Toy Brand Bandai Leverages Digital to Lead U.S. Product Launches

Japanese toy manufacturer Bandai is leaning heavily on digital to help translate and introduce its brands to the U.S. market, according to the company’s VP of marketing for its girls’ and preschool products, Tor Sirset.

Speaking at the Engage conference in New York this afternoon, Sirset described the increasingly “symbiotic” relationship between his companies’ physical products and the online extensions of those brands. In addition he stressed the importance of digital platforms in advertising and marketing those products, particularly through content on social networks and online communities.

By Sirset’s admission, Bandai’s brands are underrepresented in the U.S. when compared with markets in Asia, and even some parts of Europe. As it seeks to launch and re-launch its products for local consumers, however, online experiences are playing an integral part in that introduction.

For example, Sirset described the imminent launch of a new line of Tamagotchi products and a re-launch of its related online destination – Tamatown. Ahead of a full launch of the new product in the fall, Bandai plans to make use of a range of rich media ads to spark interest among early adopters. In addition, video content will be pushed out through YouTube, again with the intention of “helping kids understand the online content on offer, and begin to build the characters.”

Sirset repeatedly described digital media as a means to initiate and build brand awareness ahead of traditional campaigns through channels such as TV. Even then, TV spots for many of its brands focus heavily on driving traffic to the online destinations tied to those brands, through which further interaction is promoted. For example, for most of the brands mentioned, codes on the products themselves unlock additional online features or content. Although that concept is far from revolutionary, Sirset emphasized the importance in building the overall online experience to the product, and the child’s play pattern.

In support of a brand new introduction to the U.S. market – pre-school TV show “Pocoyo” – Sirset again emphasized the importance of social media in what he described as “pre-launch” activity. Having established itself across Europe, and particularly in Spain, Bandai is making use of the substantial online community that already exists around Pocoyo the brand.

The official Pocoyo YouTube channel has already attracted in excess of 100 million views worldwide, and Sirset suggested simple display ads in that environment would help drive the brand, and even purchase intent. “Ads against that content helps to build awareness, and can ultimately leverage a purchase. It’s just taking advantage of the eyeballs that are already there,” he said.

Since the programming and merchandise are aimed at children around four years of age, there’s little doubt that online activity is being driven by moms, Sirset said. It’s this “mommy blogger” audience that is a focal point for much of its social media activity. “We push content and press releases out to those blogs, and just watch the reaction,” he said. “We can track positive and negative views, and react accordingly.”

The new Tamagotchi and Pocoya products are due to launch officially later this year.

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