Inside the 'Beano Brain' which powers the children's publisher's rapidly growing website

Beano Studios won B2C Website of the Year at The Drum’s Online Media Awards 2020 for Beano.com. Here, the team behind the site outline the challenges faced and the strategies used to deliver this successful project.

The challenge

Beano.com was designed to fill a gaping hole in the lives of children aged 6 to 12-years-olds. Up until its launch, there was no digital entertainment proposition that properly reflected their interests and was built with kids in mind.

A key challenge for publishers in this space is the need to operate from a kids’ privacy-first perspective and to be compliant with Coppa and GDPR-kids. This means we cannot track our users across the web, cannot obtain personal data without parental consent and we have no third-party user databases to match our users to. We needed to do this the hard way – we had to go out there and interact with as many real kids as possible all while having a laser focus on our (anonymised) analytics data.

The strategy

Knowing what kids want and what they are interested in is what drives Beano.com’s product and content strategy. Nothing is assumed and no new content type or product feature is delivered until we are as sure as we possibly can be that we are meeting kids’ needs.

It was in that context that we have spent 2019 enhancing our Beano Brain, both in order to drive continuous improvement of Beano’s own content and products but also so that third-parties can improve their offerings by leveraging its power. Beano Brain is an innovative fusion of ethnography and behavioural analytics (combining a nationwide kids’ panel, school visits, compliant first party data from on-site polls and user testing) that allows us to constantly monitor and respond to what kids want.

From a content perspective, Beano Brain drives everything the editorial team does. If kids start talking about a new YouTuber, game or playground trend, Beano Brain lets the team know and they quickly created relevant content. From a commercial perspective, Beano Brain provides clients with a means of testing their own ideas, preconceptions and propositions with real kids – both at scale and in depth.

The campaign

Just one example of how Beano.com leveraging the Beano Brain to improve their worlds can be seen in how we approached Halloween in 2019. With an abundance of quantitative and qualitative data at our fingertips, we wanted our 2019 Halloween content and activity to be inspired and driven by our audience. We made the internal switch from our content creators wondering “what should we do for Halloween this year?” to asking our audience “what do you want us to do this Halloween?”

We had the creative proposition; ‘the stuff of modern nightmares’ and through a series of questions posed to our Beano Trendspotters (qualitative) and polling our audience online with a series of questions, we quickly narrowed down content themes, ideas and activity.

Some quotes from kids that got us started:

“I’ve been practicing my Halloween make-up. I’m going for for a zombie look and have bought some black lipstick from Claire's” - Lily

"I've been looking at DIY's for last-minute costumes, I might go trick or treating after school" - Kamiyah

“I can't wait to go trick or treating, we are going as dolls" - Lola

The activity needed to feel like a campaign. We developed a very ‘kid-first’ design lock-up that played on modern nightmares, reflecting our audience insights. We also tested various designs with our audience, so we knew which would drive high engagement and click-through rates (see creative in pack).

Based on audience insight and trend date, we published Halloween quizzes, jokes, games, listicles and videos to reflect what our audience wanted to see. We launched a Halloween hub where our audience could come back daily to find exciting new Halloween content to engage with.

We developed a 5-part video series bringing to life the worst modern nightmares voted by kids and performed by influencer and creator Joe Tasker:

○ “When you've watched all of Netflix…”

○ “When the wifi goes down…”

○ “When your phone dies…”

○ “When your school dinner is an absolute disaster…”

○ “When you have school on a weekend…”

From a product perspective, we developed a unique product feature on Beano.com and created a Halloween nightmare ‘do not touch’ button. When clicked, the users screen turned into spooky colours with a spooky sound. We also developed a unique ‘scare-o-tron’, a digital toy that could be used to prank mates with Halloween scary sounds.

The results

By truly understanding what kids want and how they behave online, Beano Studios has developed and implemented a digital proposition that has resulted in three-figure YoY organic user growth for the third successive year for Beano.com.

Having been the UK’s fastest growing kids website (per Comscore) in both 2017 and 2018, Beano.com has continued to see impressive uplifts, both in the UK and internationally. Global organic users are up 114% year-on-year (Dec 2019 v Dec 2018, Google Analytics), with the US a particularly strong area with organic users up 132% year-on-year.

The results of the activity from the previous year were ‘record breaking’:

  • We increased users by 83% - hitting our discoverable KPI.
  • Pages per session increased by 92% - hitting our engagement KPI.
  • Page views increased by a whopping 270% - hitting our engagement KPI.
  • The average session duration increased by 80%.
  • We decreased our activity bounce rate by 20%.
  • We also achieved our highest EVER organic user number on 31 October.

The Halloween ‘nightmare’ button had a high click through rate of 11% (compared to 2% site average) and was used 15,000 times during Halloween. Over 4,000 kids were scaring and pranking their friends and family with the Halloween portable sound board.

And then we moved on to the one thing bigger than Halloween in a kid’s year: Christmas. But that’s another story.

This project was a winner at The Drum Online Media Awards 2020. To register your interest in any of The Drum’s upcoming awards, click here.

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