Wednesday, 14 December 2011

What will you do with the kids over Christmas?

Our children break up from school on Friday and like most mums we'll be looking for ways to entertain them during the holidays.

There are some fantastic family events happening at MediaCityUK, Salford Quays, Manchester from 8-22nd December.

They are all sport theme in the run up to Sports Personality of the Year so the perfect way to burn off some excess energy!

You'll need tickets for these free Celebrate Sport events with the BBC (first come, first served) just go to for more information.

The events are happening from 4-8pm on weekdays and 10-6pm at the weekends.

4pm – 8pm, Weekdays - Come and join in at the Celebrate Sport Playzone in the Studio Block where you can take part in a football radio play; practice your sports commentary; conduct all your favourite BBC Sport theme music; get a sneak preview of the National Football Museum’s exhibits, play a brand new computer football game that helps with your maths or take a penalty in the mascot challenge.

10am – 6pm, Weekends - The National Football Museum in partnership with Celebrate Sport is offering Baby Moves and Movement Matters classes for Budding Busby Babe toddlers and babies. There’s storytelling by Pickles the dog, the hero of the 1966 World Cup or come or help us create a giant Celebrate Sport collage. (Sat 10, Sun 11, Sat 17 and Sun 18 December)

Celebrate Sport with the BBC is a collaboration between BBC Sport, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Children’s, BBC Learning and BBC Manchester, working closely with local partners.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A merry techno Christmas to you

With less than a month until Christmas final present buying decisions are upon us. And yes we’re feeling the pressure at MumPanel too. Lynne and I (Nicola) have daughters of the same age and they both seem to want exactly the same things this year. We’ve both had serious discussions with Santa (in our house he’s watching when the red light comes on in the house alarm monitors, in Lynne’s house she speaks to the elves on the phone as Santa is so busy at this time of year).

We’ve negotiated around the fact that Santa isn’t keen on the idea of dolls that poo green and flimsy plastic Barbie doll houses. And although we know daft, fun toys are an important part of development we’re both keen to include at least one gift that has some educational value. Both our daughters started reception this year and are in the throes of learning to read. Just this week I was told I pronounced a certain letter sound incorrectly (that would be my Lancashire accent coming back to haunt me). Reading and language development is taught in a very specific way in most UK schools – they initially teach sounds rather than letters, phonics and work on chopping up and blending sounds to understand and create words.

I played with the idea of buying my daughter a laptop (to ‘do’ letters as she says) or an iPad but I couldn’t bear the thought of hundreds of pounds of technology smashing to the floor in a forgetful five year old moment.

Lynne and I had actually struck on an identical present idea without even realising it – the Leapfrog Leap Pad, a child friendly learning tablet. It’s sort of an iPad for kids, complete with downloadable apps. I was first introduced to the Leap Pad at Cybermummy earlier this year and was impressed with both the concept and the price point. And it seems the rest of the world thought this was a great idea and it soon raced to the top of the most popular toy for Christmas 2011.

I mentioned the Leap Pad idea one day to Lynne and she shared her thoughts on the product (she’d already bought one for her daughter). The real downfall with this product is it that it doesn’t tie up with current educational practice in the UK – so it teaches letters rather than sounds, American spelling and grammar. For both our children we want them to take part in activities that will reinforce what they learn at school, especially at a stage when they are just beginning to establish these skills at school.

It’s seems like a missed opportunity that LeapFrog haven’t considered what the UK market and school age children need – something that builds on what they are learning.

It’s been enough to put me off purchasing the Leap Pad which is such a shame as it’s ideal in so many other ways. I’m keen for my daughters to interact with technology (and even Fisher Price are aware that babies want to get their hands on mum and dads tech) but I want it to have at least some educational value (so I’m afraid Santa had said no Nintendo DS this year). And an article in the Guardian last week says there are more preschoolers who know how to use smartphones than tie their shoelaces. That just shows how important it is for technology companies to take into account what's happening at school during the product development stage.

I have a feeling my tangerine and nuts in the stocking isn't going to cut it this year.

If you'd like to know more about working with MumPanel on product testing and development drop us a line.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Mamas & Papas blogger event

The Mamas & Papas blogger day at their Huddersfield HQ was a great success. Our handpicked bloggers got to see how Mamas & Papas develop their products (and a sneaky peek of some brand new products). They also heard the family story behind Mamas & Papas and how that impacts on everything including the quality of the products (each one is still individually signed off by Luisa Scacchetti, co-founder).

The most important aspect of the day for MumPanel was that the feedback that we gathered from previous product reviews is clearly listened to. There are a number of changes being made to the Urbo and Mylo prams based on feedback from MumPanel mums. And we know from our day with Mamas & Papas that they are always listening and learning from mums.

You can read more about what our mums thought of the bloggers day here...

Mamas & Papas - I am in love

My day at Mamas and Papas

The one where I got to visit the HQ

At the heart of the word family

Trip to Mamas & Papas HQ

If you'd like to know more about spreading the word campaigns then get in touch.

Cbeebies Grown-ups

Last month saw the launch of the CBeebies Grown-Ups site which MumPanel played a key role in. The website is designed for parents and carers to find out how they can use CBeebies programme to aid their child’s development.

We worked with mums, dads and grandparents across the UK to determine what they wanted to see on the site and what sort of features would help them help their children’s learning and play processes. If you visit the site you’ll find many MumPanel mum tales and tips.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Mums trust mums for product recommendations

We know mums trust other mums. When we carried out some research recently we found 75% of mums trust their friends and family views the most when it comes to product recommendations. And 67% of MumPanel mums ask their own mums for advice on buying products. We know the rise of facebook and twitter means more and more people will be going to social media and the internet to ask opinions but we shouldn’t forget where mums are really getting their information from.

The big supermarket chains know this and have all recently run campaigns that got mums chatting at the school gate – from Morrisons Disney campaign and Let’s Grow vouchers to Tesco Mum of the Year and Asda Election Mums. It’s vital that companies remember that although some mums are online, gathering information and chatting for many mums their main interaction will be at a school gate, PTA meeting or coffee shop with friends.

Monday, 31 October 2011

A good start to the day

Do you know how important a good breakfast is for a child? Several studies have shown that children who eat a well balanced, healthy breakfast are more attentive in the classroom, have higher energy levels and concentrate for longer periods of time. According to Kellogg’s, 1 in 6 children don’t eat breakfast. Kellogg’s are currently working on ways of promoting healthier breakfasts and ensuring that children do sit down and eat probably the most important meal of the day. They are supporting breakfast clubs across the UK. These clubs usually take place before school and provide a safe and friendly place for children to get a nutritious breakfast.

Kellogg’s have also introduced a new children’s cereal brand, Mini Max, a healthier cereal choice which is low in saturated fat, high in fibre, a lower salt choice and a source of D and B vitamins and iron. By creating a cereal that meets certain nutritional criteria it means it can be advertised on children’s TV (their other cereals are not currently allowed to be advertised on children’s television). Here at MumPanel we think product development that means children and parents can make healthier food choices can only be a good thing. We hope other food manufacturers will take notice.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Reviews – what our mums think of Mamas and Papas pushchairs

We’ve been working with a very lucky bunch of mums recently – they got to road test (and keep) some gorgeous buggies from Mamas and Papas. We had mums testing both the Mylo and the Urbo - some then gave their opinions on their blogs and here’s a selection.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Mummmmmm I want

We’ve all been there. In the middle of the supermarket and you hear the dreaded words (probably for about the tenth time during the outing) ‘Mummmm I want’ ‘Dadddd can I have’.

What we wanted to know is whether children or grandchildren have a significant say in the grocery brands or products you buy. And once again the results surprised us. We knew from other research we’d done that some parents bend fairly easily to the demands of their children but we actually found that 53% of parents (and grandparents) said that children didn’t have a significant influence on what they purchased in the supermarket.

And the other 46% caved in a little more! But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the products our children influence are unhealthy. In our survey we found the items of grocery shopping that children have the biggest say on are 31% cereal, 21% fruit and 14% yogurts.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Lunchbox lunacy

We’re just a few weeks into the new school year and the lunchbox battles have already started in our house. And we know mums across the country are having similar problems. We recently carried out some research for Soreen and we found that kids have the most say (or try to!) on lunchbox items.

We’d expected that children would want their lunchboxes packed with crisps and chocolate but what we found is that they are just as opinionated about fruit and yogurts. We usually associate pester power with junk food but in fact it seems it also applies to healthy food choices.

We found…

• Lunchbox items were high on children’s food preferences – 17% of mums specifically mentioned lunchboxes (21% mentioned fruit, 19% snacks, 15% yogurts and 7% crisps).
• Children aren’t just influenced by television or other advertising in the supermarket but also by looking in other kids lunchboxes.
• Mums recognise the influence of advertising on their children. Some mums give into the demands of their children but most try and strike a balance between healthy foods and treats.
• Many children are now more clued up about five a day than their parents and are both educating their mums and dads and pestering for healthy alternatives.

Keep your eyes peeled for new products from Soreen early next year.

Monday, 10 October 2011

A good night’s sleep

It’s not often you can spend the day in bed and say you are working. But we think we can get away with this at the moment because we’re working on product testing and new product development with Silentnight Beds. Silentnight are the UK's biggest bed manufacturer and we’re keen to hear what features parents want in a mattress for their child.

We know they have to be robust but do parents want a waterproof cover or hypoallergenic materials? We’ve been asking our panel of thousands of mums, dads and grandparents what they think and then this feeds into the process of new product development.

Getting the right bed can mean the difference between a great night’s sleep and a poor one. A lack of sleep means not just a grumpy child (and mum or dad) but it has an impact on their ability to concentrate at school and even socialise and make friends. We’ll keep you updated on the new Silentnight products.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Positive messages for kids

In the last few years there has been a real movement in the UK to get our children eating healthier food – whether that’s moving them away from a junk food, processed diet or improving the food they eat at school every day. One change we’ve seen is that some food manufacturers are taking on this idea and communicating healthy messages on their food. I was recently in the supermarket with my daughter and she spotted Yoplait yogurts.

Yoplait want to emphasise the goodness in yogurt and they do this by featuring a big bone on the front of their pots. My daughter immediately spotted the bone and told me that yogurt made her bones healthy because of calcium. This allowed me to open up a conversation about healthy eating and food choices and it was good to know that the education she is getting at both home and school is getting through.

One of the many positive benefits of this kind of messaging is that my daughter pesters me for that product – rather than a chocolate bar or junk food. We’re currently working with Soreen on new product development and as we’ve being doing consumer and market research we’re seeing an increasing trend of the introduction of healthier alternatives for children.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Magical Morrisons!

My trip to the supermarket is not normally one I relish (still don't). My 4 year old daughter is often in tow and she normally lightens the dreary load by singing at the top of her voice or skipping down the aisles. Anyway, Morrisons is our normal grocery stop and today Katie was very pleased that she joined me. There were pictures of her favourite princesses and Mickey Mouse guys all around store. She made me take notice and then start to wonder what the Disney Magical Moments cards were all about.... and this is where Morrisons have hit the mark. I really like this family promotion.

It harnesses pester power,correctly. tick. It offers 1,000 chances to win a free DisneyLand Paris holiday with gold tickets. tick. It provides Disney cards with childrens favourite characters on them to collect (trump card style). tick. It links the distribution of the 'free' Disney cards to specific purchases or amount of shop. tick. It appeals to a wide range of children (and adults). tick. It is happening over the summer holidays, when it normally rains or you go travelling so trump cards have their place. tick. It is Disney related. double tick.

Overall for Morrisons, it brings in the money from the FMCG suppliers who are paying for the promotion to be linked to their products. It increases footfall and sales in store over the summer months (with repeat purchases). It harnesses word of mouth and is good for brand communications, PR and image. It keeps the regular customer and their children happy and 1,000 holidays are to be won. It is linked to Disney.
My daughter received two packs of cards this time (no gold card unfortunately) and she is already wanting more. Plus, I wouldn't mind winning a holiday, so we will be back and next time I will be looking at the specific items, such as Cravendale milk, that are linked to getting free packs of cards with purchase. I did wonder why the man next to me was buying 11 bags of lettuce (truthfully not just adding this in for effect) and now I know. Well done Morrisons.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Incentivising the seasonal kids clothes & shoe shop!

Firstly I need to blog more. Apologies. Running my own business and bringing up a family makes me very time poor.... (in the words of marketeers).

Anyway, in relation to being time poor (alike so many mums) we are seeing an expressed need for retailers to be in tune with our parents needs and thought patterns. And I was pleased to see this happening more when I was in the shops at the weekend, in particular at Marks & Spencer!

For the last 4 years I have expressed the need for retailers to recognise that many parents go out shopping in bulk for their childrens clothes and shoes at the beginning of the two main seasons - Spring and Autumn. Children grow rapidly and as the weather changes most of last years clothes do not fit (and/or their child wants the new range!) So once March approaches it is time to buy new T-shirts, skirts/shorts, cardigans, jackets... the list could go on! So one question I have always asked is why do retailers not incentivise this 'bulk buy' more at these times?! i.e. Buy 5 items for 4. So it was good to see Marks & Spencer is doing exactly this early in the season with '£5 off when you buy £30 on Kidswear'. I walked out of the shop with £30 worth of kids wear for £25 (plus some books, socks, T-shirts etc for myself)!

So I am hoping to see more of these parent centric offers in the shops in the next couple of months.