While the pandemic disrupted various plans, the marketing teams had to adapt newer techniques in a short span of time to continue to cover the new grounds, and confront the unprecedented challenges. One of India’s leading kids’ broadcasters, Nickelodeon, initiated many interesting and innovative marketing techniques to stay connected with the kids even in a crisis.
In an interview with AnimationXpress, Viacom18 head of marketing – kids TV network Sonali Bhattacharya shared the various challenges they faced, how the channel promoted its shows during the pandemic and gave details about its different marketing initiatives.
Speaking about the challenges that the marketing team faced during the pandemic, Bhattacharya mentioned, “Within one night, half of our marketing plans had to be shelved as they couldn’t be put into motion as none of the touchpoints existed anymore. We had to pivot our plans overnight, and think multi-screen and reach different platforms. We started curating our content in such a way that it should bond with kids on any possible screen they are connected to because it was a huge and single source of entertainment to kids when they were indoors.”
She further added, “Escaping in the world of their favourite cartoon characters gave the kids a great sense of respite, relief, and positive energy. During the lockdowns, a lot of things we did were DIY and collaborated with a lot of influencers to make the kids engage and participate from their own homes. We launched #Nicksaysdance,#Sonicschoolofpool where Sonic toons gave kids a lot of tips on digital and technological hacks, and shortcuts that helped them to perform well at school and virtual classes. We tried to make the screen time as meaningful for the child by keeping them extremely positive. As a leading brand, we always keep kids as our first priority. As things are getting normal and opening, we are hopeful that we connect on-ground again but as we know the reality changes everyday.”
Bhattacharya believes that while marketing content for kids, the kids’ marketer should keep the child’s safety in mind, and the content should be light-hearted and humorous which clicks best with the kids. “Nickelodeon always empowers kids and gives them a platform to express themselves. They are the most innocent target groups and at the same time very dynamic,” added Bhattacharya.
As the kids and families were homebound during the lockdown, Nick collaborated with various food brands like Belgian Waffle, Smoking Joe’s, and New York Burrito Company to make the food reach the kids in Nickelodeon branded boxes with their show stickers. Commenting on the collaboration with the food brands and how the response has been from the kids and families, Bhattacharya elaborated, “During the lockdown kids and families are locked up indoors and there was a huge surge of home deliveries as people were not able to go out and eat their favourite foods. We saw a massive rise in the way Swiggy and Zomato delivered the food. We were challenged on how to reach people and kids during the pandemic, as we were not allowed to do on-ground activation which we typically follow to engage with kids. We had to think out of the box and innovate to see how we reach out to kids in a positive and effective way. Then we thought of partnering with food brands and giving Nickelodeon twist and fun on waffles, donuts, pizzas which are the most favourite food for kids and families. The food products and packaging were curated with cartoon characters like Golmaal Junior, Chikoo Aur Bunty, as kids share a great bond with Nicktoons. It did wonders for our partners, as partnering with leading cartoon characters who have a strong bond with kids is a win-win for them. It was a very big success for both, the innovation we tried paid off very well.”
Nick has always stepped ahead in keeping the kids entertained, engaged, and connected with their friends and social peers. The channel kickstarted various digital campaigns like #toastyourdost, #beaherotoyoursuperhero,#nostressexpress, and many more. “Lot of partnerships happened through online and missed calls as kids are now digital native and for them to get connected and participate in a contest is something they love to do. One of our campaign – #toastyourdost – was launched in the month of friendship, as friendship saw a great change during the lockdown. Even though the kids were away from school and were meeting each other only at playgrounds, they managed to stay connected virtually. We wanted to give them a platform and opportunity to celebrate and toast every kind of friend they have in the group whether it may be a bukkad dost, chippo dost, late lateef dost. We always look forward to making the kids express themselves and again this campaign turned out to be the best as a lot of conversations took place on social media and some amazing anecdotes were shared between friends. It worked well for Nick,” shared the marketing head.
Other than launching new shows and new episodes to keep the kids engaged and entertained, the broadcaster kept the little one’s health in mind and partnered with SARVA Yoga Studios to bring Yoga closer to its little fans and educate them about the enormous benefits derived from Yoga. Nickelodeon brought yoga to its audiences in a more cool and fun manner through a unique interactive Yoga workshop with Nicktoons Shiva, Rudra, and Happy.
In an attempt to redefine the craze for Ludo through the kids’ most favourite characters, thus making the game more fun to play, Nick partnered with Google. Talking about the success and reach the Nicktoons Ludo achieved, Bhattacharya mentioned, “We never imagined it would be such a success. Nostalgia turned out to be a very big book for audiences during the lockdown. Everything that was popular a few years ago suddenly came back with a huge front seat; be it a mythological content or a parent sitting and watching Motu Patlu as a stress buster with kids at home. Games like Ludo, Carrom, Snakes and Ladders were played by kids and parents when they were locked up at home. So we thought of giving an amazing new twist to the classic games. We approached Google to support us in this initiative. The beauty of the game was that it has been customised with Nicktoons Motu-Patlu, Rudra-Rangeela, Shiva-Reva, and Happy-Pinaki. We also curated games like Snakes and Ladders with Happy and Pinaki and Carrom with Chikoo Aur Bunty. This initiative was appreciated and received well by kids as the bond they share with Nicktoons is phenomenal.”
Plans for 2022
Revealing Nick licensing and merchandising plans for 2022 and how they adapted to digital creative methods by curating Nicktoons GIFs, AR filters, and stickers to make kids digital experience more interactive, Bhattacharya said, “Merchandising is an ongoing process as kids want to have a physical connection with characters they adore so much; be it a school bag with Rudra on it, or water bottle with Shiva on it, or notebook with Dora on it. It is not going to end till the kids share the unique friendships with their favourite toons.
We have many plans in our mind, and as things are opening up, it is going to be better and best in the coming years. We are getting newer brands onboard and our current roster of toons are foraying into far deeper categories of products; from consumer goods, apparel, to electronics and we are also moving into virtual space which we don’t characterise as merchandising and licensing but it is a creative marketing engagement we do with the audience through our Nicktoons GIFs, stickers, emoji which is all about moving into digital space and giving that connect to our kids.”
Looking forward to 2022, a hopeful Bhattacharya said, “In 2022, we will continue to cater a lot of entertainment and we have planned a lot of marketing campaigns where we connect with kids multi-screen, curate content by getting many popular influencers on board. We continue to empower, bring smiles on kids’ faces. We are planning for many new launches. As things are opening up in upcoming months, you can see our marketing campaigns taking on a larger scale beyond screens. Looking forward to 2022 as there is a lot in the pipeline!”