When the pandemic started, Jazwares (Links to an external site.) – the company for which I work as SEO Copy Strategist in the digital marketing team – halted most of their marketing campaigns. We didn’t go dark; we just took a pregnant pause. The toy company headquartered in Sunrise, FL but with offices all over the world, including Australia, Germany, Mexico, and most recently Vietnam (to name a few), needed to focus inwardly before they could turn their attention outwardly. Several companies were able to pivot admirably  – case in point: Guinness (Links to an external site.), the beer company that was able to re-evaluate and change their marketing messaging within days before their St. Patrick’s Day campaign was launched.

For other companies, pivoting quickly wasn’t possible, as these were unprecedented times. For Jazwares, it took nearly a month before all digital marketing efforts were re-assessed, pulled, re-worked, and launched. This brings us to the question of responsiveness in the time of an emergency. What have we learned about operating our marketing departments in the midst of a pandemic? How must we adjust our digital marketing efforts, in particular, to increase the chances of coming out as unscathed as possible?

This will not look the same for everyone, of course, and by no means is this meant to be some sort of playbook, however, being in the thick of it teaches you important lessons about how to adjust on the fly. For one, not all is lost (Links to an external site.)

Spearheaded by Jazwares’ CMO Kelly Deen, this is how the digital and overall marketing department at Jazwares did it:

Respond with Empathy

As a Search Engine Optimizer, I always keep an eye on trending searches, breakout keywords, seasonal trends, and news of the toy industry. There are many types of resources that I use, from the basics (SEMRush, Moz, Google Trends, Keyword Planner, etc.) to other insight platforms like Google Think, Buzzsumo, and even Cision. It became apparent rather quickly that consumers were suffering from a different sort of ad fatigue: they were tired from seeing the same, old inauthentic message that ‘XYZ company is with you through thick and thin.’ 

To consumers, it reeked of self-serving attitudes, and as a result, many organizations – like the NFL (Links to an external site.) – faced backlash.

Although Jazwares is not as highly profiled as Mattel or Hasbro, we still wanted to craft something for the world, and take our time to do so. We realized that responding with humility, collaboration, and passion would help our message resonate with audiences. 

Digital Content Channels

Question everything. This became our mantra. 

  • Social – Creating engaging content and carrying out community management that is engaging and relevant for parents and children, centering on co-play or co-learning (#AloneTogether)
  • Influencer – We wanted to lean into the shared social experience by crafting uplifting content featuring families, co-playing, always keeping an eye on social distancing sensitivity
  • Web – Evaluate all web banners and ensure that assets conform to the current status of the world (not featuring group shots of people interacting in close proximity with each other, etc)
  • Blog – Sharing weekly updates with activities and complimentary product recommendations in a factual buy friendly – and always empathetic – manner
  • PR – Launch an outreach to parenting and consumer pubs and media to pitch story angles on how to stimulate children while at home and out of school, assistance with learning, dealing with mental stress and anxiety, etc
  • Email – Sending messages elevating real-parents and real kids while also aligning information, activities, and product
  • Paid – We wanted to drive awareness of useful products, information, and even activities that are not usually considered ‘essential’ products 

The toy industry experienced an uptick in online sales during the pandemic, and having taken this approach helped the company leverage our position in the market. Per Global Newswire (Links to an external site.), “the Global Toy Market is projected to display slow but sustained growth represented by a CAGR of 1.4% during 2020 – 2025.”

NPD also released a report (Links to an external site.) stating:

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents and children are working and schooling from home, but U.S. families are balancing screen-time with real-world activities and traditional play.”

Our detailed and thorough content curation and our ability to focus on how consumer behavior was changing during the time of the pandemic, allowed Jazwares to find success in the market, and this all started by honing in on our digital channels and making the needed adjustments.