Instagram Builds Toy Fair Momentum, Community

By Julie Livingston, Senior Account Executive, CarrotNewYork, formerly Senior Director, Public Relations, Toy Industry Association

The adage “a picture tells a thousand words” perfectly describes the free, mobile-sharing app Instagram. The simple act of setting up your Toy Fair product line, exhibit booth, or private showroom can be turned into a compelling narrative easily and effectively. The free application has a simple interface; the bottom part of the app allows you to access the feed and see all of the photos added by you and the individuals you follow. You can click comment to voice your opinion and like a photo by clicking on the heart icon. To give Instagram photos a promotional edge, add a caption including a hashtag or two, such as #BrandXYZ and #TF as well as other, common Instagram tags such as #toys,  #love or #photooftheday that are relevant to your show posts. The site Webstagram is a helpful tool for identifying which hashtags are trending. Remember that although Instagram is a terrific mobile marketing tool, it works best in tandem with other visual content sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr, as these offer the best viral impact for sharing and discussing photos. [Read more...]

Use Twitter to Amplify Toy Fair Messaging

By Julie Livingston, Director of Business Development & Accounts,Child’s Play Communications; former Senior Director of Public Relations, Toy Industry Association

Want your toy or plaything to pop up more in online search? You’ve got to feed the social media engine! By regularly posting information on the leading social media platforms with relevant, ongoing messages and links, the more your company or brand will pop up in online search. This is also a primary means of putting your brand or products on the radar of the legions of reporters who use social media to do their pre-show fact-finding.

As there are a variety of social platforms to choose from, there is no “one size fits all” solution. You don’t have to be everywhere. Focus your efforts on one or several platforms that are well suited to your product, where you can shine. Consider the content itself—who will plan an editorial calendar, create the content, post it, and manage responses? This is critical because members of the press will expect to get expedient responses to their requests.   [Read more...]

What’s Your Toy Fair Product Story?

By Julie Livingston, Director of Business Development & Accounts,Child’s Play Communications; former Senior Director of Public Relations, Toy Industry Association

Reporters scouting Toy Fair for hot products and overarching trends are pressed for time and attention. On a good day, they may have an hour or so to peruse the aisles overflowing with eye candy. Keep in mind that, in addition to covering the spectacle of the show, they are also looking for alternative story angles of greater depth. Such angles may include:

  • Lifestyle trends and new ways that kids are engaging in play;
  • “Hometown heroes”- stories about unlikely toy inventors or inventions;
  • Emerging entertainment properties and licenses;
  • Made in the USA products; and
  • Brand legacy stories (including special anniversaries of best-loved brands and characters). [Read more...]

Get a Head Start on Toy Fair

By Julie Livingston, Director of Business Development & Accounts, Child’s Play Communications; former Senior Director of Public Relations, Toy Industry Association

We all know that the fourth quarter of the current year and first quarter of the new year are a marathon of events and deadlines for the toy industry. First, it is the chaos of closing out holiday orders and enjoying a brief holiday break. Then, for many, it’s on to the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair, followed by Nuremberg and then the annual New York Toy Fair at the Jacob K. Javits Center from February 10 to 13. With such a compressed timetable, every minute in pre-Toy Fair planning counts.

The annual event draws approximately 1,000 global media representatives from top tier outlets including The Today Show, The View, CNN, the Associated Press, The New York Times, NY Daily News, Wall Street Journal, and many more. Media publicity affords toy companies with valuable promotion and exposure, which can help to hype “driver products”–those in-demand items expected to be hot sellers for the 2013 holiday season.   [Read more...]

GoldieBlox Builds a Foundation for More Female Engineers

Debbie Sterling creates a construction toy designed with girls in mind

What do Bob the Builder, Jimmy Neutron, and Bill Nye the Science Guy have in common? They all love engineering—and they are all male. Similarly, the construction aisles of toy stores are geared primarily toward boys, with blue and black boxes lining the shelves. Fear not, those of you with lady parts, GoldieBlox is here to inspire girls to tinker their way into the male-dominated world of engineering.

Debbie Sterling, who earned her degree in engineering from Stanford University, decided to create Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine, a construction toy specifically designed for young girls, two years ago. At one of Sterling’s “idea brunches,” where she and friends would get together to share their ideas over breakfast, the wheels started turning for the CEO when a fellow female engineer explained how playing with her brothers’ hand-me-down Legos influenced her. Having grown up with only a sister, Sterling was never exposed to construction toys as her parents never thought to venture into the boys’ toy aisles. “That morning, it hit me like a lightening bolt. I was sitting in that room and realized this is my life calling, as corny as it sounds,” she says. [Read more...]

St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital Offers Toy Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

Courtesy of St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital

The holiday season is upon us, which makes it prime time for toy buying. In fact, more than half of the three billion toys and games sold in the U.S. each year are purchased at Christmas time. While the majority of toys are safe, thanks in part to stronger federal rules and higher standards from toy makers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that last year alone more than 193,200 U.S. children were treated in hospital emergency departments for toy-related injuries.

“Toys have changed over the years and the assortment can be astounding, particularly to those who haven’t shopped for kids in a while,” says Bevin Maynard, a child advocate at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. “Child safety, however, never goes out of style. It is something parents and family members should always keep in mind when selecting gifts for youngsters.” [Read more...]

Learning Care Group Weighs In With Toy Suggestions

Courtesy of Learning Care Group

The Learning Care Group, provider of early education and care services to children, has shared their toy suggestions. [Read more...]

Ranger Rick Celebrates 50 Years with New App, Magazine

National Wildlife Federation (NWF), publisher of Ranger Rick children’s magazine, is releasing a new magazine and related app for a younger age group.

Ranger Rick Jr. will feature specially designed content for children ages 4 to 7. The magazine is designed for beginning readers and is packed with intriguing animal facts and photography. A new character, Ricky Raccoon, will guide children through the 36-page magazine, with the first issue set to release in December.

Every issue will feature Green Time, a page of activities aimed to get kids outside so they can experience wildlife in their own neighborhoods, and Ever Wonder, which will answer kids’ elusive questions about nature.

Though the magazine focuses primarily on photos and activities rather than text-heavy articles, Ricky and Pals gives adults the chance to read fictional stories about Ricky Raccoon to children.

A subscription to Ranger Rick Jr. will include 10 issues of the magazine. Ranger Rick Jr. will also be available for purchase on newsstands, and digital editions of the publication are available for the Nook at bn.com and Kindle at amazon.com.

The app, Ranger Rick Jr. Appventures, is a storybook app designed for iPads. Kids can make their way through animal adventures using the explore, create, and play options. The first app in the series will focus on lions, as Ricky Raccoon appears with his pal Lars the Lion to take children on an animated trip through the grasslands.

With the Interactive Photo Story kids can discover interesting facts about lions while watching videos, looking at animated infographics, and listening to animal sound effects. In Photo Safari, kids can count the lions in Lars’ pride while snapping photos along the way. With Trail tales, kids can write fill-in-the-blank ad-lib type stories, and with the Animal Builder they can create their own hybrid animals.

Every page is designed to have hidden elements kids can touch and discover in addition to the games, facts, and images. “We wanted to be informatie but we wanted to build play and creativity into it,” said Lori Collins, editor-in-chief of Early Childhood Publications.

The interactive app will be available for purchase in the iTunes App Store this week.

Creatures of Delight Fuse Fangs and Fun

There is a softer side to all kinds of fictitious creatures: from Yetis, aliens, and trolls, to dragons, human-devouring plants, and purple dinosaurs.

Tom Kopian, artist and creator behind Creatures of Delight, a line of specialty, handcrafted monster toys, works with a small team and his 11-year partner, Stewart Buffaloe, to make one-of-a-kind creatures using a variety of molds and his patented latex-fiber blend material.

Large Feed Me Creature

The creatures are a combination of creepy and cute and appeal to a broad demographic. Though the line is composed mostly of traditionally scary, fictional monsters, their vibrant color palettes and bright-white smiles make them appeal to girls as much as boys. “I think essentially the toys are gender neutral. They are rough and tough monsters, so it can be a boy thing, but girls like some of the cuter pieces like Snarl, Floyd, and the Grudges. It is not definitively a boy or girl thing,” Kopian explains. [Read more...]

Amazon vs. Brick-and-Mortar

by Lutz Muller

In a pretty flat overall market place, Amazon continues to make headway as it is propelled by the ongoing move to cyber space, lower prices, and convenience.

Amazon has three major assets. First, the absence of brick-and-mortar stores allows Amazon to offer an unlimited inventory. Second, Amazon pays no sales tax in most states, which allows the company to undersell its competitors. Third, Amazon’s infrastructure allows it to grow almost limitlessly without the need for expensive retail stores.

This is how Amazon’s sales developed over the past few years against two major competitors:

[Read more...]