The world of children’s toys has evolved from wooden blocks to high-end construction sets which stimulate young brains. And the toy industry has changed dramatically as well.
In 1995, Paul Eichen left his corporate gig as an executive at an international data projector company to start the Rokenbok Toy Company. Eichen says, “The concept of uniting robotics with a construction system and creating a classic toy system really interested me.” Until three years ago, his marketing strategy was simple. He reports, “About 80 percent of customers came through specialty toy stores, 20 percent through word-of-mouth, and zero via the Internet.”
When the economy shifted, specialty toy stores began shutting their doors, and Eichen and his team needed to find a new platform to connect with customers and demonstrate how the Rokenbok toy operated. Eichen admits, “It’s not obvious to folks from static images what our toy system is or how you play with it. The construction vehicles are very sophisticated robots within a very sophisticated construction system, but you can’t tell unless you can witness a demonstration of Rokenbok.”
Eichen says, “As the opportunity to demonstrate in toy stores was disappearing, we needed to be creative with new ways which we could demonstrate our toy system. We thought of everything — from renting kiosks in malls during Christmas time to attending events like maker fairs and robotics conferences. Ultimately as we tested different methodologies, we found that creating videos — that not only demonstrated our products, but are really fun and show kids how they can play with Rokenbok — was what really took off for us.”
It also took off for their customers. Rokenbok users also upload videos of themselves playing with their Rokenbok construction systems. Eichen reveals, “There are a lot of teenagers creating YouTube videos. Some of these kids have been playing with Rokenbok for 10 years.” Eichen and the team have tapped into this YouTube community of Rokenbokers.
One of Eichen’s favorite customer videos is Tim and Charlie’s Summer Rokenbok Build, which features the combined Rokenbok sets of these two Rokenbok fans.
Eichen says, “We started experimenting with uploading to YouTube in 2006, but we just started building up the Mr. Rokenbok channel over the past couple years. Really just this year, we discovered it could be such an important vehicle for communications for us, and that really has to do with the new interface and the ability for us to be able to target so easily.”
Rokenbok shoots all of their videos in-house. They write their own scripts, record the voice overs, shoot and edit all the content, which ranges from product demo videos for their “Rokenbok Product Demonstrations” playlist to educational videos for their “School of ROK” playlist. Production value depends on the series. For quick product videos, sometimes Eichen will quickly shoot, edit and post a product video all from his iPad. Check out the”X2 Elevators” video, which was completely produced and posted via iPad.
In fact, Eichen and his team have found that some of the “lower production value” videos that are shot while just playing around actually perform as well as the scripted “higher production value” videos.
The Rokenbok team began using YouTube Promoted Video ads in 2010, and they began using TrueView in-stream ads in 2011. Eichen says, “TrueView has allowed us to refine our campaigns and make sure we are targeting the right customers.”
Eichen reveals, “What we have learned through our exit survey is that children who like to watch videos of construction equipment or machines were discovering our videos.” The Rokenbok team implements keyword motifs like bulldozer, cement truck, trash truck and airplane — words they anticipate kids and families are searching for on YouTube — with their videos ad campaigns.
A set of ROK blocks is $50, and a complete action set is at least a $100 investment. Eichen says, “We don’t expect anyone to buy the product the first time the encounter us, so we need to build a relationship. Our ultimate goal with YouTube is to get families to watch our videos. Rokenbok is not an impulse item. We need to have a relationship with the family before they make an investment to start a collection of our educational toys.”
Eichen adds, “YouTube is becoming our most important vehicle for advertising. We are transforming ourselves from a classic toy system that was sold in specialty toy stores into a direct marketing company. We only sell online now.” YouTube is the number one source of traffic to the Rokenbok site. Today, half of the people that are being introduced to Rokenbok first hear about it through YouTube videos.
Eichen adds, “Half of our business happens in last couple months of the year.” As the company dives into its most important sales season of the year, Eichen and his team are gearing up with banner ads on the Mr. Rokenbok channel that promote their Holiday Bundles and a new series of Rokenbok Adventures. He concludes, “Rokenbok is Santa’s big gift. It is a crazy time for us, helping families getting ready for the Holidays.”