LeapFrog Case Study - Relaunching to a new Generation of Moms

LeapFrog Enterprises

TV Spot: LeapFrog Ahead - LeapTV (girl) :30
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: Occam   Production/Graphics: Mirada
Skip to:  STRATEGY  |    PACKAGING   |   UX/DIGITAL   |   ON-AIR/VIDEO  |  OPERATIONS

Rebuilding LeapFrog's brand and marketing for a new generation of moms 

With a product line built on innovation in children's educational entertainment, LeapFrog had built a solid brand reputation over the years by making adult technology safe, fun and educational for kids. But it suffered from what all kids brands do; even with excellent brand recall and devoted brand loyalists, the entire customer base for nearly all kids brands sunsets after about 5 years. Kids grow up. Their parents are no longer your target audience. Now you have to prove yourself all over again to a new generation of parents. 

 

This was the environment I found myself in when I entered LeapFrog. All of the consumer insights pointed toward a new generation of Millennial moms who barely placed LeapFrog in the top 10 trusted kids brands they could recall. Sales across all channels were in decline. The last blockbuster product, the LeapPad 2, was in it's third year in the market and while sales were still strong, a host of new competitors had risen... including titans like Amazon and Samsung. But the company was still flush with cash and bloated with middle management and the type of bureaucracy typically found in much larger companies. And some of the lowest employee satisfaction scores that I or my HR rep had seen at any company.

Many of them had worked at LeapFrog for over a decade and believed strongly in the company’s mission… but according to the employee survey, they were pretty much depressed.

 

My first year at LeapFrog was focused on fixing the employee morale issue and cutting the bureaucracy. It turns out much of the bloat in middle management was because there were no processes or systems in place. It was unclear who was responsible for assigning new marketing projects, who was the approver on them, who was accountable for executing which pieces and what the projected time and hours required for completion were. As a result the bloated management layer would pile on conflicting directions, projects with no discernible ROI and pet initiatives with no clear business purpose onto a marketing and creative execution team that worked late nearly every night to meet impossible deadlines. Last-second changes were part of the culture, regardless of cost, and those executing the work had no understanding of how their work would impact the company. Unfortunately, often the work they were made to do actually had absolutely no impact on the company because it was so poorly conceived that it amounted to middle-management busywork.

So the first thing I did was to meet with as many people across the company as I could to understand – end to end – how exactly the sausage got made at LeapFrog... (continue reading)

Higher marketing ROI across all media (Engagement, CPC, VCR)

 

Reduced marketing creative costs -50% and time-to-market -33% across all media 

From #7 to #2 Brand Recall among moms

From #7 to #4 "most trusted" brand by Millennial moms

+13% Employee Engagement YoY

within 1st year

 

Step 1: Brand Audit, Positioning & Go-to-Market Strategy

+Brand perception among Millennial moms in a single year:

YoY Change in brand perceptions among Millennial moms. “LeapFrog is a brand that…”:

  • Combines both “play” and “learning” in their products (+3% to 95% agree)

  • Offers content that is fun and engaging (+5% to 93% agree)

  • Prepares my child for preschool and Kindergarten (+3% to 90% agree)

  • Offers high quality products (+6% to 93% agree)

  • Is a trusted leader in learning (+5% to 90% agree)

  • Offers products that spark my child’s curiosity (+5% to 88% agree)

  • Helps my child progress and advance in their learning (+3% to 89% agree)

  • Is a premium brand (+4% to 87% agree)

LeapFrog Yearly Brand Tracking Study

Brand architecture aligning core brand to each product line
Adult vs Child touchpoints
User profiles, user journeys and path-to-purchase

The strategic shift - from promotional to brand-centric

AFTER YEARS OF CAMPAIGNING ON FEATURES AND PRICE, A RETURN TO BRAND
target: PARENTS - GLOBAL (WITH CHILDREN AGED 1 - 7)

With brand relevance declining YoY with Millennial Moms, LeapFrog's years-long marketing strategy of product and feature-centric campaigns with heavy promotional messaging was becoming less effective each quarter. At the same time, innovators within both the Creative and Mar-Comm teams had experimented with brand-centric content campaigns in social media at low cost – with very high engagement.

It was clear we should shift our strategy. I presented this deck on behalf of our teams to executive leadership, advocating for a strategic shift back to LeapFrog's roots; a brand that exists to partner with parents to make learning fun for kids.

I crafted a detailed customer journey map showing how each user profile would discover us and make their way through the marketing stack and sales funnel.

CONVERTING STRATEGY INTO GO-TO-MARKET ACTION PLAN

USER ARCHETYPES, BASED ON DEEP QUALITATIVE RESEARCH, CREATED A STARTING POINT FOR CUSTOMER JOURNEYS
target: PARENTS - GLOBAL (WITH CHILDREN AGED 1 - 7)

With the executive marketing team and company leadership aligned on a shift to a masterbrand strategy, I mapped how each user profile would likely enter the marketing funnel, which touch-points they would interact with and what key messages would need to be delivered at each stage of their journey. 

Then I worked closely with the head of Mar-Comm on an implementation plan; her team managing media buying, influencers and community teams and mine rebuilding the LeapFrog brand and campaign materials.

Step 2: Rebranding, UX Overhaul & Campaign Development

Campaign Stats  - more effective ROI with lower budgets

  • CTRs across all campaign materials and website ecosystem increased 6% YoY

  • Conversion rate from email CTAs increased 13% YoY

  • Open Rate and CTR for all launch campaigns of new key platforms out-performed all retailer benchmarks

  • Average cost per click decrease -6% per asset across campaigns

  • Time on site increased by +5% per visitor on average

  • Increased site engagement: +3% average increase in pages visited per user

 
Rather than navigating by product line, we changed to align with a parents point of view: Navigation by age and learning level with products sorted by subject

From #7 to #4 in brand recall ranking among moms

of 2 - 6 year old kids within 1 year.

Goldman Sachs Millennial Moms Equity Research Dec 2015

From #4 to #2 among moms of 0 - 1 year olds.

MASTERBRAND MARKETING, MESSAGING & USER EXPERIENCE

ALL TOUCH-POINTS SHIFTED TO A FOCUS ON KIDS GROWING THROUGH PLAY
target: PARENTS - GLOBAL (WITH CHILDREN AGED 1 - 7)

After conducting an agency review, incumbent agency Occam returned a simple, flexible and strategic campaign concept returning to the roots of what LeapFrog was originally built to do. Adaptable to both high-level brand promises as well as able to frame specific product features, the joint team applied the concept across all touchpoints, using the brand architecture and customer journeys to adapt messaging at each stage of the conversion funnel. 

The results were immediate boosts to brand awareness, brand relevance, campaign ROI & user engagement – within the year.

Step 3: Retail Branding, Packaging & Global Product Launches

Styleguides - Designing for scalability

  • Introduced style guide approach to all creative allowing 60% of workload to shift to styleguide-based production projects and allowing senior creatives to focus on the 40% of new work that would launch new product lines and reposition LeapFrog to new audiences

  • Created first integrated brand experience across all global line extensions of LeapFrog brand with distribution through a new self-service global DAM system

More packages for more products with lower cost and less frustration​

  • Permanent hard-cost reduction of packaging costs by 56% due to changes in process, tools, approvals, streamlining of stakeholder inputs and setting up a digital and print production team in China

  • 60% reduction in mechanicals produced to achieve same amount of final packaging 

  • 30% reduction in creative time spend on tier 1 packaging development YoY due to clear roles/responsibility, aligned approval process and introduction of an escalation process for requests that breached the new process

  • Reduced costs of localization -15% (translating and producing foreign language versions of packaging) by systematizing translation and production through a single off-shore vendor

  • 20% Gain in weekly available hours for production artists, brand managers and marketing coordinators by implementing a new global DAM (digital asset management system) to automate asset searching, gathering, distribution and compliance

 
LeapFrog Epic Tablet, App Store & Games Launch
Naming, Branding/Identity, Packaging, Consumer Testing, B2B Pitch Videos, Sales Decks & Trade Event Launch, Consumer Campaigns (On-Air, Digital, Video, Social, In-store & POP, Landing Pages, Game Campaigns, ), Global style guides, Localization, Website & App Store UX/Messaging/Design
Within 3 weeks of launch, LeapFrog Epic was the top-selling kids tablet in CE aisles of both Target & WalMart
LeapFrog Imagicard AR Games Launch
Naming, Branding/Identity, Packaging, Consumer Testing, B2B Pitch Videos, Sales Decks & Trade Event Launch, Consumer Campaigns (On-Air, Digital, Video, Social, In-store, Landing Pages), Global style guides, Localization
Imagicard was a first-ever kids AR application where characters from cards would come to life in games
LeapTV Game Console, App Store, Game Library & Cartridge Games Launch
Branding/Identity, Packaging, Consumer Testing, B2B Pitch Videos, Sales Decks & Trade Event Launch, Consumer Campaigns (On-Air, Digital, Video, Social, In-store, Landing Pages), Global style guides, Localization, Website & App Store UX/Messaging/Design
A kids game console with A-list on-shelf titles as well as over 100 other app store titles
LeapPad Tablet Family Refresh App Store, Game Library & Cartridge Games Launch
Packaging, Consumer Testing, B2B Pitch Videos, Sales Decks & Trade Event Launch, Consumer Campaigns (On-Air, Digital, Video, Social, In-store, Landing Pages), Global style guides, Localization, Website & App Store UX/Messaging/Design
LeapFrog's flagship product had solid brand equity but needed an update look for, new generations

PRODUCT BRANDING, PACKAGING, IN-STORE MARKETING & GLOBAL EXTENSIONS

IN-HOUSE CREATIVES LAUNCHED EACH LINE FROM CONCEPT THROUGH COMPLETION TO GLOBAL FOOTPRINT
target: PARENTS - GLOBAL (WITH CHILDREN AGED 1 - 7)

The LeapFrog creative department had always been staffed with dedicated, talented pros who were great at their jobs, but as budgets were cut due to an over-investment on a marquee product that delivered late, it became critical to find more efficient ways to produce the same quantity of packaging (over 200 new SKUs yearly) while at the same time improving the creative quality. The solution was a series of operational changes including a style guide development approach to creative which allowed our best designers to focus on high-impact new platforms while production work was done by lower-cost teams in China under the managers' direction. See below for the operational changes that helped make this possible.

Work included positioning, packaging concept development, branding, product naming, user testing, design and production of all packaging, POP, marketing templates, digital and print campaign materials as well as global style guides.

56% packaging cost reduction

33% increase in packages produced

57% more photoshoots produced with 32% lower cost

Step 4: B2B Pitch Videos, Product Sizzle Videos, TV Spots, Demos

On-Air & Online video aligned to a single strategy

  • Increased from average 87.4% to 92.5% Video Completion Rates YoY across all videos

  • Commercial production costs cut by over 40% with similar volume output in the same period

  • Perception of brand quality by targeted viewers increased by 5% to 93% of Millennial parents at the end of the YoY period

 
 
TV Spot: LeapFrog Ahead - Epic Tablet (girl) :30
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: Occam   Production/Graphics: Mirada
TV Spot: LeapFrog Ahead - LeapPad & Imagicard (boy) :30
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: Occam   Production/Graphics: Mirada
TV Spot: LeapFrog Ahead - LeapPad & Imagicard (girl) :15
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: Occam   Production/Graphics: Mirada
TV Spot: LeapFrog Ahead - LeapTV (boy) :15
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: Occam   Production/Graphics: Mirada
TV Spot: Get in the Game (kid-targeted) :30
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: LeapFrog       Production/Graphics: Vector is Love

Video: B2B Sizzle Videos

Cost of B2B pitch videos were reduced by 60% YoY and resulted in 100% sell-in of products with a video in the pitch to top 3 retailers

B2B Presentation Sizzle: Introducing LeapStart to Buyers
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: LeapFrog Production: Sean Perrotti Grfx: VectorIsLove
 
B2B Presentation Sizzle: Building Momentum Before Launch
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: LeapFrog    Production/Graphics: Vector Is Love
Product Demo: LeapFrog Epic tablet in-store sizzle
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: LeapFrog          Production & Graphics: VectorIsLove
B2B Presentation Sizzle: Introducing LeapFrog EPIC to Buyers
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: LeapFrog   Production/Graphics: Vector Is Love

Video: Online Product Trailers

Product trailer: LeapPad Platinum & Imagicard
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: LeapFrogProduction: Adam Newacheck/ VectorIsLove
Product Trailer: Learning Lights Remote
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: LeapFrog Production: Jamie DeWolf
Product Trailer: Word Whammer
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: LeapFrog Production: Jamie DeWolf

Video: Product Demos (in-store/online)

Product Demo: LeapFrog Epic in-store demo
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: LeapFrog         Production & Graphics: VectorIsLove

Video: Brand-Forward Social

Brand-forward Social Video: Reading Month
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: LeapFrog          Production: LeapFrog
LeapFrog Ahead Testimonial - LeapReader
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: Occam    Production: Occam
TV Spot: LeapFrog Ahead - Epic Tablet (boy) :15
Role: Creative VP/Exec Producer
Agency: Occam   Production/Graphics: Mirada

(continued from top)

"There was no document that showed the process of how a product came to market..."

The place was siloed and factionalized and different departments had developed their own shorthand jargon. There was no document that showed the entire process of how a product came to market; only the bits and pieces that each team or department was responsible for. Only a few long-time employees – and a few C-level execs – carried around the whole picture in their heads. But because they were the axles around which the entire place spun, they were far too busy to document it; they were keeping everything running.

 

So we mapped out a step by step process flow for how just the packaging was made... it was a process that my department could completely control and spanned the entire product development and retail cycle since it was the first articulation of product positioning and the last to leave the retail theater. Since there was no standard strategic approach for positioning a new product, I rolled out the Matli Group Methodology, which I'd used for years with entertainment brands, as LeapFrog's new standardized positioning framework. The flow was the company's first attempt to define how many rounds of review and approval were acceptable and needed – and who was the approver of each review. I shopped it around to every middle manager and executive who’d been in a meeting about a package to find out what they believed their role in the process was. We created LeapFrog's first RACI chart, assigning specific roles to each person at each step of the entire process for each type of package we made (LeapFrog produced several hundred packaged products each year when all international translations were included).

 

Within the first year of its implementation, packaging costs dropped by 56% (despite a 33% increase in work volume)...

And then we presented it to the company with the CMOs support - this would be the agreed-upon process for positioning a new product and making packaging at LeapFrog. Within the first year of its implementation, packaging costs dropped by 56% (despite a 33% increase in work volume) as freelance overtime, rework costs, scrapped prints, cancelled print runs and stickers applied to products on shelf all but disappeared. With an agreed-upon process, the employees were empowered to escalate requests that fell outside of the process and our PM team could push even the most senior executives to make decisions because they could plot out how a delay in a decision today could impact an on-shelf delivery date 3 months in the future… after all, we’d gantt-charted every package based on the process so that deadlines could now be predicted and delays projected in real-time rather than the previous process where products would miss their deadlines and the company would throw money at the problem to not lose a slot at retail. Air shipments nearly disappeared by year two and required a C-level sign-off to proceed. 

We repeated the same process for website changes, landing pages and campaigns (we produced over 540 digital campaigns per year…. some of them major product launches with landing page, videos, social campaigns, print, in-store and digital campaign components). And then for In-store POP, videos and commercials as well.

With empowerment, predictability and a clear process where every employee working on a marketing/creative project could see how their work fit within a larger end goal for the company, the next employee survey saw job satisfaction scores jump by 13% for my department... Over 3x that of any other group of employees. 

 

We produced more work, at higher quality, with better user engagement and improved brand recall for 40% less budget YOY. And we were just getting started.

By year two, my responsibilities had expanded to include shared management over all marketing strategy and sole authority over all marketing and creative execution. With solid processes and a more engaged team, I focused on pushing up our brand relevance with Millennial moms, who would be the future of LeapFrog. Working closely with our Consumer Insights team, we created key brand metrics KPIs to tie all creative work to and started to rigorously require business cases from brand managers in their campaign and work briefs. With even more focus, clear goals flowed down to each employee and common success KPIs for the team, we pushed hard for a change in how LeapFrog was positioned in the market. We created what I call The Wake-Up Call Deck (above) pushing for a shift to a masterbrand strategy where each piece of marketing would not only market the individual product, but act as an investment into building brand recognition and relevance with moms and dads. And we pushed for an agency review. The presentation threw down the gauntlet to all marketing leadership and management showing clearly the brand’s decline, the increased competition, the inevitable impact of continuing our unaligned strategy... And it presented the upside of investing in a new approach to marketing that was less salesy, transactional and product-focused; a brand approach that would be more about how each product could deliver on an overarching brand promise of helping a parent get their child excited about learning. A return to the brand's core DNA and original brand promise.

 

The call went out to three agencies – and the results, from incumbent agency Occam – who hadn’t received a brief like this since the first years of LeapFrog’s existence – were exciting and revolutionary. The LeapFrog Ahead campaign tied every marketing piece together into a unified brand promise – tied directly to our brand name. We incorporated it to everything; created new, more human-centric testimonials, product videos, commercials and landing pages. 

At the end of year two, LeapFrog had risen in relevance among Millennial moms from number 7 to number 2 “most trusted” toy brands according to a report by PiperJaffray. 

 

The LeapFrog Ahead campaign was produced for half of what the previous years commercials had been produced for. The entire spend for the rest of the creative marketing across all channels was reduced by an additional 30%. LeapFrog’s top competitor in the electronics aisle, Nabi, lost marketshare quickly. The new LeapFrog Epic outsold every other kids tablet in the electronics aisle by it’s 3rd week in stores. Long-time competitor in the toy aisle, Vtech, exited the kid tablet business after disappointing sales compared to the LeapFrog Platinum, Glo and LeapPad 3 products.

Continued from top....

Some of the key process implementations from our team in that two years include:

  • Global Digital Asset Management System
     

    • Sourced, customized and implemented LeapFrog’s first global digital asset management system
       

    • Improved download speeds of global assets to in-country agencies, retailers and local offices from 8 hours to 30 seconds for typical files
       

    • Eliminated 20% of total weekly production time spent on digital asset transfers, asset gathering, etc.;
      Freeing resources for more high-value work

       

    • Mitigated legal risk of unlicensed imagery with embedded image expiration tags, saving LeapFrog approx $20,000 per year in licensing over-charges
       

    • Reduced weekly time spent by brand managers and marketing coordinators seeking and sending assets by 20%
       

  • Styleguides - Designing for scalability
     

    • Introduced style guide approach to all creative allowing 60% of workload to shift to styleguide-based production projects, freeing senior creatives to focus on the 40% of new work that would launch new product lines and reposition LeapFrog to new audiences
       

    • Created first integrated brand experience across all global line extensions of LeapFrog brand

  • Time tracking (Harvest) - running a department like a business
     

    • Implemented agency style time tracking; Used it to create workload/utilization rate tracking systems
       

    • Constant reduction in time per piece produced
       

    • Constant reduction in freelance, contractor and agency spend
       

  • Temp Budgeting - teaching managers to manage a budget
     

    • Created a weekly tracking worksheet for each manager to capture freelance spend and see available budget by month and quarter
       

    • Resulted in the first year that temp/freelance cost came
      in under budget in LF’s history

       

  • ESKO WebCenter implementation - Faster packaging approvals = faster packaging
     

    • Replaced an older packaging review/approval system with a newer system, reducing costs by $7k/mo in subscription fees – and reducing time spent by all stakeholders involved in packaging approvals by 50%
       

    • Email notifications alone distributed to approvers decreased by 75% as approvers now only received notifications that required their direct action/input
       

  • Smart sheet - cloud-based Gantt charting software for maximum process transparency
     

    • Implemented a new cloud-based gantt charting tool where anyone in the company could see how any creative or marketing project was tracking vs deadline, where any delays had occurred and where deadlines were breached due to hold ups in approvals, delays, etc.
       

    • Expanded system to become LeapFrog’s defacto standard cross-departmental tool for managing every kind of marketing execution and team.
       

    • Created framework for development of LeapFrog’s first-ever integrated marketing calendar spanning the entire lifecycle of a product – Execution of which was overseen by the VP Product Marketing
       

  • Stensul - automated, self-serve email marketing for global campaigns
     

    • Implemented a turnkey email automation solution resulting in 35% savings of production costs/employee time 

    • Provided brand managers ability to conduct multivariate testing without waiting for creative or engineering resources to implement

    • International localizations built in, creating a platform for a global branded customer relationship management experience
       

  • KPIs for Creatives
     

    • Combining consumer insights, site performance data and benchmarked process expectations, created clear, achievable, quantifiable goals for everyone involved in marketing execution
       

  • Systemetized hiring and onboarding
     

    • Created key criteria for success, standardized review and vetting process and evaluation processes for applicants
       

    • Once hired, new employees and temps received standardized procedures booklets that reduced onboarding time by over 3 weeks and decreased error rates for new hires

These improvements were the results of systemic process changes...

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