For one day this month, thousands of kids and parents across the U.S. will visit their favorite store, pick up a book, and read about the hijinks of a puppy named Poky. That’s if everything goes according to Golden Books’ plans. On September 25, the New York-based kids pubco will attempt to mount the largest publisher-driven, multiretail promotion of its kind with ‘The Big Little Golden Books Read-In.’
The retail read-ins invite kids and their parents to read along with store staff to one of several titles in GB’s Poky series, and will serve as the local component of the national promotion-a massive celebrity-studded read-in at the USTA National Tennis Center in New York City. The event will be emceed by TV personality Deborah Norville and is expected to draw 20,000 attendees.
So far, over 6,000 book, grocery, drug and mass-market stores have agreed to hold their own events, including Barnes & Noble, Kroger, Kmart, Wal-Mart and Target. By purchasing a GB read-in display, each participating retailer will receive a kit from Golden Books, which will consist of press releases, in-store radio and advertising scripts, ad slicks, and in-store signage, explaining how to carry out the read-in. Retailers that purchase a minimum US$2,500 worth of Golden Books merchandise for the event will be entitled to a copy of each book that’s read at the event, a Poky video, read-in T-shirts-all of which can be given away to customers at their discretion-plus theoption to use a costumed character of either Poky or Pat the Bunny. Additionally, retailers will be given stickers, bookmarks and certificates of achievement for kids who attend the read-ins. For Golden Books, developing the read-ins gives it the opportunity to drive sales of its latest Poky books and merch, while simultaneously promoting literacy and revitalizing a slumping kids book market, says Rich Collins, COO of the company. According to the NPD Group, unit sales for books targeted to kids 13 and younger were down 5.7% in 1998. Though he wouldn’t provide figures, Collins describes GB’s own sales as being flat for the same period. ‘We live in a different time. There are so many other activities available to kids, with computers and video games, that reading, unfortunately, gets saddled with the educational baggage,’ says Collins. ‘Kids see it as something they have to do, not something they would do for fun, which is what we’re trying to change with the read-ins.’
The key to making a one-day promotion with multiple retailers work is in allowing each to modify the event to suit their own needs, adds Collins. For many stores, that meant incorporating the positive PR juice that accompanies promoting children’s literacy into their own charitable endeavors. With Target, for instance, GB will donate two books for every Poky & Friends title sold during the read-in to the chain’s Take Charge of Education initiative.
The retailers have also put their own gloss on product tie-ins with read-in promo partner Johnson & Johnson. At Target, Poky displays will feature coupons offering US$2 off a Poky & Friends backpack with proof of purchase of a Johnson & Johnson Shampoo product. At Wal-Mart, select J&J Shampoo products will come with mini-versions of Golden Books titles attached. J&J is also running a contest offering the grand prize of a free trip to New York City for the read-in at the Tennis Center, which consumers can enter at participating retail locations.
Though the read-ins will be a first for many stores, the format by now is old hat for bookstores like Barnes & Noble, who run similar story times for kids on a weekly basis. Nevertheless, B&N has benefited from such events, seeing a single-digit spike in sales across all book genres when they’ve run them, says Amber Thalia, children’s event manager at the company. Thalia is anticipating the read-in to do equally well, if not better, because of the brand strength of GB with kids and parents.
In terms of marketing, most retailers will use in-store signage and store circulars to promote the read-ins. Through its ‘Book It’ literacy program, promo partner Pizza Hut will be distributing flyers advertising the event to 56,000 schools in the U.S. Additional awareness will come via promo partner Parents Magazine, which will run a one-page ad for the read-ins in its September issue, and from GB, which is already advertising the promotion on its Web site (www.goldenbooks.com).