Matt O’Mara is the Chief Commercial Officer at Beano Studios – yes, that Beano!
For our regular Day in the Life series, Econsultancy had the chance to catch up with Matt to find out how the company has been keeping up with what kids are thinking and feeling during the lockdown, what the pandemic meant for comic subscriptions, and what the longer term might look like Beano Studios.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I am Chief Commercial Officer at Beano Studios, heading up all commercial activities across the various areas of the business that includes our creative agency Trouble, insight consultancy Beano Brain, and all IP related activities.
How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?
Like most other companies in our industry, everything is being done via video, both internally and externally. Whilst tricky at first, we’re now in a pattern and the company has adapted well. We’ve won a number of competitive client pitches that have been executed entirely via video.
I also see a lot more of my kids now, which dependent on how they’re behaving is both a good and bad thing.
What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?
Again, all of the tools that enable remote working have become vital, and not sure how we’d have managed without them. That said, there’s a lot to be said for the humble telephone call from time to time. Eight hours of video calls a day can’t be good for anyone.
In February we launched our Beano Brain Omnibus tool for brands to harness youth opinion quickly, safely and compliantly and it’s really become a key tool within our insight service since the pandemic hit. Life is moving a rapid pace at the moment so being able to talk to millions of kids every week and to understand what’s happening and how they’re feeling has been invaluable for both our own IP work and client briefs.
Having a proper lunch break which everyone at the company adheres to has been a game changer too.
Which companies have impressed you since the outbreak?
Any company who has acted rather than just relying on their marketing – I was particularly impressed with LVMH who were one of the first to switch production efforts to manufacturing hand sanitiser. Having worked with large luxury brands in previous roles, they’re notoriously slow to innovate and change which was why the pivot was so surprising and impressive.
What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?
Quite often people don’t listen to kids or assume that they know what they’re thinking and feeling, so, as the most enduring kids’ brand in the country, we felt a clear responsibility to make sure that they had a voice throughout this.
We’ve been doing what we can to keep supplying our partners, clients and the industry with the insights needed to make and validate decisions in how we should be understanding and engaging with this unique demographic – our leaders of the future.
What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?
Naturally website traffic has increased with kids being off school but we’ve seen kids self-regulating their screen time, logging off earlier than pre-lockdown, with traffic flattening at around 8pm for dedicated family time.
At the beginning of lockdown, we mirrored the increase that many DTC companies saw, with huge demand for comic subscriptions. Over the last few weeks even as shops are re-opening and lockdown has eased we haven’t seen that drop off – demand remains high.
And although digital initiatives have been front and centre for everyone we’ve started to see a real increase in kids searching for offline ‘traditional’ activities – baking, crafts and anything to do with bikes are all really popular.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
Only say something if it’s worth saying and you can back it up. There are some horror stories at the moment.
What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your brand?
As hard as it is at the moment, we have to presume that things will return to some semblance of normality at some point. However, there are still great unknowns particularly around things like live experience. We’re planning two huge experiential initiatives with partners next year, but there are a lot of things to consider we don’t know the answer to yet.
We’re ramping up our direct to consumer efforts like never before and are lucky that we’re a company with numerous revenue streams. Beano has been around for 81 years and is certainly not going anywhere yet.