Article

New Kids on the Block

A look as some inventive kids marketing tools coming into play

New Kids on the

A look at some inventive kids marketing tools coming into play, such as targeted, fun-filled events, charitable efforts, and YouTube

By Erinn Morgan

Today's families lead hectic—and often overscheduled—lives. There is little time to linger over choices such as the right eyecare provider and the best eyewear. So, why target this customer with another event to add to their busy calendar?

“Parents are yearning for ways to connect with their kids,” says Julie Halpin, CEO of the New York Citybased Geppetto Group, a marketing agency specializing in youths and the youth mindset. “With so many overscheduled children and busy parents, ‘quality family time’ comes up in survey after survey as the number-one thing that both kids and parents want. Therefore, marketing programs that can provide an opportunity for families to be together and have fun make a really meaningful contribution to today's families.”

To hit this marketing opportunity on the head, a number of eyecare professionals are looking to fun-packed, kid-oriented community events and charitable contributions. Others are getting creative with connected online experiences.

Here, we look at some of the innovative ways in which ECPs are bringing kids and parents together— and boosting their business at the same time.

Are You Charitable?
More than 70 percent of independent eyecare practices actively participate in charitable activities, according to recent research released through the Transitions Healthy Sight for Life Fund. Reaching out to their community and helping those in need, along with building business, are the key reasons ECPs choose to lend a hand. Here, some key statistics from the report that reveal some areas of opportunity:

60% The portion of ECPs who provide eyewear to patients through their charitable efforts.

55% The percentage providing eye exams through their charitable efforts.

40% The share of ECPs who provide vision screenings with charitable efforts.

25% The percentage of ECPs who also provide education as part of their charitable programs.

46% The portion of practices that talk about their charitable endeavors with patients.

47% and 42%: The primary reasons why ECPs are not doing more non-profit work include “lack of time” and “lack of funds,” respectively.

Survey respondents participating in charitable outreach are targeting:
58% Underprivileged populations

50% General populations

43% Kids

32% National/regional vision charities

23% Blind/low vision populations

23% Seniors

11% Multicultural groups

EyeStyles' web page

THE BIG EVENT

One of the most successful kids' marketing approaches utilized by ECPs is to join in with a presence at a large community event. At Preferred Eyecare Center in Mount Pleasant, S.C., Rachael Click, OD, says she has success participating in her community's Halloween event.

“We have a booth at the event and we always have a fun activity like Pin the Sunglasses on the Pumpkin, a giveaway, and a raffle,” says Click. “We also put together 500 bags of candy that we give away, which are really popular because we are the only business that does that.”

When it comes to raffle prizes, Preferred Eyecare Center focuses on the popular toys that kids want. “We try to entertain the kids so we can get the time to talk to parents and educate them,” says Click. What kind of an investment does an eyecare business need to make an event like this? Click says that it costs about $600 for the booth space and all the supplies. But, in this case, the investment is definitely a wise one as this event draws in more than 11,000 people.

“That's pretty cheap for that kind of exposure and the kind of return we see,” says Click, whose kids' frames account for about 10 percent of the total assortment. “I have as many adults as kids come to our practice because of the Kids Fest. Plus, it's important to have a face in the community so people see your name out there.”

Similarly, EyeStyles Optical and Boutique in Oakdale, Minn., has signed up to participate in a local parade this fall. “We want to be a community store,” says Nikki Griffin, an ABOC optician and owner of this store, which specializes in kids' eyewear plus is a retail boutique packed with everything from baby bibs and lunch boxes to candles and jewelry.

The Great Glasses PLAY DAY

Great Glasses Play Day event logo

This year, a kids' event celebrated children who wear glasses and helped raise awareness of the importance of children's eye health. Held August 5, the Great Glasses Play Day was organized by Kristin Ellsworth, Peeps Eyewear founder, and Ann Zawistoski, founder of LittleFourEyes.com, an online support community for parents of kids who wear glasses.
Great Glasses Play Day meet-ups were held in Philadelphia, Portland, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and just outside Washington, D.C. Each event drew an average of 30 participants with kids ranging in age from one to nine. Additional Play Days were also planned for later dates in China, and Australia.
The meet-ups were organized by parents in each location and the events featured fun games, face painting, crafts, book readings, free glasses adjustments, and a Great Glasses Parade. Ellsworth says that greatglassesplayday.com also had some fun online activities for kids who couldn't attend a local meet-up; the site received 1,600 views in the week leading up to the event.
A number of eyewear retailers and practices across the country also participated by posting flyers, providing event information, and celebrating Great Glasses Play Day in their own stores. Massengale Eye Care in Oklahoma City celebrated the event all week in-store with prize giveaways such as books, t-shirts, and tote bags.
“A lot of optical shops had their own displays and events around the Play Day,” says Zawistoski. “Some had book readings and others offered coupons and sales. We hope that families will learn about all these wonderful optical stores and support them.”
Adds Ellsworth, “We sent a flyer and information out to optical stores suggesting ways to celebrate, including a scavenger hunt with prizes, crafts, coloring pages, and stickers. The chain Crown Optical in Missouri did an online celebration with a coupon for $25 off glasses in honor of the Great Glasses Play Day. Small stores like The Glasses Menagerie in Minneapolis offered to do free frame fittings for those who mentioned Great Glasses Play Day. We are really looking forward to growing the event next year.”

Preferred Eyecare Center's Halloween event booth attracts kids and their parents

A CHARITY FOCUS

Preferred Eyecare Center also reaches out to the community with a focus on kids-oriented charity events. In August, Click says they participated in the Give a Kid a Chance program, which delivers backpacks stuffed with new school supplies to underprivileged children. “The event also offers screenings for hearing and vision, so for half a day, the kids rotate through all centers to help gear them up for school,” says Click, who assisted with the vision screenings.

Griffin has also donated her time to charitable efforts. “Last year, I worked with the Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, which runs a volunteer program that goes into inner-city schools to do vision screenings,” she says. “After the screening, they'd contact the parents and coordinate eye exams and glasses for the kids.”

Dallas Youth Optical, which has locations in Dallas and Plano, Texas, and a focus on kids, also looks to charitable efforts to expand its reach.

“We give at least a $50 or $100 gift certificate to the local churches, schools, or fundraisers when they ask for it,” says William J. Franz (or “Mr. Bill”), owner, dispensary manager, and certified ABO master optician. “It really helps promote new business, but it also supports the customers we currently have.”

THE YOUTUBE CONNECTION

Jervey Eye Group in Greenville, S.C., is so busy with kids' business that the staff doesn't feel a need to promote the practice through events or advertising. “Our pediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. Anthony Johnson, has about 50 kids a day on his schedule,” says optical manager Jean Hanley, who notes that the dispensary has about 350 kids' frames on display and a special children's area with a pint-sized table, fish tank, toys, and games.

Still, Jervey Eye Group reaches out to its pediatric patients (and their parents) with educational videos on kids' eyewear, its children's services, and pediatric eye surgery posted on YouTube and the practice's website.

Jervey Eye Group's YouTube channel features videos starring Anthony Johnson, MD

At Dallas Youth Optical, marketing efforts have a cyber service focus. “We are in the process of building our community and audience on the Internet via our website,” says Franz, “where we'll give back through special promotions and new information.” EB

The Kids Marketing Expert
EB caught up with Julie Halpin, CEO of the New York City-based Geppetto Group, a marketing agency specializing in youths and the youth mindset, to get her take on kids' event marketing specifics.

EYECARE BUSINESS: What kind of events can best help to promote a kids' business? Why do these work?

JULIE HALPIN: Parents love finding things on which they and their children can agree. Therefore, events that serve both parents and children are those that work best because both audiences feel served and neither feels compromised. We often ask ourselves: What's in it for the child? What's in it for the parent? If we can't answer both, we move onto the next idea.

EB: Can you suggest an effective marketing event to promote a kids' business?

HALPIN: Kids react better to add-ons than they do to discounts. That's why some of the most effective marketing programs give kids and parents something they can't get elsewhere—an experience, an inside track, access, or benefits. Anyone can deliver reduced pricing, but the best retailers deliver value defined by extras.

EB: What age groups are best reached with events?

HALPIN: Kids [ages six to 12] (and their parents) are best reached with events. They aren't yet jaded and are eager and excited by the types of things that marketers dream up. By the teen years, they can be a bit more cynical and harder to reach. It's not to say that age group can't be motivated, but the stakes are higher as kids mature.

EB: Beyond special marketing events, what are the most effective techniques for retailers to reach kids and their parents today?

HALPIN: Bundling brands and experiences that kids and parents like is extremely effective marketing. Find a promotional partner with the same demographic and find a way to combine forces so that 1+1=3. That's the type of program kids will love.