Brand: Global Wonders
Headquarters: Pasadena, Calif.
Product: Educational DVDs and CDs for preschoolers that promote cross-culturalism
Launch date: October 2008
Sales: Projected 2009 sales of $3-5 million
Target demo: Moms with preschoolers
Competition: Educational toys, preschool entertainment brands marketed by Nickelodeon, Disney and Sesame Street
Distribution: Toys “R” Us, Barnes and Noble (top 50 stores), Target (spring promotion), Kroger, Amazon, Target.com
Claims: “Supports children’s social skills by fostering cross-cultural friendships and a global view of the world”
New product: Music CDs featuring sounds and songs from around the world
It’s a small world after all, and a cramped one, too, when you’re running your entertainment empire out of a Pasadena, Calif., condo. But most entrepreneurs would envy Rashmi Turner, who spawned her cross-cultural preschool brand just as economically depressed America was electing its first biracial president.
Turner is the founder and CEO of Global Wonders, which was developed to help make children more aware of other cultures and better global citizens. The former Disney exec began pitching her concept a year ago and had already launched her first DVDs by the end of 2008. Four DVDs—Global Wonders: African-American, Mexico, Around the World, and India—use animation and real-life images to teach kids to embrace different languages, customs, clothing and holidays while noting similarities among all cultures. The company will release the Global Wonders: Around the World Music CD on May 19 and expects to sell $3 million-$5 million of preschool products throughout 2009.
Turner is a first-generation Indian American whose husband is Canadian. Her daughters, ages 4 and 7, have “an organic curiosity about their friends and their backgrounds,” she said. Turner didn’t see any entertainment properties dealing with cross-cultural issues, so she set about bridging the gap. Fellow Disney dropout Dave Burchianti—who had worked with her on the Baby Einstein brand—became Global Wonders’ vp of marketing. Turner’s hunch was on track with what’s on moms’ minds: According to a November 2008 study conducted by Edelman, nine out of 10 moms “strongly agree” it’s important to expose children to different cultures.
While the economic picture wasn’t pretty, Turner’s timing was perfectly synchronized to the cultural zeitgeist, having pitched and launched her brand right smack in the middle of global Barack Obamamania. “Retailers said, ‘This is right for the marketplace right now,’” Turner said. “We had started production so we had characters and clips, but we ended up putting all four episodes into production at the same time. They saw a real easy fit with their customers.”
Which retailers? Kroger, for one. In a program running this month, 1,000 display shippers will merchandise the multiculti goods. They were designed to greet moms in the kiddie section; they’ve since been upgraded to higher-traffic checkout counters. Target, Toys “R” Us and Barnes and Noble are also testing the property.
Turner and Burchianti acknowledge that it’s incredibly difficult for most brands to get on shelves, especially now. This Cinderella story was also, in part, propelled by their Disney degrees. “[We leveraged] relationships we had in the past, and those people brought other people in,” Turner said.
The goal is to grow the baby brand’s awareness. Turner hints that she will develop a virtual space by the end of 2009 and is interested in on-demand broadcasting and in-school opportunities.
Megan Calhoun, editor of Web network Twitter Moms (www.twittermoms.com), helped Global Wonders get heard through word-of-moms’-mouth marketing. “They are smart and progressive in the way they approach moms,” Calhoun observed. “They realize you need to engage them rather than just sell to them.” Since something like 80 percent of her site’s members are bloggers, a question that was strategic for Global Wonders and compelling to moms was posed for a promotion last fall: “How do you inspire your children to learn about different cultures and languages?”
Moms were asked to go off to their blogs to talk about the topic and link back to the Global Wonders and Twitter Moms sites to compete for DVD prizes. Participants won for speed, the most reader comments and most creative ways of inspiring children. The combined reach at the site and the blogs was a staggering 9.4 million people.“Moms wanted to talk—they were passionate about the subject, so it wasn’t just self-serving to Global Wonders,” Calhoun said, revealing a secret to reaching the sisterhood of mothers. “It wasn’t a one-sided conversation. They listened.”