The way children are accessing Highlights for Children’s products have changed, which has changed how the company thinks about the Web and uses digital platforms.
“Of course, the children today have so many more choices across a bunch of different platforms. But to take it to the higher level, I think we’re competing for time — we’re competing for children’s time today,” says Shelly Stotzer, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Highlights For Children. “Anything that’s a use of their time, whether it’s after school activities, sports, books, apps, computers, TV, all the things that children do today, we hope that they find the time to engage in positive products and stories, things that we reflect in our product experiences.”
Highlights believes there is a place for all its different products, but it’s important to make sure the company reaches children with the content that is right for them in a format that is good for them.
“Sometimes they want to play on a computer,” Stotzer says. “I have a 7 and 9 year old, and sometimes they want to read on their Kindles. Sometimes they want to play on my PC. But sometimes they want to snuggle in their bed with a book, and sometimes they want to read a magazine in the car, and sometimes they want to do a puzzle book at the restaurant. “We believe there is a place for all these things.”
So, how can companies re-position themselves to meet customer needs through all of the different platforms available today like Highlights recognized it needed to do at least a decade ago?
First, Stotzer says it’s important to recognize that the consumer, the customer is in control.
That’s especially true with technology, which changes so quickly. Understanding the needs of your clients — in this case, children — is imperative.
“If they don’t have a positive consistent brand experience, they have a lot of influence. They have a lot of control. They have a lot of opportunity to help you or hurt you,” she says. “I think finding your advocates is important, and listening to those who have some feedback for you is important — adjusting and learning along the way, putting the customer at center, so they have the control.”
Then, start with what you’re trying to accomplish. Don’t think of all of these social channels as one big channel. Twitter has a different place than Pinterest, which has a different place than Facebook and even a different place than Instagram and all the other unfolding new technologies, Stotzer says.
Ask yourself: why are you there? What do you want to accomplish? And that’s what really should drive what you do.
“In our case we have great people who care about kids engaging in our content. It’s a little different than what I’m guessing a different type of organization — a b2b organization, or an organization not focused on consumers or an organization not focused on children — might do,” she says.
Opportunities in social media
The social media space is another chance to have more dialogue with customers. And your social media strategy needs to consider numerous angles, such as engagement, customer service and sales, before launching into it.
Highlights doesn’t see social primarily as a sales channel. It’s about building a relationship, building really positive interactions with customers and being in a space where you are top- of-mind with them.
“If you move beyond just Facebook and you think about Pinterest and other sources as well, there are a lot of families engaged in that space,” Stotzer says. “What we’ve found is that the followers we’ve obtained, or the friends that we’ve earned are very, very engaged in our brand and in our social media content.
“We focus a lot on making sure we’re giving them good content, good information, engaging them through jokes and riddles, getting them to participate by getting pictures and their thoughts on things. We’ve found that the customers who we are engaging with seem very appreciative and it’s growing, it’s growing at a substantial rate.”
Legal and privacy challenges
Stotzer says there always studies coming out to tell Highlights what should be done at different ages and how much times online is good for children. The company wants to be conscious of that as it decides what to launch and in what format.
“We do what’s right regardless of what government regulation says — what I mean by that is of course we’re not going to break law, but in fact we might be more strongly self regulated than the law would require,” she says.
“We always put the children and the family and the long-term customer experience at the forefront of our decisions. And so we are very careful in that space. I want to wake up every morning and feel like I’m doing the right things regardless of what the law says.”
For example, Highlights was one of the first COPPA certified websites, which relates to children’s privacy and ensuring companies aren’t collecting inappropriate information on kids.
“We adopted that way before most because we knew it was the right thing to do,” Stotzer says. •
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