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How Nick pivoted its marketing plans to multi-screen approach in pandemic times

With local home-grown Nicktoons such as ‘Happy & Pinaki – The Bhoot Bandhus’, ‘Ting Tong’, ‘Golmaal Jr’, ‘Motu Patlu’, ‘Shiva’ and ‘Rudra’, to name a few, Nickelodeon has introduced kids to new genres of entertainment. The last IP launched by Nickelodeon, ‘Happy & Pinaki – The Bhoot Bandhus’, was also a runaway hit amongst kids.

With 700+ hours of local content, the franchise today dominates the kids’ space with winning IPs and has established itself as an undisputed category leader. In an interaction with Adgully, Sonali Bhattacharya, Head – Marketing, Kids Entertainment Cluster, Viacom18, speaks about the evolution in marketing to kids due to the unprecedented situation of COVID-19 and much more.

How has the partnerships with Belgian Waffles, Smoking Joe’s and New York Burrito Company benefited the channel?

We do a lot of these innovative partnerships with brand partners to increase the touch points of our marketing campaign. And as we know, in the pandemic, with families and kids being held indoors, there has been a huge spike in online food delivery. And a large part of it is because there has been a great amount of fatigue from cooking healthy meals and kids and families want some sort of respite, and bonding over food has become a very big thing while families are at home. We thought why not tie up with some of the most favourite foods that kids enjoy and try to make it very unique for them. The delight and excitement they feel when they get a pack of waffles with ‘Chickoo aur Bunty’ stickers or Mad Over Donuts collaboration, which was curated with the ‘Golmal Jr.’ toon is unparalleled, it’s almost like having their favourite tune character along with the favourite food that they are going to eat.

So, I would say that these partnerships have been very successful and have made us and the families feel very positive and happy. It has also worked well for our brand partners, because they have got the love of a very winning favourite Nicktoon that kids can’t live without, since the kind of bond our toons have with kids is amazing. So, they have managed to get the advantage of that very strong bond of Nicktoons with their products through the collaborations.

Do you think influencer marketing is driving more interactivity for this genre?

I think more than interaction, it is driving a deeper connection. What influencers manage to bring to the table is a lot of interesting, curated short form content. And the rise of content creating apps has steadily increased in the country. The rise of influencers has exploded in the past couple of years. Trying interesting snacky content that they create in collaboration with the brand is definitely unique and relatable to the kids. They find it something very fun and exciting to engage in. I would say it is more of engaging and connecting with them to different forms of content through influencer marketing. It is important, it is here to stay and there’s a lot of promise in that area for the next few years.

What are some of the innovations that Nick as a brand has come up with, in terms of marketing?

When the lockdown hit in March 2020, it was something that caught us all off guard and especially for a category like ours, we were on the verge of entering the summer months, which is a very critical time for our growth. Overnight, we had to rejig our marketing plan. We had to pivot our marketing plans to suit the current environment, which was completely different from what it was a few days ago. A lot of the marketing avenues that we would use to reach kids were experiential in nature or below the line. Kids being a very tactile target group, marketing initiated to target them involved below the line initiatives. And suddenly that was all impossible for us to do because it was unsafe and nobody was moving out. So, we adopted a completely multi-screen approach, we decided that whatever we do is going to be platform agnostic. We are going to reach out to kids and entertain them to every possible screen that they have access to.

We did a lot of campaigns, the first campaign we did was called ‘Home Okay, Please’. There we used Nicktoons as the biggest advocates and ambassadors who propagated the message masking, safely, sanitizing, hand washing, don’t touch your eyes and nose and all these simple rules that came into being 20 months ago, but to a child, it seems so hostile when it was said to you in the form of a turn, notice. But when we talk to kids, we do it in a very playful and lighthearted manner. ‘Home Okay, Please’ was an innovation itself, where we make staying at home to seem very joyful and happy for the child, instead of making it sound that going out of the house is dangerous and unsafe. We don’t want to ever communicate with a child in a negative fashion. Whatever we do is done very gracefully, and with a lot of humour. So, that was a big innovation.

We realised that kids were not so much in contact with the outside world because they were not allowed to go to school, they were not allowed to go down to the colony and play. And they needed someone to talk to, they needed to share their jokes, a secret, and the best place for any child his favourite cartoon character. And we actually got Motu Patlu, Rudra and Shiva lend their voices to kids, who could speak to their favourite toon over a toll free number and share their jokes and secrets. In six months, the hotline got close to 12 lakh calls from kids. I will say that was an innovation.

It created social media and digital virtual campaigns like ‘Nick says dance’, where we had dance along with popular influencers, and kids could shake a leg at the other side of the screen and learn how to dance. We did ‘Creatively Yours’, where a lot of DIY arts and crafts, and cooking was taught to kids. So we pivoted, we went digital, but we made sure that the digital engagement was extremely meaningful and left the child feeling enthusiastic at the end of the interaction. We also realised that nostalgia has become a big hook somewhere along the line, where people were indoors and we took flagship games like Ludo, Carrom, Snakes and Ladders and we got the game customised with our Nicktoons, which children could play. In fact, the Ludo game was done in collaboration with Google Assistant, a game where kids can play with their toons as part of the game. Similarly, with Snakes and Ladders and now the latest one, ‘Chickoo aur Bunty’ with a Carrom game. And these are all mobile games because games saw a big spike.

With the schools and colleges now reopening, what are your strategies to maintain the traction?

A lot of schools have started opening, and what we are getting to hear is even for the primary school, they are planning to open it after Diwali. But it still seems like it is going to be in a slightly hybrid mode, schools will open, but I don’t think virtual schooling is going to immediately stop, probably it will in the months to come. But I think it is going to be a mix of online versus real time schooling. There’s going to be a little bit of wait and watch that he would need to do before we actually roll out any on ground school contact with kids, yet, their safety is our biggest priority, their health and well being is our biggest priority as the kids’ category leader. And we wouldn’t want to compromise on that. So, I would say, wait a little. We’re also keen to see how parents react to this shift, which is going to bring about a lot of cultural shifts, which we will not see overnight. We will see in the months to come as to how parents are reacting in certain cities. And yes, as a brand that has kids at the center of all, we will start on ground the minute we feel it is safe to do so, because kids like the entire idea of touch playfield with the character, we would bring it back, but probably a little slowly.

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