Sago Mini is a premium global preschool brand that creates delightful and innovative toys and mobile apps for children. In just four years, the company has achieved over 20 million app downloads and found a place for its toy products on the shelves of top retailers including Barnes & Noble and Nordstrom.
We spoke with Teena Saur, Director of Brand and Marketing at Sago Mini, about the company’s influencer marketing strategy, upcoming apps and products, and the toy industry more broadly. Read the interview below:
1. Tell me a bit about yourself and Sago Mini (e.g. brief company history and highlights, your role, how Sago Mini got its start, etc.).
Based in Toronto, Sago Mini was founded in 2013, after CEO Jason Krogh and Bjorn Jeffery, Founder of Toca Boca, had a particularly life-changing chat about their shared values and love for open-ended play. Four years later, with over 20 million downloads of their award-winning apps, Sago Mini set out to create a new line of toys based on the characters in their apps.
Toys that embody the spirit of Sago Mini – open-ended play, thoughtful design and delightful details, and build on kids’ natural sense of wonder. As Director of Brand & Marketing at Sago Mini, my team works to ensure that we consistently deliver an exceptional brand experience that meets both kids’ and parents’ expectations.
As a preschool brand, we communicate to parents. In order to connect with them, we put empathy first, and always ‘think, feel and behave like parents’ to understand their needs, pain points and preferences.
Internally, the marketing team is proud to be the voice of the customer. Customers are our north star.
2. How has the rise of mobile devices and digital media impacted Sago Mini’s marketing strategies?
The rise of mobile devices has only grown the number of ways we can reach and engage with our customers.
The challenge has been to know which channels current and prospective customers prefer to be reached on – when, where, how often and with what kinds of information.
Content relevance and messaging are key. And video content has been increasingly important to our digital marketing efforts.
Technology and innovation are in our DNA. Our CEO, Jason Krogh was one of the very first developers to create quality apps for kids. Through our digital toys, we’ve been fortunate to leverage customer data, research, and analytics to better understand our customers and their user experience.
Whether it be through mobile devices or traditional media, how our customers prefer to receive content is tantamount to how we deliver it to them.
3. How does influencer marketing fit in with your overall approach to social media marketing?
Influencer marketing on Instagram is a key part of our toy marketing strategy.
It’s an effective brand building/engagement tool for parents because it feels personal, like word-of-mouth at scale. In this digital age, millennial parents are active on social media. Some even follow, trust and admire social media personalities.
Moms, in particular, spend hours on the internet in search of helpful content or advice on best products/services for their kids.
We’ve learned that moms tend to trust ‘unbiased’ recommendations from friends, mom blogs, online communities and influencers sometimes even more than ‘one-way’ brand advertisements.
For Sago Mini, partnering with Instagrammers is a powerful way to reach, resonate and engage with parents via highly creative and unique formats.
4. What have been the chief takeaways from your influencer marketing campaigns?
We employ influencer marketing campaigns primarily for three reasons:
Influencer campaigns have been an effective way to build brand awareness and introduce our products to new audiences.
Key considerations include influencers brand fit, the level of engagement over number of followers and whether they fall into our customers’ life stage/demographic. We’ve partnered with influencers who share the same values and appreciation for learning through play to ensure we’re remaining true to our brand promise.
Most importantly, our influencer campaigns often include giveaways and contests, providing moms with a fun opportunity to engage with, contribute/comment, and share our brand with their friends.
5. Sago Mini has partnered with an array of family-focused influencers. Who’s your favorite influencer you’ve worked with and why?
Oh no – you’re asking me to pick a favorite child! We’ve been very fortunate to partner with some amazing Instagrammers in the US such as @kctauffer, @mommasgonecity, @ohjoy, @marylauren, @chrislovesjulia and many more.
Their enthusiasm for our toys has been heartfelt and sincere. I think the authenticity of our sponsored posts with these amazing moms has helped us to achieve high levels of engagement and brand visibility on Instagram.
6. What are some of the biggest trends emerging in the kid, games, and toy industries to be aware of?
At Sago Mini, some of the biggest trends we are noticing are not necessarily category related. Retail is undergoing a massive transformation. With the proliferation of e-commerce, experiential retailing is on the rise. We get excited at the prospect of partnering with retailers to reach new customers through unique and creative marketing activities that strengthen our positioning as a premium preschool global brand.
While trends are important, keeping a close eye on parents’ evolving needs, lifestyles and aspirations is paramount. Through ongoing research, we’ve learned that parents around the world want the very best for their kids. They ultimately want to raise happy and healthy kids.
With regard to toys, parents have practical concerns and aspirational needs too. Our customers have a bent for modern design, quality/safety, and portability. They appreciate intelligent toy designs that fit seamlessly into their lives while growing their kids’ curiosity, imagination and confidence through imaginative play.
If we can continue to anticipate our customers’ future needs within the context of broader cultural, social and consumption trends, we can focus on what matters most to our customers and continue to deliver play experiences that appeal equally to both kids and parents.
Photo: Sago Mini’s Jinja’s House Portable Playset available at Barnes & Noble
7. Looking ahead to Q4 and into 2018, what’s top of mind for the Sago Mini marketing team? Any new initiatives or launches we should be on the lookout for?
As we accelerate our global expansion to meet a growing demand, thoughtful design and innovation will continue to drive sustainable long-term growth at Sago Mini. Our role in marketing will be twofold: to continue to bridge the gap between our brand and prospective parents and to deepen relationships with our existing customer base.
We have many new and exciting projects and products for parents of preschoolers!
For one, our 2017 toy collection is currently available at MoMA, Barnes & Noble, Nordstrom, Indigo (Canada), Mastermind (Canada) and hundreds of specialty retailers across North America. We are also launching two more must-have apps before 2017!
8. Anything else you’d like to add?
From one parent to another, I highly recommend our:
This interview has been edited for clarity.