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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

BRITE '08: Nickelodeon's Pamela Kaufman on Brand Building

Back to the BRITE '08 Conference. I still have quite a bit to share...

Day 1 of the Brite '08 Conference featured Pamela Kaufman, Chief Marketing Officer of Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group, as she discussed "Building Brands in a New Media Environment."

A six year old daughter means that I'm familiar with Nickelodeon. We're into Nick Jr. and Noggin. She loves the BackYardigans and Miss Spider Sunnypatch; Little Bill, The UpsideDown Show, WonderPets and Max and Ruby. She and her friends may not know that they are watching Noggin or Nick Jr., but they do know the channel number and how to access it on the remote [for us, it's 123].

As far as the 'older' stuff, I've caught some Nick at Nite and have come close to Slime Across America, although I made sure to steer far away from it [I just wasn't in a Be Slimed mood, ok? Even virtually.].

Until I heard Kaufman's presentation, I hadn't really appreciated how influenced my household is by Nickelodeon. As aware as I am of Disney [especially lately with High School Musicals and Hannah Montana] - and somewhat cautious of it [I can't help it, I'm suspicious of large, controlling, entertainment entities, even if I admire them] - I have really enjoyed the musicality of the BackYardigans and the cleverness of the Upside Down Show.

From recent press releases, the boilerplate for Nickelodeon reads: "Nickelodeon, in its 28th year, is the number-one entertainment brand for kids. It has built a diverse, global business by putting kids first in everything it does. The company includes television programming and production in the United States and around the world, plus consumer products, online, recreation, books, magazines and feature films. Nickelodeon's U.S. television network is seen in more than 96 million households and has been the number-one-rated basic cable network for 13 consecutive years. Nickelodeon and all related titles, characters and logos are trademarks of Viacom Inc."

According to Kaufman, the Nickelodeon Network has been #1 for 13 years. She joined 11 years ago, becoming CMO in the past year when the rapid growth of the business led to the creation of the CMO position to effectively communicate one consistent brand message. [Here is info on her promotion to EVP in 2005.] In her opinion, the role of the CMO is changing, becoming more about strategy, development and execution to keep the brand message consistent across businesses and to the consumer. Nick's key challenger is Disney.

To restate the boilerplate: Nickelodeon consists of a TV business with 4 channels, 12 digital sites, 2 virtual worlds, 2 magazines, 1 consumer product business $6B [BackYardigans, SpongeBob, Dora, Diego], a movies division [including the 2/14 launch of The Spiderwick Chronicles and last year Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging.]

Nickelodeon is expanding into the recreation business with theme parks [e.g., March 15: Mall of America Nickelodeon Theme Park], and a 20 year deal with Marriott [see Nickelodeon Resorts by Marriott] with family resorts scheduled to open by 2010 in San Diego, Dubai, Hawaii... Then, there's the family cruise this August 10-17 with Royal Caribbean. It has also developed in Kaufman's words a "Giant relationship" with Sony music promoting music and music based shows. Now a global brand, it is the most widely watched channel across world!

Next, we learned about the ad sales/research market. Starting with research.

2008 will be a remarkable year. For the first time, Nickelodeon is becoming a family brand. Launched in 1979, its first viewers are now parents. Nickelodeon considers the family as decision maker. As a result, it clearly communicates an integrated marketing message. [It sees music as a big focus and opportunity. ]

In today's world, kids are consuming media across channels. The challenge, then, is how to break through the clutter and figure out how to reach them. But, Nickelodeon knows its audience! Through research - going to schools, observing, asking questions - it has learned how influential kids are in family decisions.

In 2007, Nickelodeon obtained valuable insights on the environment, retail, the digital family [and how greater and easier access to content leads to more consumption of content]. Parents -more so than kids- consider cell phones an electronic leash, enabling them to keep track of and in contact with their kids. Kids use the Internet for school work; it's important!

Another important insight: now is the first time that kids and parents wear the same clothes, consume the same music, and are on the Internet at the same time. We live in dual consumption households. [Note: I'm almost as familiar with my daughter's favorite characters as she is although she is still coaching me on the names of all of the Miss Spider Sunnypatch bugs.]

Nickelodeon has launched a new show called iCarly. [If you noticed the recent issue of AdAge featured an outer cover with iCarly with the words: "Ground Breaking. Breaking ground with TV & the Web, iCarly premiered as the first scripted series to incorporate user-generated content." Yes. It's scripted on air and uses user generated content; it's a true mashup of TV and the Web. Launched in September 2007, iCarly.com generated 60k submissions since its launch [i.e., in a 4 month period]. It's already the number two show after SpongeBob. [Read Nickelodeon makes its content "slippy" from Valeria Maltoni on MP Daily Fix re: iCarly].

Nickelodeon has also ventured into virtual worlds, introducing its new world Nicktropolis on 1/30/07. It's immersive with games, opportunities to connect, and personal space. It has 6.5 million regular users. Interestingly, Nickelodeon acquired Neopets in 2005. Kaufman says that the Neopets experience - a site where visitors average 51 minutes average per session - positively affected the launch of Nicktropolis.

Where you aware of the following? In the advertising marketplace, Nickelodeon conducts 600 promotions per year. To ensure that advertisers connect with their audience, Nickelodeon creates custom content for advertisers. For example, 11 years ago, there were no automotive accounts. Today, there are 10! [Remember that family/kids influence decisions. ] For example, Chrysler launched the redesigned Town/Country minivan with Nickelodeon, promoting features -like the backseat TV- that would appeal to kids. In an ad created for Chrysler, Jimmy Neutron promotes the minivan. The promotion includes magazine, online, and on air components creating an integrated experiential brand message.

Other example: Wal-Mart. Nickelodeon created Wally & Marty, new cool characters. Wal-Mart is heavily involved in the Kids Choice Awards, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2007. It's very popular, and the only awards program to be growing. Products sold in Wal-Mart feature a code that drives consumers to the website for voting.

[From AdAge, Nickelodeon Sees Digital Dollars Surge on 'Multi-Splatform' Approach Advertisers Follow 3 Million Unique Monthly Visitors to Network's Five Websites and Market Expected to Be Flat, at Just Under $1 Billion. Food Ads Will Level Off; Networks Look to Movie Studios to Keep Spending Also: Nick vs. CN by Andrew Hampp from 02/25/2008 .]

The company also works with Dreamworks Animation [Over The Hedge, Shrek movie launches], teaming up on global campaigns to break through the clutter. This can include time-locked music video [e.g., The Bee Movie].

The long and short of it is that: "What's good for kids is good for business. Kids are leading parents in entertainment." However, the trust factor is critical both with parents and with kids. Kids come first. Any characters and programs must be authentic and relevant to the Nick audience and brand. The Nick brand is open and inclusive [vs. Disney]. Nickelodeon characters represent the population; they are gender neutral, non-violent, fun. They connect with parents and kids [e.g., SpongeBob]. They help build an emotional connection with viewers.

In an otherwise fragmented media environment, content and brand rule at Nickelodeon.


For more about Kaufman, read Marketers looking to break rules should be ready to go ‘splat’. Second day at Kellogg School Marketing Conference brimming with unconventional wisdom by Ed Finkel.

Other recent posts relating to the BRITE conference:
+ Max Kalehoff: Invent-It-Yourself Innovation Is A Likely Path To Nowhere
+ Blogroll: More Bloggers Report on BRITE '08
+ Justin Fox's "Craig Newmark has a bright future in advertising, and Spotme is still cool"

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