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OPINION: How 'influencers' can help MI brands reach new markets

Laura  Barnes
OPINION: How 'influencers' can help MI brands reach new markets

Mimram Media’s Darrell Carter looks at how influential bloggers and YouTubers can help boost brands, and why the MI market should get in on the action.

The MI market is a fickle beast. I should know, having spent almost half of my adult life working in the sector in some form or other. Juggling being a gig-ing musician while working in MI retail, through to selling print and digital advertising space, organising trade expos and eventually becoming publisher of this esteemed online title, I’ve been there and done that. And certainly, as many of you will know, worn (a selection of hats) to prove it.

While I’ve enjoyed every moment of working within the MI market, it’s also often frustrated me. And, from speaking with many of you at the numerous events around the world where we’ve shared a beer and a natter, I know the feeling is mutual.

We look at the MI market and wonder why it doesn’t compete as well as the bike industry, which is continuing to enjoy a boom at retail. Figures released last year by the sports governing body, British Cycling, found that over two million people across the UK cycle at least once a week. The toy industry continues to grow - figures released January from the NPD Group and British Toy and Hobby Association revealed the UK toy retail market is now worth over £3.5 billion.
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The MI market has a myriad of beautiful products - tactile, tuneful pieces of art - yet we don’t seem to be able to market them as successfully to a wider audience as well as similar markets such as bikes and toys. Why is this?

Brands with new products look to consumer MI publications to get the word out and hopefully secure the odd review. But, this audience of musicians and enthusiasts are already converted; they’ve bought into their brand of choice already, and are very vocal about the pros and cons of each new product.

Clearly, preaching to the converted will only get you so far. These guys have already decided the brand routes they want to follow. We need to invest in the growth of the MI market, and as Newark’s finest diva once sang, I believe the children are our future.

This in itself is a monumental task. According to a Guardian survey of 1,000 teachers in February of this year, one in 10 claim art, music or drama has already been dropped from their schools due to funding cuts, while a fifth revealed that these subjects have already been given reduced timetable space. If we’re to invest in the future of the MI market, we’re going to have to find other ways of connecting with the budding musicians of tomorrow.

But, we can learn from both the toy and the bike markets, both of whom have successfully connected with children through clever brand placement and a proactive approach to marketing, not just to the children, but to the parents - knowing that getting the adults to ‘buy in’ to a brand will secure the long-term investment for years to come.

So, how have they done this? Well, there’s no special formula, or secret society. They’ve done it through a medium that nearly all of you will have heard of, especially if you’re a parent yourself. They’ve secured the services of one of the most powerful and growing routes to market over the past 15 years - by working with influencers.

Working with influencers is one of the most cost-effective and powerful forms of marketing, particularly where brands are targeting teenagers and young people; they are more likely to reach those consumers via YouTube than through traditional TV advertising.

And in the parenting sector, it’s equally impactful, with the 5,000+ UK bloggers, vloggers and YouTubers providing mums, dads, grandparents and more with useful advice, support, product recommendations and endorsements.

But marketers choosing an influencer as a brand ambassador need to look beyond the algorithms – to things like whether the blog’s tone of voice reflects the brand values; are the blogger’s children age-relevant; does the blogger offer approval on content; and much more.

Creating and maintaining a strong network of influencers is an on-going task, as this new stream of media is more transient that other sectors – new blogs launch daily and others close constantly.

It’s also important, of course, to stay abreast of the performance rankings of current bloggers, as they change from month to month.

In the toy, pre-school and children’s entertainment sectors, there’s another very basic factor that has to be considered – kids grow up. So the blogger who worked with you so well last year on your new pre-school line very possibly won’t be the right one for you this year.

Helping brands engage with influencers was the simple idea behind the launch of FunFest three years ago.

My company worked with MI PR Global on the launch event and the 2016 Summit. The event attracts some of the biggest brand names in toys and children’s entertainment - and this year we’re hoping that the MI industry can join us, too.

The one day event will give brands the opportunity to meet with influential parenting bloggers, vloggers and YouTubers.

In addition, a conference programme will give both bloggers and brands insight into new and future trends in this space, plus practical advice on how they can better work together.

To find out more, hop over to www.funfestuk.com or drop me a line at darrell.carter@mimrammedia.com

Tags: Opinion , mimram media , FunFest 2017 , Darrell Carter , influencers , bloggers , youtubers

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