China Toy Fair


COMMENTARY: Battery-Powered Toys Are Still as Relevant as Ever

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VTech’s Chomp & Stomp Dino

Toy stores today offer kids an ever-impressive selection of playthings that do more and more each year. From video games to talking plush, appcessories to robotics, it seems like there is no end in sight for innovation in the toy industry. I’ve often wondered just how far toys will go—it seems that literally anything is possible these days, with the right amount of willpower and support. Will we see invisibility cloaks? Toys that let kids fly? Time machines? The list goes on and on. [Read more...]

License to Build: Familiar Properties Fill Up the Shelves of the Construction Aisle

This article was originally published in the July/August 2014 issue of The Toy Book. To read the entire digital issue, click here.

The construction play pattern has always allowed kids to create buildable worlds and adventures straight from their imaginations. But with a recent surge of licensed toys entering the category, kids are able to build more and more familiar worlds based on their favorite existing properties. According to The NPD Group, dollar sales of licensed building sets grew by 6 percent from 2011 to 2013. As the world becomes more multi-media driven, licensed properties are deeply integrated into kids’ daily lives. Established building toy companies, as well as those looking to get their feet wet in the category, are jumping on the bandwagon with characters and environments that are already a staple among kids—and even collectors. [Read more...]

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?

A sales representative who specializes in selling to a specific mass-market account can help with lots of the legwork. They can help explain which aisle a product belongs in, who buys for that section, what is currently on the shelves, and how mass market buyers might feel about bringing in a new product. They’ll also explain the timing, fulfillment, and pricing requirements for that account. But, specialty manufacturers themselves are the ones who are the most vested in getting their products on the shelves, so they are the ones who can make the most persuasive argument.

Assuming the product line doesn’t feature the hottest kids’ property du jour and there is no extensive TV campaign, one very compelling argument to make to a mass market buyer is to show a proven track record of success in the specialty channel. Of course, success is subjective, so here are some key numbers you can track to help make your case:

  • Number of Doors: There are more than 15,000 toy stores in the U.S. How many of them carry your products? How long did it take you to reach that number?
  • Number of Reorders: Selling something to someone once is one thing, but getting reorders is key. What percent of your accounts have reordered? How many times did they reorder, on average, last year?
  • Number of Product Sold: In total, how many pieces of product did you sell last year?
  • Get Testimonials: Sometimes the personal touch can make a difference. What do store owners have to say about your line? How do they feel it moves in comparison to other products? Can they share any anecdotes (ideally about how customers were lined up to get in and buy your newest release)? Your reps can help you capture these statements.
  • Awards Won: Which awards has your product won? Some awards programs offer entrants the testers’ scorecards and comments, which you can use to grab powerful quotes.
  • Press Hits: Did you get good media coverage for this product in its first year out? Which TV shows, magazines, and newspapers mentioned your product?
  • Social Media Sensation: Did you make a splash online? How many Facebook followers does your brand have? How many of them entered contests to win your product? How many bloggers are talking about your product? What are they saying?
  • Research: Who is your key competition in the mass market? How are they doing? Why is your product better? And, speaking of social media, ask your followers if they’re shopping at the store you’re pitching—it would be great to be able to tell Target that 95 percent of your followers are also Target shoppers.
  • It’s All About the Booth: You’ll need to prove that you are a serious player who’s in it to win it, so your show booth needs to make a serious impression. Invest in the space you need to properly showcase your product, but don’t go so big that it feels empty. Go for professional signage and merchandising units and have your pitch down pat.
  • Cross Your Fingers: Sometimes a buyer’s decision comes down to a gut reaction or a personal connection to your product, so think positive and keep your fingers crossed!

Amy Opheim is the owner of C3, a consultancy helping toy industry partners create clear, concise, and compelling marketing strategies. For more information on C3’s marketing and copywriting services, call (562) 972-1855 or email amysnowopheim@gmail.com.

COMMENTARY: Even More Smart Devices Are Available for Kids

Toy companies creating kid-friendly and parent-approved technology has been a trend for some time, with no signs of slowing down in sight. In the recent past, tablets such as the Kurio 7s and LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra dominated the kiddie-tech market with durable rubber casings, safe settings, and easy-to-set parental controls. Now, however, manufacturers are focusing on putting different devices in the hands and on the wrists of kids. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Sports Video Games Are Getting More Realistic All the Time

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NHL 15, from EA Sports

Face it, sports fans: People of all ages love watching football, baseball, basketball, etc., and ever since the first video game based on any sport was released for home consoles, people have loved playing sports video games. I myself grew up with the Madden NFL and NBA Live series, both from Electronic Arts (EA Games), and I still remember the thrill of throwing a Dan Marino touchdown, or making Shaquille O’Neal uncharacteristically fire up a three-pointer. [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...]

COMMENTARY: Classic Games Are Revived with Modern Twists

5CF7F28B50569047F5EEB18A916E5462The summer months are known for spontaneous beach trips, an abundance of delicious ice cream, and, of course, the much-dreaded summer storms that come with unbearable heat. But the next time the weather is uncompromising, consider having a family game night in, though I know what you’re thinking: Please, not another children’s game.

It can be difficult choosing a game everyone agrees on; parents are frequently disconnected, and youngsters who are a few years apart in age constantly battle over which game should be the one played. But a new trend in the toy industry could stop these common issues before game night even begins. I am constantly seeing companies revisiting old games and giving them a modern twist, and these simple alterations often involve modern technologies to pique younger players’ interest. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: New Toys Inspire Girls to Cross Stereotypical Boundaries

Some girls like to play with dolls, while others might enjoy more crafty activities. But some girls also want to take charge at an early age and are interested in subjects that are stereotypically dominated by men. Recently, there has been an emergence of toys that help young girls develop an early interest in areas such as business, math, and science, as toy companies follow the trend of encouraging young girls to follow their dreams to the career path of their choice.

Alexi.July24Fashion Angels will be launching a line of products this fall called It’s My Biz, designed to encourage tween girls to consider careers in business. Barbie launched Entrepreneur Barbie this year, drawing inspiration from female entrepreneurs who have started their own businesses, such as Rent the Runway, Girls Who Code, and Genuine Insights. Finally, Debbie Sterling, the creator of Goldieblox, created her product with the mindset of “disrupting the pink aisle” and building girls’ confidence in their spatial abilities to develop an early interest in math and science, areas usually dominated by men. [Read more...]

PlayAbility Toys Provides Kids a Special Kind of Play

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Adam Small, CEO of Playability Toys

Play is one of the essential foundations of development in all children. With toys, kids learn how to socially interact, develop emotional intelligence, define motor skills, increase physical awareness, and support skills learned in the classroom. For kids with special needs, the challenges they face may discourage or avert them from having fun while playing with traditional toys. PlayAbility Toys, a specialty manufacturer and retailer, designs and produces products for children in the special needs community to get rid of that problem. Twelve years later, the company’s mission still holds strong, and even consumers without special needs are interested in what PlayAbility has to offer.

According to Adam Small, CEO of PlayAbility Toys, there is a lot of evidence about sensory toys that engage sight, sound, and touch at a young age help with cognitive development. [Read more...]

With DreamWorks Dragons Adventure World Explorer, Berk Goes Where You Go!

PowerPoint PresentationWe’ve all taken rides in cars, but honestly, haven’t we all found ourselves wishing we could be soaring on the wings of dragons instead?

That’s now a possibility, thanks to DreamWorks Dragons Adventure World Explorer, a new mobile game from Microsoft and DreamWorks Animation, and inspired by the animated film, How to Train Your Dragon 2. It uses Here Maps to pull in GPS info, turning the real world into the user’s very own fictional Isle of Berk.

During a recent demo, we took the game on a tour of midtown Manhattan. In Train mode, many of the city’s mighty edifices appeared in the game as huge stones, landmarks such as Grand Central Station became a wagon repair shop, and Chelsea Market was besieged by Vikings (They correspond to check-ins for the popular app Foursquare). Meanwhile, players engage in missions as part of their dragon training, such as picking up and dropping off sheep at home base–the device, represented in the game map by a cart. [Read more...]