by CLARK NESSELRODT, executive vice president, Brilliant PR & Marketing
Many brands seem to be under the impression that their yearlong media and influencer results hinge on Toy Fair New York. Yes, we have seen tremendous results from setting up thousands of media appointments on the Javits Center floor, erupting clouds of smoke from science lab demonstrations, landing on-site TV segments, and even creating experiential installations in the Crystal Palace. But, at the end of the year, these hits and impressions represent a relatively small portion of the yearlong results that help grow clients’ businesses. Still, there is a significant opportunity for toy companies to put their new products in front of media and influencers this February just as they always do in NYC.
To best assess how to make up for the lack of Toy Fair in terms of PR, a brand should consider whether it is seeking press for sell-in, sell-through, or both.
For companies seeking coverage in Q1 to fuel retail orders in Q2 to be sold in Q3 and Q4, it is more critical to make up for the lack of Toy Fair New York by aggressively presenting products that are new for 2021 to media and influencers during the same timeframe they typically would at the Javits Center. And yes, your PR teams and agencies may need to work a little harder to do this given everyone won’t be conveniently placed under one roof at one time.
For companies more focused on sell-through either at brick and mortar, on Amazon, or through other digital retailers — including their own — it is always good to get a head start at Toy Fair New York as the decisions informing third- and fourth-quarter coverage won’t really begin until May. This will ramp up significantly in August and continue well into October. What does this mean? Without being able to give media a preview in February, it’s going to be even more critical to have long-lead media outreach primed to launch in May and a mid- and short-lead plan in place by July or August at the absolute latest.
Here’s the bottom line: No, losing the benefit of a live Toy Fair this February does not necessarily have to create a negative impact on your 2021 press and influencer results.
But you will be missing opportunities if you don’t challenge your PR team to get your products in front of the media during the same timeframe. And, it’s even more important than ever to have a solid PR plan in place to kick off in the spring. The larger opportunity at hand, however, is to evolve beyond thinking of PR as a switch that gets turned on and off throughout the year. The most successful companies we meet have embraced the reality that PR results and ROI are best optimized when the practice is considered an always-on part of the marketing mix.