EM Interview: Maryellen Zarakas-svp, Warner Bros. - Event Marketer

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EM Interview: Maryellen Zarakas-svp, Warner Bros.

Last fall, Warner Bros. paired up its animated Scooby-Doo character with Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan to generate awareness for The National Family Pack Walk on Oct. 30 at Lake Balboa Park, Van Nuys, CA. The event offered attendees a day of family-friendly games, training and education on how to enhance the relationship between owners and their dogs. Millan and Scooby-Doo kicked off the event with a 1.5-mile Pack Walk and proceeds were donated to the Millan Foundation, which promotes animal welfare by supporting the rescue, rehabilitation and re-homing of abused and abandoned dogs (Grand Central Marketing, New York City, handled).

Here, Warner Bros. svp Maryellen Zarakas talks about how the company is using a mix of targeted live events, deep consumer research and social media partnerships to drive interest in its cartoon properties, now in its extended, web-only version. Watch the video of the activation here.

EM: Tell us about WB’s objectives for the Scooby-Doo event and others like it?
MZ: With all of our brands, we realize that our fans are really eager for real-world interactions and memorable experiences, and we strive to foster authentic moments at all our events. The National Family Pack Walk event is part of an on-going collaboration between Warner Bros. Consumer Products and Scooby-Doo, together with Cesar Millan and the Cesar Millan Foundation. Because of the work that the Cesar Millan Foundation does with abused and abandoned dogs, it has made perfect sense for Scooby-Doo to participate in these types of charitable efforts. Our objective is to target a broader audience and via Cesar Millan as an entity, particularly his Foundation causes, we are able to do so in a more meaningful and impactful way.  Similarly, the Cesar Millan Foundation is able to capture a more family audience via the Scooby-Doo character to bring awareness to their charitable causes. It’s really a win-win.

EM: What kinds of consumer research are you doing before developing an event strategy for each character?
MZ: We routinely conduct both qualitative and quantitative research for our brands on a worldwide basis, which gives us significant insights into our consumer and how their needs are evolving, along with providing regional differences. We also constantly monitor the fans of our properties—what they like, want, would like to purchase. Social media tools, such as Facebook polls, allow us to gauge immediate responses to what our consumers are thinking about. Facebook insights, provided to profile administrators, allow us to see where our fans are located and how often they are engaging. The Studio has a Twitter Committee that provides us regular insight on topics that are trending and how our brands can engage with the consumer. We feel that events are a culmination of insights that we gain continually from research and social media efforts. For example, we know that live costume character appearances are always a big hit and our fans “like” the posted photos of those experiences. Every time we post these kinds of images, our “share” trends increase. This being the case, we try to offer instant opportunities on-site for fans to share images of themselves and our characters at events via live linking and instant share functionality. With such great feedback and insights, we can develop programs with specific partners to create events that are the best fit for our brand and audience.

EM: Tell us more about the role social media partnerships are playing at your live events.
MZ: Currently, our Scooby-Doo official Facebook page has 841,000 fans and Cesar Millan has 1.6 million fans. This outreach tool is a powerful way to reach our audience. Both the Scooby-Doo and the Cesar Millan Foundation Facebook pages have incredible outreach and following, and fans that already enjoy ongoing communication. So while we didn’t see significant increases in fan numbers on these pages during the promotional window, we did see a lot more engagement and fan commentary leading up to and after about the event. It also gave a connection point in topics such as pet behavior on the Scooby page and cartoon animation on the Cesar page, conversations that may not always be a natural fit to these profiles. We are visible to the ongoing positive feedback on the partnership, event and even requests to bring a similar event to other markets. By monitoring this feedback, and hearing what fans have to say, it has been noted as we look to make upcoming decisions, such as exploring locations on the East Coast in 2012. We were able to promote the Pack Walk event via these outlets to gain more physical attendance, and also raise the awareness of the cause for our global fan base.

EM: What role is experiential marketing playing in connecting consumers to beloved WB cartoon characters?
MZ: We constantly look for ways to reach our consumer on a more personal and tangible level, especially in such an evolving market. Personal interaction and experiential marketing helps to achieve this objective in much more meaningful ways. This is especially important for our younger demographics that are constantly faced and surrounded by messaging and so much more in the virtual landscape. We are responsible for connecting our brands and characters with fans, and if we can provide a live, personal and positive experience with some of the world’s most beloved characters and brands, we know that is going to have a much more long-term impact.

EM: Any tips or insights you can provide for our readers about using experiential to connect consumers to their brands?
MZ: While we acknowledge that investing in digital campaigns that are far reaching is one of the most efficient uses of marketing budgets, we have found that it is always important to balance that with more personal touches. Even if a regional event has a specific localized target audience, the reach beyond, especially in today’s time with the breadth and depth of digital tools, allows for a more deeply rooted impact that is still a very important part of our marketing process. Our brands must always be in touch with the people—fans that have and are growing up with these beloved characters and classic icons—it’s what keeps them relevant and thriving decade after decade. EM

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