Child products look to expand reach

Though it can be hard for firms to get their products in the pages of parenting titles, the general media and a new magazine for the upscale yield more options.

Though it can be hard for firms to get their products in the pages of parenting titles, the general media and a new magazine for the upscale yield more options.

The success of shopping magazines like Lucky and Cargo have spurred publishers to look at an equally lucrative audience: wealthy parents.

Advance Publications is introducing Cookie, the first upscale lifestyle magazine aimed at raising stylish infants. The new title will combine editorial content with a shopping guide of high-end products.

Although the magazine is already making headlines ahead of its November debut, coverage of children's products is hardly new.

"The bulk of our editorial content is advice about raising happy, healthy kids," says Kate Lawler, executive editor of Parents magazine. "One part of our service coverage has always been about kids products. We want to help parents pick the right baby gear, kids toys, nursery furniture, and so on."

Cherie Stewart, director of corporate communications for educational toy maker LeapFrog, also notes that parenting titles have been open to covering a wide range of topics that fall under child rearing. "We work with all the parenting publications, and I feel like we have great opportunities with them because they've always done a lot of product coverage."

Breaking into leading titles

Many of the well-established parenting outlets have their own childhood development experts on staff, as well as internal testing departments, where children try out new products. But getting the attention of these publications can often prove challenging.

Sam Reich-Dagnen, cofounder of Braincandy, which produces a DVD/video series aimed at helping young children understand how to use their five senses, notes that it can be difficult for a new company to break into leading outlets like Parents or Child.

"We just got our first mention in Parenting last month in the tips section," she says. "But it was hard to get in the door even to get that tiny little review."

She adds that it is much more realistic to target the many free regional parenting magazines - like Seattle's Child - that have popped up in major markets around the country.

"They're constantly looking to do editorial features complete with sidebars. And while they won't really review products, they'll include you," she says. "It seems like there's more opportunity there because they're a little bit more accessible."

Although the editorial content of Parents deals with raising kids up to age 12, the bulk of the magazine's audience is made up of parents of children ages newborn to six, Lawler says. That means that like bridal magazines, parenting outlets frequently turn over readership. It also means that they revisit many of the same issues on a regular basis.

"What you find when you read these magazines is they'll have the same story every six months, but with a slightly different slant," Reich-Dagnen says.

Stewart notes that reviews of children's products tend to appear year round, but coverage certainly peaks during the holidays or back-to-school time. "The other ideal time is right before summer, when you can pitch stories on how to avoid brain drain for your kids when they're out of school," she adds.

Parenting and women's magazines are obviously the key targets for most children's products, but there are also some opportunities in major market papers and general lifestyle outlets.

"Our products appeal to an active biking, running, and fitness audience, as well as a parenting audience, so we can hit a variety of different media," says Mo Moorman, director of marketing and PR for Pacific Cycle, which markets strollers and joggers under the InStep and Schwinn brands. Moorman adds that most of these general interest outlets, especially those with health and fitness angles, are unlikely to do extensive reviews, but will feature pictures or basic product information.

Possible backlash

It remains to be seen whether Cookie will appeal to the audience of upscale parents who have to have the right stroller, diaper bag, bassinet, or educational toy.

Some industry experts speculate that its launch comes at a time when there appears to be backlash against the idea that there are products that parents "must" have for their children.

After years of being lectured that not having the "right" learning toys or attending the "right" preschool would doom children to a life of mediocrity, parents - especially mothers - are starting to push back.

"I think the media has picked up on a huge trend among parents who don't want to feel quite so pressured to be perfect and want their kids just to be kids," says Reich-Dagnen. "Parents are getting really tired of being 'expert-ed' to death and just want to experience the joy of parenting."

Pitching... children's products

  • Pitch the morning TV shows for children's products, especially during the back-to-school and holiday periods.

  • Remember that most of the leading parenting publications have long four- to six-month lead times. Make sure you plan well ahead for stories.

  • There are many awards for children's products, from the Parents' Choice Award to Dr. Toy. Because many outlets will announce the winners, they can be a great way to get your client positive press.

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