanel then leave a comment below or drop us a line.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Should you listen to your customers?

Last week I went along to The Talk of Manchester to meet up with other North West businesses. The day rounded off with a panel of successful business people including Jennie Johnson (Kids Allowed) and Tim Bacon (Living Ventures Group) taking questions from the floor. One of the questions directed to Tim was whether he listened to what his customers had to say about his business. His response was very interesting, in a nutshell he said that if he listened to what every single customer had to say he'd become completely bogged down in it and it would take up all his time. Instead, he prefers to watch what his customers do, rather than what they say to him. There were a few gasps from the audience but he has a valid point. He did qualify his statement by saying that he does customer research, and takes note of what they say but he was emphasising the older adage of  'actions speak louder than words'.

We work in lots of different ways when it comes to research, sometimes (for easy to answer questions) we might just do a survey of mums. But often we need to dig a little deeper and that might take the form of opinion pods or lab testing. That allows us to both listen to what mums are telling us but also observe their behaviour and actions. For example, we recently did some lab testing with children who play on immersive worlds such as Moshi Monsters. We consistently heard from mums that they were concerned about the safety of their children when playing online. Then we sat in lab testing and watched several children quickly find and use the chat facility on some games, an aspect some mums didn't even know was there.

So many things skew what comes out of our mouth - the expectations of others (so maybe what we as mums think we should be saying or doing), thoughts others have put in our heads (from media to next door neighbour) or the difference between perceived and actual reality. We have to be masters of behavioural observation to gain real insight, to understand everything that isn't being said as well as the words we are hearing and the actions we are seeing.

That doesn't mean we can stop listening, we can gain information from asking the right questions, we just have to know when to go digging for more.

By Lynne