It was the largest mall event ever. For two weeks just before last Halloween, 100 malls in the top markets across the U.S. simultaneously welcomed Scooby-Doo to a US$2.5-million event. The malls saw 240-square-foot center court exhibits, digital camera booths offering kids a chance to appear in a cartoon cel, roaming Scooby characters, a trivia contest and sweepstakes, a ‘cartoonized’ mall environment and an additional US$2.5 million in local advertising. Conceived and executed by the National Mall Network and the Cartoon Network, the event was largely underwritten by partner Kodak for a chance to tout its digital cameras, and Warner Bros. joined in to flog its video offering Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. The malls saw 48 million shoppers over the event’s duration, a 4% increase over the same time period the year before, translating into US$120 million in incremental retail sales.
As the first large-scale simultaneous event in a venue accustomed to mall tours, the Scooby-Doo Mall-O-Ween promotion broke new ground, but according to Charlie Graves, executive VP of the National Mall Network, the event was just the latest in a string of initiatives designed to make malls more marketer-friendly.
A few years ago, the shopping mall was just about the last venue on earth marketers would turn to for a kid-targeted national promotion. It wasn’t that the kids weren’t there (in fact, 25% of all visitors with children ages 12 and under bring their kids with them), it was that large-scale mall events were so difficult to coordinate. In the absence of any network tying the malls together, marketers had to approach each mall separately, and when they did, mall developers and managers usually weren’t interested.
Graves says that changed less than two years ago, when General Growth Properties, the second largest mall chain in the U.S., realized that ‘we’ve got to do a little bit more than just lease space.’ The result was the National Mall Network, a division devoted to coordinating promotional mall events and tours for over 600 malls, 480 of which belong to other developers.
The introduction of the Network, along with a similar division operated by Simon Properties, the largest U.S. mall developer, meant that kids brands could gain entrance to coordinated, controlled environments, each of which sees about one million customers per month. Graves says the venue is ideal for promotions because it’s ‘purchase-friendly,’ carefully monitored by surveys and people-counters on doors, and above all, provides an opportunity for marketers to build the ‘physical and emotional connection’ only possible with live promotions.
Upcoming events include a back-to-school Music in the Mall event targeting teens, who account for 10% of total mall sales and 23% of annual visits, and a Kids Club branded curriculum program launching in fourth quarter 1999. PepsiCo, which initially ran a national promotion through the Network in October 1997, is back this summer as well. According to Graves, PepsiCo’s cross-promotion for Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace will feature a mall component with local radio remotes when it kicks off this month. DH