LEGO and Mattel Tap Youth Market - Event Marketer

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LEGO and Mattel Tap Youth Market

Determining how long a live engagement should be is an important strategic consideration for event marketers. Often the debate boils down to a simple equation of quality versus quantity. When it comes to the youth market, however, more and more brands are taking the latter path and finding that it makes all the difference.

To introduce Canadian kids and their parents to its new Color Shifters line of die-cast cars, Mattel’s Hot Wheels brand hit the road this summer to visit 50 markets with the Color Shifters tour that featured a life-sized color shifting Ford Mustang, a wide variety of the new line of cars and an experience that kept kids engaged for upwards of an hour.

“For us to be able to engage kids for a long period of time helps us show that our toys are fun for a long time and that you can play with them again and again,” says Melissa Chau, Hot Wheels brand manager at Mattel Canada. “The longer they stay and play with them, the more likely they’ll want to play with them at home. The longer the interaction the better the chances of a purchase.”

The tour hit retail partners, festivals, urban and rural areas, and the star of the show was the Mustang, which is coated with a unique paint that changes color based on temperature, just like the toys do. (And no, you can’t get it for your car. We asked.) Every few hours at the events, the tour executed a “splashdown,” where the brand ambassadors poured cold water on the car to change its color. Consumers were then invited to touch the car and leave their warm—and thus different colored—handprints.

Though the Mustang was the draw, the engagement strategy was really about giving the right number of kids ample hands-on time with the toys. In fact, the brand ambassadors reported that they sometimes had trouble pulling the kids away from the Hot Wheels toys to take part in the splashdowns. “For us, the secret is to try and have a deeper engagement with a smaller number of kids,” says Chau. “It’s hard for kids to focus, so by constructing long interactions with the Mustang splashdowns, play areas and new toys, we can hold their interest. As soon as the kids see the toys, they’re sold. Trial is the best way for us to get kids excited” (Agency: TrojanOne, Toronto).

Youth marketing master LEGO (check out our cover story on pg. 50 for the deep dive) knows the value of the extended interaction and seeks that connection as a matter of course, and strategy.

“Kids love to build with LEGO bricks, but it’s about more than just putting the bricks out there,” says Vince Rubino, events manager-marketing at LEGO Systems. “We provide the platform and let them create the experience. It is not about the numbers of kids we put through for us. We know that if they’ve had a great, full experience [on event day], they’ll tell their friends and so will their parents.”

To get that lengthy interaction, one of LEGO’s secrets is activating a presence at the right events. The brand will often partner with or sponsor an event that is, in and of itself, a destination. That way, families have already made a commitment of time, so they are ready to stay longer at individual footprints, especially if the kids are entertained. “For our brand, it’s all about getting that hands-on experience,” Rubino says. “That’s what leads to purchases for us.”  EM

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