Personalization is a hot trend in all of retailing, and particularly successful in cart and kiosk programs. Consumers like to have things that are made just for them.
Mediak, the company that pioneered personalized music CDs for children and offers highly successful turnkey programs for kiosks and carts, has raised the bar. A new title, "You Can Do Anything," the company's 28th album, debuts this month as a DVD, adding video to eight new and original songs in the album, all designed to help children dream and build self esteem.
This is a professionally produced 30 minute video starring Alana Etheridge and Jacob Hays, two lead stars of the hit show, "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader." They and six more kids react to the lyrics in each original song and bring the songs' stories to life.
In one song, "If They Put You in Charge of the Zoo," the cast visits a real zoo and integrates animated cartoon animals with real ones filmed on location at the zoo. In another song, "Junk Food Flavored Healthy Veggie Treats," they visit a grocery store and amusingly point out the healthy distinctions between junk food and nutritional snacks.
As with all 28 Mediak albums, songs in, "You Can Do Anything," are original and exclusive to Mediak; written, produced and sung by professionals. In CD form, the album runs nearly 23 minutes. In the new DVD format, it runs for 30 minutes and includes introductions and a little more engaging kid talk. In both versions, the name of the child for whom the DVD or CD is selected and purchased occurs a total of 106 times in the lyrics.
"This type of thing has never been done before, and there's nothing out there like the DVD," says Junnie Sublett, who with her husband, Charles, heads Mediak. Junnie had been working on the idea of adding video to audio for some time. "It's a natural. Everything is video now, and we see this as moving to the next level," she adds.
Junnie met Alana and Jacob during a fundraiser, and a mutually beneficial alliance began to take shape that caused the Subletts to move ahead with Junnie's wish to add video. "Alana and Jacob loved the music and fell in love with the songs," says Sublett. The children are also devoted to encouraging kids to use their imagination, be healthy and dream big. Thus, a natural alliance was formed: a perfect fit.
Because the DVD is a new concept, Mediak introduced it on its newest CD album, You Can Do Anything. The intention is to add the DVD option to all 28 existing CD albums, and new ones as they are added.
Vendors that are already utilizing the Mediak CD program can download the personalized You Can Do Anything in DVD form, using the same system they now use for CDs.
"It can be reproduced on site, at the kiosk, in the same way the CDs are reproduced," Charles Sublett explains. Vendors that utilize the Mediak program select the album they want and the name to be inserted in the lyrics from their exclusive access to the Mediak website.
Then both are immediately reproduced onto a blank disc on site at the kiosk, along with a personalized label that also includes the child's name and a short message from the person who is buying the CD or DVD. While production of a CD takes approximately a minute and a half, reproduction of the personalized DVD takes just a little longer, "about three minutes," Sublett says.
In addition, the vendor can also have his or her own identity and phone number added to the package. This is just one of the marketing and merchandising strategies included in the Mediak program. Invariably, when someone plays the personalized CD for others, they want to know how to obtain one or more, Sublett says.
He anticipates the same will be true for the DVD. Inclusion of the vendor's identity ensures significant referral and repeat business. Consumers return for additional, different albums, and friends and family also become new kiosk customers.
The Mediak merchandising package also includes video loops, touting these personalized albums. A new one has been created to show the DVD. In addition, kiosk vendors can access the Mediak site via their own computer to give customers a preview of albums and songs.
It's not hard for children, parents, grandparents and anyone who loves kids to fall in love with the Mediak albums. Of the 28, seven are secular, seven are Christian, six are related to sports, four are Spanish language translations, and four are holiday oriented.
All CDs can select from the same list of names to be inserted into an album. That list now contains a whopping 2,126 names, making it unlikely that vendors will be unable to fulfill a customer's request for personalization.
The suggested retail price for secular, Christian and Spanish units is $19.95. It is $15.95 for the sports albums, and the holiday units have a suggested retail of $9.95.
The cost of reproducing a $19.95 personalized CD using the Mediak system is $5, and the cost of materials, including a jewel case, runs no more than 60 cents each. This gives the vendor a profit of $14.35 on each sale, which translates to a 73 percent profit margin. The reproduction cost of reproducing the new DVD has not yet been finalized, but the Subletts assure that it will provide a significant margin of profit. They are also still determining the suggested retail price.
The reproduction cost of the holiday album is just $2.50. "This makes it very easy for a vendor to obtain an add-on to the sale, raising the total ticket on the sale of a feature CD or the new DVD," he explains. The vendor can use the holiday unit as a gift with purchase on multiple sales of feature albums to a single customer, or promote it at $5, for example, with a single CD or DVD purchase.
The program's success is proven. Mediak first introduced personalized CDs in 2002. "Within two months of introducing the program, we had 88 carts up and running," he reports. The company's first CD, "You Are My Friend," remains a top seller. It is designed for children up to seven years old, and their name occurs 98 times within the album's eight original songs.
Another top seller, "You're An Angel," consists of original lullabies for babies. The baby's name occurs 35 times within the eight songs. The recurrence of the name diminishes, so the baby will be easily lulled to sleep.
The only inventory required to operate a Mediak program is blank CDs, DVDs for the new product, jewel cases and labels. Not surprisingly, Sublett says the Mediak albums sell best in kiosks during the fourth quarter of the year. "In the right environment, there are some kiosks that perform well year round," he adds.
He also says that it can do well when combined with other products, and Mediak vendors are not required to devote their entire kiosk and cart to Mediak album reproduction and sales. "Personalized books do well in some kiosk and cart programs, and so do other personalized products. I'm sure that takes away from Mediak, because success with the albums takes a lot of attention. But if a dealer feels more comfortable including other related products, it's all right with us."
Mediak provides tiered programs that allow a vendor to start small, with access to a limited number of CD albums, then upgrade in modules as sales build. Mediak personnel, including Junnie and Charles Sublett, take great pride in giving vendors personal service.
In addition to the support materials that are an integral part of the program, they are always ready to help a dealer resolve a problem. This same attitude extends to purchasers of a Mediak album. If a consumer has a complaint of any kind with an album, Mediak replaces it, no questions asked. They are not asked to return the original, and this offer applies regardless of where the unit was purchased.
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