China Toy Fair


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...]

Musical Toys: An Inspiration to Pursue the Art

by Rachel Matthews, guest blogger

Not too long ago, the Kidz Bop kids found their way performing at venues in New York and New Jersey. Their collection of poppy, top 40 covers has allowed them to produce dozens of compilation albums, launch a U.S. star search, release books, video games, and toys.

The line-up of the group is in constant rotation as each member ages. Because of this rotation, many a child beg their parents for a singing lesson—especially in New York—after seeing a Kidz Bop performance. The chances of becoming a member is hard pressed as detailed by this young musician, but the combination of their U.S. talent search and brand gives hope to many children within the States.

Of course, aiming to sing for a band such as Kidz Bop is only part of what’s driving up sales in music -parents must by music-related toys to help further their children’s ambitions.

[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...]

Go Ahead, Tweet It: Seven Ways to Take Advantage of the 
Social Power of Your Satisfied (and Not-So-Satisfied) Customers 


By Ron Kaufman

Today, we tweet about the latest books we’ve read. We let our friends know where we’re eating lunch via Facebook. We post pictures of our latest purchases to Instagram. We post reviews of the businesses we frequent on Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Angie’s List. As consumers, many of us have gone social. We love telling people about our latest experiences, and we love hearing about what others have experienced so we know what to do this weekend and what to avoid. Unfortunately, this social reality is something that few companies have fully embraced. Until they do, they’ll be missing out on the social power of their satisfied customers.

Just think about the last book you bought on Amazon. Did you read the publisher’s comments first or did you read the customer reviews? Most likely, it was the customer reviews. That’s because people trust people like them. Companies that aren’t embracing social media today are missing out on huge opportunities to capitalize on the voices of their customers.

The voices of your customers can contribute immediately and powerfully to a better service experience. Companies should be saying to their customers, “If you did not enjoy our service, please tell us. If you did enjoy our service, please tell someone else.” Engage them. Tell happy customers to go ahead and be social about their great experiences and encourage unhappy customers to come to you via social media so that you can make it right and improve your overall service.

A lot of customer service is already being done online, customer-to-customer. Companies that embrace this behavior can improve their service and save on costs. It is not unusual for a customer with a problem to use Google to find an answer before approaching the actual company responsible for the product or service. A quick search brings you tons of answers via user forums or message boards. The truth is customers like helping other customers. They’ll go out of their way to help a fellow customer find a solution, but for companies to do that backend customer service there would be a cost. By engaging your customers to help each other, you can defray your costs, improve your customer satisfaction, and stimulate a loyal community by encouraging people in your online social space.

The trick, of course, is encouraging your customers to use social media in the most beneficial way for your company. In other words, how do you keep them spreading great things about your company while bringing their complaints only to you? [Read more...]

TIA Shares Best Practices in Anti-Counterfeiting in the Toy and Game Industry

By Justin E. Pierce, Toy Industry Association

$27 million. That was the MSRP value of the counterfeit toys and electronic games seized by customs and border patrol last year alone.  And that is only what was seized.  Unfortunately, this is the reality of having a commercially successful toy or game.  While you have invested sweat and equity into development, bringing it to market, and building your brand, you are now faced, as a result of your success, with counterfeiters that eat into your profits, infringe on your rights, and expose you to liability.

This is an all too common problem, particularly in light of the ease of the online marketplace. In fact, any company with a well-known brand or popular toy or game should assume that it is already being counterfeited. Likewise, any company with a global footprint that has distribution channels in different countries, with different regulatory schemes and pricing, should assume that various entities are working to take their profit margin by diverting products.  Diversion of products into unauthorized sales channels and distribution of “gray market” goods (or parallel imports) causes significant losses for many companies.

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Lego Introduces Team Great Britain Minifigures

By Carlo Pandian

Normally Olympic heroes wait a lifetime to be immortalized in bronze or stone. Not in this Olympic-mad year. Lego has immortalized Team Great Britain in plastic with its new full range of minifigure competitors—from boxing champions to swimming superstars.

Although not modeled after specific athletes, the full set of nine figures includes a boxer, swimmer, judo fighter, relay runner, tennis player, gymnast, weightlifter, equestrian, and an archer. All of the figures proudly display their medals (gold, of course), and each comes with a handy accessory to identify them.

Previous Olympics have spawned a host of DIY Lego models by enthusiasts, including a model of the Olympic park from the Beijing games four years ago. For enthusiasts ready to recreate the London Olympic Village, the minifigures of Team GB will be a welcome addition.

This year’s Olympics are unique because this is the first time in modern history that they are being hosted by a city for a third time. London hosted the Olympics previously in 1908 and 1947. Lego has developed the line exclusively for the UK market.

Carlo Pandian is a freelance writer and blogs about Lego, art and design covering everything from Legoland Discovery Centre kids activities in Manchester to cool Duplo gadgets. When he’s not online, he likes building models and volunteering at his local community center.

This post was originally written by Carlo Pandian and published by ToyBook.com. For more news, visit www.toybook.com, follow The Toy Book on Twitter, and like The Toy Book on Facebook. The Toy Book is a bimonthly trade magazine covering the toy industry, published by Adventure Publishing Group.

10 Great Toys for Sight Challenged Kids

By Carol Watson, Guest Blogger from National Nannies

Kids love toys of every shape and size, there’s no doubt about it. But not all children are alike, and not all kids like the same things. When buying a gift for any child, it’s important to consider if the child will enjoy the gift. The same holds true when buying a gift for a blind or visually impaired child. Fortunately, there is an amazing array of toys that have been specially designed or modified for sight-challenged kids so that they are able to enjoy many of the same toys as those who were blessed with good vision. There are also many popular toys that both blind and sighted children enjoy.

Check out these 10 great toys for sight challenged kids.

  1. Let’s Rock Elmo: Let’s Rock Elmo is an interactive toy that sings and plays music. The toy comes with various instruments that Elmo and the children can play together.  Let’s Rock Elmo does not have to be purchased through a specialty store and can be purchased at most large retailers. Make sure to install the batteries before you give the toy to the child so that they can start playing with it immediately.
  2. Braille Learning Doll: The Braille Learning Doll is a specialty doll that is available through several different vendors, including Enable Mart. There are 6 buttons on the stomach of the doll which allows the child to make all braille letters. This is an educational gift that will help the child learn Braille.
  3. Board games: A company called Maxi Aids offers a large line of standard board games that have been modified to work for sight challenged kids.  Some of the games include Checkers games that have high contrast color pieces, Scrabble games that have large print tiles and boards, and Monopoly that comes in a large print edition. Since both sight and blind people can play these games, it can help foster inclusion.
  4. Bop It!/Bop It! XT: Bop It! is a fantastic game that a child can play alone or with friends. The Bop It! gives verbal commands that tell you to bop it, twist it, pull it and shake it. Once the child knows where the different parts of the game are they should be able to play by listening to the verbal cues. There are many different games within the Bop It! toy and there are different levels of play as well. This is a great game for the whole family.
  5. Dolls: If you buy a doll, make sure that it plays to more than one sense. There are dolls that talk and play music that a blind child may enjoy. Dolls with texture can be great for visually impaired children too. Look for clothes that have patches or embroidery on them so that the child can tell the difference between her dolls and doll accessories.
  6. Stuffed animals: Everyone loves a nice soft stuffed animal to hug, but to make this toy even better for a sight challenged child you may want it to engage more senses.  Choosing different types of stuffed toys, like ones stuffed with beans, crinkly paper and batting can help engage additional senses. The texture of the animal is important too. Maybe it’s a lion and it has a long haired fuzzy mane, soft fur on the back, and a long tail. All of those things will make the toy more fun for a sight challenged child.
  7. Braille games: Maxi-Aids also makes card games like Uno, Phase 10 and Dominos that all come equipped with Braille cards. While the child can often feel how many dots are on a domino they can’t tell what color it is without some help from the Braille dots.
  8. Audio Dart Master: This dart game has a texturized board that the sight challenged person can feel prior to play. The rest of the game is played by audio commands. The board calls out the player’s name and score, and will even give off a signal to help a sight challenged player aim for the bulls-eye. It’s available at audiodartmaster.com.
  9. Wikkistix: This is a very useful gift because it’s a toy, a craft, and is useful for marking things for sight challenged kids.  Wikkistix are sticky string-like sticks that come in various colors and can be bent and wound around anything. Kids can make creatures to play with or create greeting cards. The Wikkistix can even be used to teach shapes and to label things like a keyboard.
  10. Rib-it-Ball: Someone was really thinking when they created the Rib-it-Ball. The ball has sections of bright colors so it’s easier to see for sight challenged kids. The ribs stick out so that it’s easy to catch and the ribs crinkle like paper so it’s easy to hear when it’s being thrown to you. This ball will help with muscle control and hand/eye coordination.

One of the most important things you can do when picking a gift is to find out what the child enjoys. Keep these toys in mind the next time you are on the hunt for the best gift for a sight challenged child in your life.

This post was originally written by Carol Watson of National Nannies and posted on www.nationalnannies.com. For more information on National Nannies, visit the site. For more news, visit www.toybook.com, follow The Toy Book on Twitter, and like The Toy Book on Facebook. The Toy Book is a bimonthly trade magazine covering the toy industry, published by Adventure Publishing Group.

10 Reasons to Integrate Your Payments Environment

By Greg Hammermaster, Sage North America

1. Improve cash flow

When you integrate all your points-of-payment directly to your bank for settlement – and to your accounting system for reconciliation – you maximize your cash flow. Sitting on checks and receipts minimizes your cash position, which impacts your business’ liquidity.

2. Optimize sales channels

Any payment method – whether a credit card terminal, e-commerce website, or a mobile phone equipped to take payments – that’s not integrating directly to your accounting system isn’t optimized for sales execution and back-office efficiencies, therefore increasing cost-of-sales.

3. Eliminate manual data entry

Manually entering data in both a point-of-sale solution and an accounting solution doubles the time it takes to complete the payments process. By integrating your payments environment, you can reduce time spent on accounts receivable processing so you can spend more time on revenue-generating opportunities.

[Read more...]

When should licensees activate their public relations campaign?

By Julie Livingston, director, business development and accounts, Child’s Play Communications, New York City

With the advent of the annual Licensing Expo on June 12-14 in Las Vegas, licensors, licensees, companies, and brands will take steps to contemplate their marketing and communications plans for forthcoming product lines. In my work over the past decade with toy and youth entertainment companies, the oft-asked question inevitably comes back to timing, as in “when is the best time to activate my PR program?”

First and foremost, the licensee must consider the obligatory marketing activities detailed in the licensing contract, including advertising and promotion, public relations, and/or trade-show presence. Once established, a marketing and promotion plan (based on the general strategic marketing plan) can be devised to dovetail with the licensor’s objectives.

In addition to following the licensor’s brand-specific style guide, knowing their history of communicating and working with licensing partners can be helpful and provide tremendous insight. For example, gain insight on the licensors’ internal approval process, including key decision makers, to whom things must be submitted, and how long approval typically takes. This information will help to clarify key processes and assist the licensee to plan accordingly. Although some of the following items may seem intuitive, the PR planning process and execution must be meticulously timed to coincide with in-store or on-screen dates.

[Read more...]