Greg Skinner (email@example.com) is the director of Mina, a market intelligence company with expertise in the youth market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked him to do some browsing on our behalf and report on the ways that marketers are promoting their products and brands on-line.
* * *
When it comes to learning and advertising, they’re not always the most natural (or accepted) mix, because parents would prefer that kids consume knowledge as opposed to ads for products. So what, if any, promotions would you find on educational sites? You’d be surprised.
Holy Mama! MaMaMedia unites kids, learning and technology, and is passionate about making all of these elements work together. Sections like Romp offer information ‘sandwiches’ that let you bite deeper into your topic of choice, and in Zap, visitors can compose icons for themselves and their MaMaMedia e-mail. By the time kids have left this site, they have enough skills to make older generations blush (that is, blush even more).
When it comes to the site’s marketing tie-ins, there are really only a couple of places where active promotion takes place.
The first and most evident link is to The MaMaMedia Bookstore with BarnesandNoble.com, which is ‘coming soon.’ The icon looks great and it’s highly compelling. When the bookstore opens, expect Barnes and Noble to get a wack of top-notch exposure, because of the wise pairing of a highly recognizable logo (on the home page!) with large volumes of parental traffic at the site.
A second group of promotions has ev-erything to do with the site itself. MaMaMedia banner ads are prevalent throughout, and each one highlights a different area worth visiting. With banner ads hardly renowned as technical marvels, the MaMaMedia pennants are even more low tech, because they fail to capitalize on the interest they generate by not transporting visitors to their desired destinations. This oversight is a head scratcher, especially considering how advanced the site’s games and puzzles are.
The site features two other elements that could be considered promotional. The first are links to two shareware programs: Paintshop Pro and LightningDraw, both of which are designed to help kids create drawings on-line. Tying in to shareware is an innovative idea, because so few sites offer visitors the power of the Net. And secondly, NASA gets a big boost, with numerous links to its site (which offers kids lots of information). Although the relationship between the two sites is not commercial, NASA’s site is paid some much-deserved attention.
MaMaMedia really encourages kids to get involved through making the Web site a place to explore, construct and meet others. It will be interesting to see what sort of relationship MaMaMedia will establish with Barnes and Noble, but you can bet it’s going be based in learning.
Overall rating: I’m OK, you’re OK (7 out of 10)
The theme at the Headbone Zone is ‘use your headbone,’ and once you’re inside the site, your mind is a muscle that gets plenty of exercise. Headbone makes learning attractive by tying in the potential to win fun stuff, and by the end of it, your desire to explore-and to return to the site-is undeniable.
In the middle of this marvelous mayhem is Archie McPhee, ‘outfitters of popular culture,’ from rubber chickens to Martian figures to voodoo dolls. As the primary supplier of the site’s giveaways, McPhee is linked to the site with a banner on Headbone’s home page. Most interesting is that fact that at the McPhee home page, you’ll find a link back to the Headbone Zone. Excellent.
Headbone is filled with games ranging from trivia, such as Elroy’s Riddleopolis, to more complex adventures, including Derby. In Derby, a puzzle that you must solve by looking for answers on the Internet, you discover a beautiful tie-in to Yahoo!. Here, a prominently displayed Yahoo! icon encourages young researchers to make it their search engine of choice. To reinforce this, the site keeps everything fully integrated so that users never have to leave Headbone while hunting for answers. Everyone stays on-premise and happy!
Eye-catching banners at the top of each page encourage you to visit other areas of the Headbone site. Each one is a highly compelling link through the use of color and graphics, and contributes to the fun by blasting you around at the click of your mouse. Headbone has an excellent focus on creating an exciting environment to which the kids can relate, and the banners go a long way in reinforcing this.
The bottom line is that this site comes across as good clean fun and not too marketing-heavy. Archie McPhee and Headbone’s self-promotional banners-the site’s two biggest marketing components-work together seamlessly. And while the site doesn’t tie in with other sponsors, it’s still incredibly effective at getting visitors hyped about what it does have to offer.
Overall rating: rubber spider giveaways. Yeahhh!! (8 out of 10)