By Pamela Brill
It may still feel like winter, but when it comes to promoting outdoor play, things are starting to heat up in the toy business. Gone are the days when manufacturers relied on print and online-only ad campaigns to attract moms to their brand. Today, companies are expanding their reach by investing in new marketing methods to boost business and maintain their presence in a competitive marketplace.
Melissa & Doug, a veritable specialty toy favorite, hosts spring and early summer photo challenges, inviting its loyal customer base to share their experiences with other parents online. “We like to encourage our fan community to ‘spring into spring’ by doing fun, educational activities with kids outside, and our Sunny Patch line is big part of that,” says Public Relations/Social Media Specialist Anna Ritchie.
Last year, the company premiered its virtual Camp Sunny Patch campaign, inviting bloggers to share their ideas for outdoor play and providing weekly suggestions for activities involving Sunny Patch product. Participants were provided with downloadable badges for their young campers to wear, along with product for review.
One of the bloggers who participated in last year’s Camp Sunny Patch, Valerie of Inner Child Fun, commented on her experience with the program. “You could think of Camp Sunny Patch as a virtual go-to guide for creative summertime fun with the kids,” she says. “We provided the basic framework with imaginative play ideas, easy crafts and plenty of outdoor activities and then encouraged parents to connect with their kids, while exploring a different theme each week.”
“One Cup at a Time”
Enticing kids to get outdoors, while supporting a charitable cause, is also visible at the retail level. This coming summer, Toys “R” Us will be resuming its partnership with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to finding a cure for childhood cancer. Last year, shoppers were encouraged to make donations to “help fight childhood cancer, one cup at a time” or by signing up to host Alex’s Lemonade Stands. Crayola was among the brands that got involved. As a result, Toys “R” Us and families across the country helped to raise nearly $1.9 million benefitting the organization.
“The simple, yet powerful, act of hosting a lemonade stand, and the story behind ALSF, has definitely struck a chord,” said Sloane Lucas, Director, Corporate Philanthropy, Toys “R” Us, Inc., Toys “R” Us, in an official statement. “We understand the importance of helping kids in times of need and hope that each dollar raised will help Alex’s dream of finding a cure for childhood cancer become a reality.”
Pamela Brill is a professional magazine editor and writer whose work has appeared in such national publications as Parents, Woman’s Day and Girls’ Life. The former editor of Small World magazine, she is currently an editor at large for Gifts & Decorative Accessories/Playthings magazine and produces her own blog, The Talking Walnut, which highlights new kids’ products. As a member of the Norwood Avenue School PTA in Northport, N.Y., Pam recently began volunteering for the Parents As Reading Partners (PARP) program to encourage literacy for young readers.