Cover Story: Weird Science
"With all of these touchpoints sitting out there, we have to be very careful that we're not trying to dominate the conversation," says Spangler. "We're just engaged in the conversation; we're allowing our customers to interact with us in a different way. Years ago it used to be a letter and a phone call, then it was an email, and now people have a live person and everything else. We sometimes find out about an issue with a product on Twitter before somebody ever picks up the phone and calls us."
The next social media endeavors Steve Spangler Science is tackling include science-related mobile phone apps, Facebook apps and widgets.
Despite its products overwhelmingly ending up in the hands of kids, Steve Spangler Science has made a concerted effort to market only to adults. Its website, catalogs and other marketing campaigns are geared to the teachers, parents and science enthusiasts making purchases, not the children ultimately using the products. And in some respects, the company believes this has helped attract more kids to the brand.
While not openly marketing to kids, that doesn't mean Steve Spangler Science isn't listening to them. Company representatives, dubbed "Spangler Science Ambassadors," visited 65,000 students in 120 schools last year, sharing the science experiments featured on its website in person. The feedback gathered at these events and teacher conferences helps the company better serve its customers going forward. In particular, customer feedback helps in product development.
"We don't want to lose the fact that we're out there to engage in the conversation, not to just sell stuff," Spangler says. "If our brand's visible, consumers are going to go over to the site and buy."