Hooked on Rapid Growth
Hooked on Phonics was created in 1987 as an instructional program to assist school-age children who were struggling with reading skills. Sold primarily through infomercials, the name grew increasingly recognizable as more and more television viewers stumbled upon the advertisements and their memorable “Hooked on Phonics worked for me!” tagline. Throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, the company introduced a handful of additional products, including “Hooked on Math,” but still remained true to its original direct-to-consumer sales model. In 2005, Hooked on Phonics, now known as HOP LLC, was acquired by Baltimore-based Educate Inc. (which also owns Sylvan Learning Center) and was poised for a new-product explosion. Since the acquisition, HOP has launched a range of new products, including “Hooked on English” (developed specifically for non-English speaking children), “Hooked
on Bible Stories,” “Hooked on Phonics Discover Reading” (the company’s first line of reading programs for babies and toddlers), and “Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read” (for children ages 3 to 4 years). It also began mass distribution to a variety of retailers, including big-box giants Target, Wal-Mart and Barnes & Noble. Here, Hooked on Phonics CEO Chip Paucek talks about the company’s evolution from its single-product infomercial roots to its current endeavor as a leading creator of educational products for children of all ages.
• What are the greatest challenges in trying to reach children today in terms of creating products geared toward them?
Chip Paucek: From our point of view, the greatest challenge is [first] getting buy-in from parents. Our mission is to provide parents and caregivers with age-appropriate resources to help introduce, teach and build reading skills in their children from infancy through age 12.
That said, once the parents are on board, we still have to cross the ultimate satisfaction hurdle, and that’s ensuring the child has a positive experience with the product. Our main challenge is to deliver a product that genuinely improves reading skills and confidence, while keeping kids interested and entertained.