Q&A with Tony Norman, Co-Founder, President and CEO, Innovation First International

Hexbug.TonyNormanThe Toy Book (TTB): How do you use 3-D printing in your R&D? Do you plan to incorporate 3-D printing into your consumer offerings in the future?

Tony Norman (TN): We have three commercial-grade 3-D printers at Hexbug headquarters that run pretty much continuously. Design is iterative, and our 3-D printers enable us to engage in rapid prototyping. This rapid prototyping allows us to get real working samples out to focus groups quickly and frequently, so as to gather feedback and make the necessary changes prior to starting production. This highly accelerated production process significantly reduces our time to market and sets us apart from other toy companies.
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Q&A with Jay Foreman, President and CEO, The Bridge Direct

resized,TheBridge.JayForemanThe Toy Book (TTB): Which licenses do you anticipate will be key drivers in 2015?

Jay Foreman (JF): I think everyone would agree on Marvel’s The Avengers, Frozen, Cinderella, Minions, and Star Wars, along with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; however, there are a few nontraditional brands emerging from toy companies, like Shopkins, that should be considered.
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Q&A with Laura Zebersky, CCO and EVP, Jazwares

Jazwares.LauraThe Toy Book (TTB): How have you seen consumer expectations change over the past decade?

Laura Zebersky (LZ): Over the past 10 years, the convergence of toys and entertainment has been unprecedented. Consumers have come to expect both online and offline experiences from their favorite brands. It’s not enough anymore to create a new toy. Stories, videos, and other content are needed to really engage kids and toy fans of all ages. This leads into another big change: If you want to reach consumers today, traditional formulas from years ago need to be augmented with strategies that include communication across multiple social platforms. Kids are engaging in new ways with different types of media; they might interact simply by sharing images and video of exciting new toys on various social channels or become avid fans and essentially create celebrities on YouTube. They want the whole experience, and the brands of tomorrow will have to provide it in accessible and innovative ways to stand out from the crowd.
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Q&A with John Gessert, President, American Plastic Toys

APT.John GessertThe Toy Book (TTB): Which toy categories do you expect to expand in 2015? Which do you expect to contract?

John Gessert (JG): We are starting to see more interest at the consumer level in toys that promote or support basic play patterns. We have received notes from consumers that complement our products not only for being made in the U.S., but also for providing a basis for good basic role playing that results in active play that promotes imagination. Another role-play area that seems to be increasing from initial line reviews for fall is in doll-related play. It appears that demand for doll accessories has increased for 2015.
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Q&A with Søren Torp Laursen, President, Lego Systems

Lego Direktion  15,012,2005 © Niels Aage Skovbo, FOKUSThe Toy Book (TTB): How has the success of The Lego Movie helped to transform the entertainment and merchandising arm of Lego?

Søren Torp Laursen (STL): We are thrilled that The Lego Movie captured the attention of so many people around the world last year, serving as an anthem for creative building that drove families to pull out their existing Lego collections or try one of the Lego sets that we had on shelf. While we do not have ambitions to become an entertainment company, we know that storytelling and content—be it film, TV, YouTube tutorials, or fan-generated animations—is an important way that we create relevance while inspiring new ideas for play time. The movie was a perfect validation of our belief in the power of stories, and we look forward to deeper relationships with our content partners to continue to enhance what we do best in delivering fun and creative building sets that inspire children to become their own storytellers.
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Q&A with Geoffrey Greenberg, Co-President, Just Play

JustPlay.GeoffreyGreenbergThe Toy Book (TTB): How do you use 3-D printing in your research and development? Will you incorporate 3-D printing into your consumer offerings in the future?

Geoffrey Greenberg (GG): We use 3-D printing extensively in our development process. The quick turnarounds enable for faster approvals and the ability to make changes as needed without a long wait. A designer can be much more precise when working with a printed sample, and it helps move the development process along more quickly. [Read more...]

Q&A with Paul Solomon, Co-CEO, Moose Toys

Moose.PaulSolomonThe Toy Book (TTB): In what new way are you using social media to correspond directly with consumers?

Paul Solomon (PS): The popularity of toy unboxing videos on YouTube has given Moose Toys the opportunity to reach more consumers on platforms other than TV. Moose has seen first-hand how social media allows consumers to engage more directly with our products. For example, Moose garnered more than 11 million views from our animated Shopkins webisodes. [Read more...]

Q&A with Simha Kumar, President, Sports and Fitness, Children’s Entertainment, Sears Holdings

Sears.Kumar,SimhaThe Toy Book (TTB): How are you engaging consumers in-store to drive sales?

Simha Kumar (SK): Kmart is focused on offering the most-desired toys, affordably and conveniently. We feature top licensed toys and hundreds of Kmart exclusives—whether purchasing in-store, buying online and picking up in-store, or having them shipped directly home. [Read more...]

Oldies but Goodies: Some of the Biggest Toy Brands of Yesteryear Are Making a Comeback

DebbieDunnHeadshotby Debbie Dunn, Licensing, Marketing, Promotions, & Mom Expert, GennComm LLC

What’s old is new again, and vintage brands are expected to be the biggest hits in the toy aisle for this year. Many of these brands have reinvented themselves in modern ways with digital entertainment content to reach today’s savvy kid consumer, yet they still offer the same trusted attributes that parents–and even grandparents–knew and loved. [Read more...]

Q&A with Ben Gadbois, Global President and COO, Spin Master Ltd.

SpinMaster.BenGadboisThe Toy Book (TTB): Which toy categories do you expect to expand in 2015? Which do you expect to contract?

Ben Gadbois (BG): While it isn’t a category itself, robotic technology is advancing the toy industry in revolutionary new ways. Toy robots are nothing new to the market, but over the past few years we are seeing more innovative integration of robotics, allowing kids to do incredible things. From our trainable, voice-recognizing dog, Zoomer, to the autonomous, fiercely independent Zoomer Dino, toys are coming to life and great new play patterns are emerging. This year, we are fusing the latest technology and robotics with the iconic Meccano brand (known as Erector in the U.S.) with our latest robot, Meccanoid G15 KS. Meccanoid embodies the core values of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and empowers children by acting as a fun and engaging way to learn about coding, robotics, and engineering. As society advances, so do our toys, and there is a new thirst in the market as consumer behavior shifts toward products that can be both fun and educational. [Read more...]