Making a Case for Mass: Pitching Specialty Products to Mass Retailers

Amy Opheim HRby Amy Opheim, owner, C3 Marketing and Copywriting

It’s show time! The official start of the 2014 sales cycle is marked by Fall Toy Preview in Dallas. The show provides an opportunity for manufacturers to present product to mass market buyers, whose buying cycles are longer than that of specialty toy store owners.

While some product features make perfect sense in specialty—high price point, niche audience, not-so-self-explanatory—the mass market is the Holy Grail for many toy and game manufacturers. But with fewer mass market outlets than ever and thousands of products competing for a very limited amount of shelf space, how can specialty manufacturers catch the eye of mass market buyers? [Read more...]

How to Create an Effective Positioning Statement to Spark Consumer Interest

Amy Opheim HRby Amy Opheim, owner, C3 Marketing and Copywriting

Whether you’re launching a new brand or product, opening a new store, or creating a new property, you’ve got to know who you are. The inability to share exactly who you are and what makes you special—in one succinct sentence—is one of the biggest reasons that new brands, products, businesses, and licenses fail. Consumers have dozens, sometimes hundreds, of choices. Why should they choose you? What is the real benefit to them? What makes you better than the competition? You’ve got to be clear so that they can see you as the best choice. But how do you cull all of your passion into one single sentence? [Read more...]

Archie Comics: Let’s Hear It for the Boy Next Door!

By Stuart Fischer

ArchieComicslogoWhen one thinks of the comic book character Archie, one envisions a bright-eyed teenager who has a constant smile on his face, as if he does not have a care in the world. That might be true of this wonderful fictional character, but the company behind him is a hard-working, innovative force: Archie Comic Publications.

Founded in 1939 by Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit, and John L. Goldwater, the name of the company was first MLJ Publications. It was changed a few years later to Archie Comic Publications as a salute to the character that became its greatest success.

MLJ began publishing various titles during the beginning of the comic book industry, most of them humor, although there were also a few adventure series. The company’s first comic was Blue Ribbon Comics, published in November 1939, followed shortly by Pep Comics, which began in January 1940 and introduced The Shield, a patriotic hero who resembled Marvel’s Captain America, who started appearing one year later.

In Pep Comics issue no. 22, published in December 1941, Archie Andrews made his first appearance. The world would never be the same. [Read more...]

OP-ED: Sustainability, and Why It’s Good for Business

By Brian MacKinnon, Toy State senior vice president of sales

BrianMacKinnon.picFirst and foremost, toy makers are committed to providing retailers with high quality products. But if we can do this in an environmentally friendly way and be more profitable—well, now we are talking!

Over the past few months, Toy State has been part of a Wal-Mart-sponsored pilot program, RedE, intended to educate companies on ways to utilize sustainability best practices to both save energy over time as well as increase profitability. This past April, we were proud to be recognized by Wal-Mart as a global leader in this effort.

Let me share with you what we’ve learned through this pilot program so far: [Read more...]

Cowabunga! A Look at TMNT Toys Past and Present

TMNTby Brandon Engel

Fans eagerly await the big screen return of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello. Not the Italian master painters, but the pizza-scarfing, reptilian wise-crackers who have been delighting young audiences since the early ’80s. Although the characters were originally created by artists Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird as a parody of comic book franchises that were popular at the time, the turtle gang soon took on a life of its own, spawning multiple television programs, video games, films, and of course, toys.

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding the forthcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, and although we’ll have to wait until August for the film’s premiere, there’s a slew of new products to hold our interest until then. [Read more...]

Propel Equity Partners Acquires Assets of Summit Products, CitiBlocs

Private equity firm Propel Equity Partners has acquired the assets of Summit Products LLC, which include Backyard Safari, Zillionz, Covert Force, Test Pilot, and Stink Bugzzz brands. These lines will be incorporated into the Alex Brands family of toy brands.

In a separate transaction, Propel Equity Partners also acquired CitiBlocs, a line of high-quality, precision cut wood construction blocks. CitiBlocs will also be incorporated into Alex Brands. CitiBlocs builds upon the presence of Alex Brands in the construction category, which already includes Ideal Frontier Logs, Amaze ’n Marbles, Kinderblocks, Fiddlestix, and the Zoob line.

Alex Brands is a family of brands owned by Propel Equity Partners that includes Alex Toys, Poof, Slinky, Scientific Explorer, Ideal, and Zoob. The collective portfolio, sold worldwide, includes more than 2,000 products spanning the categories of games, science kits, preschool and infant toys, construction sets, craft activity kits, art supplies, bath toys, foam sports balls, and the classic Slinky.

TIA President and CEO Carter Keithley to Retire

Carter Keithley has announced that he will retire as president and CEO of the Toy Industry Association (TIA) effective April 30, 2015, after nearly a decade of leadership with the trade organization. As reported by the TIA, he announced his retirement on May 7, at the TIA Board of Directors meeting held in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“My years as chief executive of the Toy Industry Association were the highlight of my 40-year career as an association executive,” stated Keithley. “My only regret is that I did not come to TIA as a younger man able to sustain the pace and workload for a longer time. As I enter my 70th year of life, it is time for me to pass the baton to someone with fresh energy, vision, and ambition, so that TIA can continue to serve its members and support the growth and health of the toy industry.”

Keithley assumed his role in May 2006 during a period of upheaval for TIA and the industry. The Toy Center Buildings, located in midtown Manhattan, were closing after serving for many years as the site of New York Toy Fair. Barely a year into Keithley’s term, the toy industry was faced with yet another crisis when hundreds of playthings were recalled by the U.S. government. [Read more...]

The Toy Insider Announces Top Toys for Spring and Summer

Layout 1The Toy Insider has released its spring edition online at ToyInsider.com. Featuring six categories of spring and summer toys, the Toy Insider assists gift givers in selecting the best toys for the outdoor and travel season.

“After playing with and testing hundreds of toys, we created a list that is jam-packed with play value and includes something for everyone,” says Laurie Schacht, Toy Insider Mom. She reminds parents and gift givers to look for toys that provide active play or engaging play that will last for hours, and that will help kids “shut down” their devices and enjoy the great outdoors.

The six categories offer products for boys and girls of all ages, and include outdoor toys, water toys, travel toys and games, physical/active toys, nature and educational toys, and entertainment toys.

Target CEO Steps Down, Other Changes to Leadership Made

Target LogoTarget’s board of directors issued the following statement today:

“Today we are announcing that, after extensive discussions, the board and Gregg Steinhafel have decided that now is the right time for new leadership at Target. Effective immediately, Gregg will step down from his positions as chairman of the Target board of directors, president and CEO. John Mulligan, Target’s chief financial officer, has been appointed as interim president and chief executive officer. Roxanne S. Austin, a current member of Target’s board of directors, has been appointed as interim non-executive chair of the board. Both will serve in their roles until permanent replacements are named. We have asked Gregg Steinhafel to serve in an advisory capacity during this transition and he has graciously agreed.

The board is deeply grateful to Gregg for his significant contributions and outstanding service throughout his notable 35-year career with the company. We believe his passion for the team and relentless focus on the guest have established Target as a leader in the retail industry. Gregg has created a culture that fosters innovation and supports the development of new ideas. Under his leadership, the company has not only enhanced its ability to execute, but has broadened its strategic horizons. He also led the company through unprecedented challenges, navigating the financial recession, reacting to challenges with Target’s expansion into Canada, and successfully defending the company through a high-profile proxy battle. [Read more...]

Skylanders Trap Team Brings Digital Characters into the Physical World

SkylandersTrapTeamActivision’s newest installment to the $2 billion Skylanders franchise, Skylanders Trap Team, redefines the toys-to-life phenomenon with a new ground-breaking innovation. Unveiled today, the new game will reverse the magic of bringing toys to life by allowing kids to pull villains—including Kaos—out of the digital world and into the physical world.

In Skylanders Trap Team, Kaos continues his ongoing quest to rule over Skylands. He has discovered the location of the legendary Cloudcracker Prison—a fortress built entirely out of the magical substance, Traptanium, and home to Skylands’ most nefarious villains. In an attempt to build his own army of foes, Kaos blows up the prison, releasing the baddies and blasting shards of Traptanium to Earth in the form of Traps. Now it’s up to Portal Masters to recapture all of the escaped villains using powerful Traptanium Traps and defeat Kaos. The new adventure delivers a diverse and dynamic story-driven gameplay experience, filled with adventure, combat, puzzles, mini-games, activities, platforming, and drop-in/drop-out co-op play—all set within new compelling, breath-taking environments.

With Skylanders Trap Team, Portal Masters seek out and defeat the most-wanted villains in all of Skylands, pulling them out of the game and into living rooms by capturing them in the magical crystal traps. Players can then send the trapped villains back into the game where they will fight for good. The latest installment will include the Traptanium Portal, a new ring of magical energy that enables kids to not only bring their Skylanders to life, but also magically capture villains using the new traps. Once they’ve defeated the villain in the game, kids will be able to place a Trap into the new portal to capture it. They will also be able to hear the villain inside the Trap, furthering the magic of Skylanders in 2014. [Read more...]