European Toy Fairs 2012 Round Up

By Steve Reece, a brand management consultant in the toys and games industry.

Apparently we are in the middle of an ever-worsening economic climate in Europe, a eurozone crisis, and a downward spiral of economic recession. I didn’t get any impression of that from this year’s European toy fairs. In fact, it almost seemed the opposite! Rarely have I been to toy fairs with so much news, innovation, and newsworthy product launches.

For me, the season started with the UK show. In its third year back at London’s Olympia Exhibition Centre, this show was buzzing, with a packed out hall and mezzanine, plentiful foot traffic, and a generally vibrant atmosphere.

Then onto Nuremburg, where the temperature dropped as low as -17 C / 1 Fahrenheit. Despite the inhospitable weather, the show itself seemed as vibrant as ever. While the attendance figures were reportedly down, international visitors hit record levels, and it was notable that the majority of top-level industry people I expected to be there were indeed present.

[Read more...]

TIA’s Bossard Talks Licensing at Toy Fair

by Marian Bossard, vice president of meetings and events, Toy Industry Association (TIA)

If I had a dollar for every key industry contact that told us the concept of a licensing showcase during American International Toy Fair was nothing short of brilliant, I would have at least $10. Maybe even $12.

After all, what isn’t right about endeavoring to create a “Licensing Upfront” for brand and property owners when all the right people with all the right innovation, influence, and interest are already in New York City for Toy Fair? And, what could be off the mark about bringing together an audience of Madison Avenue marketers, manufacturers from around the world, mass market and independent retailers, and critically important global media available only in New York City? The short answer is nothing. But the short answer just kind of falls short of telling the story.

A venture like this requires that you start with a clear objective, but just as important is the need to remain flexible and open to modification along the way. As it turned out, even with high levels of interest, the formats that prevailed were the small meetings with key partners, invitation-only breakfasts and cocktail receptions, and brand and property exposure through traditional advertising and promotional opportunities. So, while Toy Fair won’t be seeing “big screen showcases” this year, we are pleased that we have provided just the right solutions for these stakeholders’ needs.

[Read more...]

Tips for Optimizing Exposure For Your Toy in Real Time at Toy Fair

Fifth in a series of posts on preparing for the annual trade event.

by Julie Livingston, director, business development and accounts, Child’s Play Communications

That crazy mix of anticipation, excitement, and adrenaline occurs each year for me, as I walk into the Javits Center on opening day of Toy Fair. There is so much to do in advance of the show, not to mention managing the intensity of the four-day event and post-show follow up.

If you have already reached out to the media and bloggers to schedule appointments to meet and give them a heads up on your new products, that’s a good thing. There is a chance that some reporters may spend times “walking the floor,” but with staff cutbacks at many media companies, their time is often limited. It is more likely for reporters to come to Toy Fair with predetermined ideas of what they want to see; they may also narrow their search for specific products that exemplify a particular toy trend (or trends) they are covering, such as tech or connected toys.

As a Toy Fair exhibitor, what is the best way to handle the media on site at the show? This is often the biggest challenge for exhibitors who are preoccupied with retailer meetings and managing a handful of product samples. This post includes tips and advice on how to work with the media that attend the event.

Scheduled Appointments

If you have preset appointments, tell your exhibit booth administrator and designate another colleague as a backup, in case you are unavailable. If your backup is someone unaccustomed to dealing with the press, provide an overview of the media outlet and leave any press materials for them, as well as your business card and mobile number. Given the hectic nature of Toy Fair, it is not unusual for appointments to show up early or late, which may throw a curve ball into your day. However you handle it, make sure the reporter is taken care of properly and professionally.

[Read more...]

How to Best Work With Bloggers and Toy Industry Experts at Toy Fair

Fourth in a series of posts on preparing for the annual trade event.

by Julie Livingston, director, business development and accounts, Child’s Play Communications

In addition to the hoards of journalists from traditional media channels covering Toy Fair, exhibitors should also consider outreach to bloggers (specifically, mom bloggers who write product reviews) and toy industry experts who cover the annual event.  Both influential in their own right, the clout these individuals carry can be particularly valuable to small and mid-sized toy companies, driving brand awareness, social media prominence, and, ultimately, sales.

Getting your toy featured on the right product review blog is a marvelous way to generate grassroots buzz for your product. According to a recent study conducted by Child’s Play Communications and the NPD Group, 79 percent of all American moms with children under the age of 18 are active in social media. Of that number, about one in four have made purchasing decisions as a result of a social media recommendation; more than half (55 percent) said they made their purchase because of a recommendation from a personal review blog

To reach moms where they “live,” it is essential that toy and youth entertainment companies have a strong presence among mom bloggers. To clarify, a mom blogger is a mother, generally with young preschool-aged children, who blogs on a regular basis. Many of the mom bloggers we work with at Child’s Play turned to blogging as an outlet following earlier careers as journalists, writers, and marketers. Some were involved in other aspects of business, and many are moms looking to express themselves while connecting with other moms to share experiences and life lessons. These women are smart, dedicated, and energetic.

[Read more...]

How to Pitch the Media Covering Toy Fair

Third in a series of posts on preparing for the annual trade event

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

With Toy Fair less than a month away, how will you engage the media to ensure coverage for your toys or youth entertainment products? Here at Child’s Play, we’ve been working overtime to fine-tune our media lists and pitches on behalf of clients. This week’s post will include some of our tried and true strategies and tactics for pitching the press.

Think Like a Journalist

With less space for toy coverage and so many exhibitors to see—more than 1,000 at the Javits Center alone, as well as those in private showrooms across New York City—reporters are pressed for time. So, when choosing media channels to pitch, focus on the “why”/reason an outlet would be interested, to determine the “where”/ specific outlets to concentrate on.

Prior to Toy Fair, many journalists will do an online search, hunting for toys that are a match for the following themes, so post your press release on all company social media platforms incorporating the following key themes and key words.

[Read more...]

What Should Be in Your Toy Fair Media Tool Kit?

Second in a series of posts on preparing for the annual trade event


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

As the adage goes, “information is power,” and that is exactly why the nuggets of facts, photos, video and other details contained in your Toy Fair media kit can directly impact the depth and breadth of coverage you get during the show. Start planning out your content by thinking through the writer’s “5 W’s”—the Who, What, Where, When, and Why—as it relates to your product. Ask for input from colleagues in the product development, sales, and marketing areas, as their perspective can provide tremendous insight, and descriptive language to tell the story. In my experience, this process can be time consuming; be prepared for multiple rounds of edits so that the end product is one that will draw attention and interest.

From seeing literally hundreds of press materials in my years in the children’s entertainment business and PR, the following elements when executed well contribute to a successful press kit:

[Read more...]

Countdown to Toy Fair: Identifying Your Communications Objectives

First in a series of posts on preparing for the annual trade event


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

Toy Fair is a month away, and for many toy and youth entertainment companies, the annual event is an important media platform that can help drive brand awareness and buzz for hot items throughout the year. With approximately one thousand media representatives from around the world in attendance, how will your company or brand garner the attention it deserves? Following are tips and information collected during the six years I served overseeing public relations for the Toy Industry Association and Toy Fair, as well as serving toy and youth entertainment industry clients as a PR professional.

1.     Prioritize your communications goals and objectives. For example, is it a new product line review you want the media to see? Or, do you have a hot item you want to hype to help drive holiday orders?  Do you have an announcement about a licensing agreement or strategic partnership? Identifying your primary goals and objectives will provide a framework for all related activities, including any responsibilities that you want other communications personnel or a public relations agency to handle.

[Read more...]

GUEST BLOG: Five Toys to Teach Kids About Money by Mallory Loren

The following is a guest blog written by Mallory Loren who is a digital strategist and contributor for BCF Wealth Strategies. The company acts as a personal CFO that specializes in small business owners, self-employers, and retirees.

Your little one is a long way off from balancing checkbooks and managing mortgages, but teaching him or her about responsible spending starting at a young age is an extremely important skill. Children often find lessons about money to be tedious, so we have some toys to make it exciting. Check out these five educational aids and toys to help your wee one become enthusiastic about learning the value of a dollar:

Fisher-Price Fun 2 Imagine Cash Register (2-4 years)

The Cash Register is a classic and handy tool to introduce your child to the concept of money. The Fisher-Price Fun 2 Imagine Cash Register is brightly colored, comes with sortable numbered coins, makes noises, and features popping and spinning rolling action that will keep your little one entertained while learning.

Perfect Solutions Digital Coin-Counting Piggy Bank (8+ years)

This toy takes the classic piggy bank to the next level. The Digital Coin-Counting Piggy Bank is useful for all ages. Even adults may find it helpful to keep track of loose change, but it is designed for kids because it allows to see them how much money they have accumulated and keeps count of their earnings all in one place.

[Read more...]

GUEST BLOG: Five Ways To Drive Customer Conversion Rates In Your Stores by Mark Ryski

The following is a guest blog written by Mark Ryski. Ryski is the founder and CEO of HeadCount, an analytics firm specializing in store traffic and conversion, serving retailers across North America. He is also the author of Conversion: The Last Great Retail Metric. For more information, visit www.headcount.com.

Same-store sales are looking a little flat and retailers need to find ways to deliver better results. There’s still a scent of the financial melt-down lingering, but you have survived that crisis and it’s time to start getting the sales needle to move in a positive direction.

There are three main ways to drive sales in stores: (1) encourage more prospective buyers to visit your store; (2) increase your average ticket; and (3) increase your conversion rate — that is, sell to more of the prospects already visiting your stores, but don’t buy.

To a great extent, retail sales have been a two-trick pony: drive more prospective traffic and increase the average ticket. Driving more prospects into your stores usually requires an advertising or promotional investment of some kind, and many retailers focus on increasing the average ticket. But what about conversion rate? It is a third trick every retailer needs to learn, and another sales opportunity that most retailers today completely overlook.

[Read more...]

GUEST BLOG: Top 10 Steel Toys of All Time by Becky Cunningham

The following is a guest blog written by Becky Cunningham, a contributor for Capital Steel & Wire, Inc. and a writer with expertise in communication and public relations. Capital Steel & Wire, Inc. is a supplier of domestic and international steel bar and wire products.

Throughout history, millions of dolls, trucks, board games, balls, stuffed animals, crafts, and other toys have been introduced for children of all ages and generations. The best toys of all time are debatable, but there are those few standard toys that have made an important mark in the life of the American child. What’s more significant is that these toys have one fundamental feature in common—they are all made of steel. Check out our list of the top 10 steel toys of all time.

1. Slinky

“It’s Slinky! It’s Slinky! For fun it’s a wonderful toy. It’s Slinky! It’s Slinky! It’s fun for a girl or a boy.”  Slinky—and its famous jingle—is certainly a childhood classic; the slogan speaks for itself. But what the slogan doesn’t say is “It’s steel! It’s steel!” The ever-popular Slinky, developed in 1943 by mechanical engineer Richard James, was a hit the moment it was available in stores. In November 1945, Gimbels Department Store sold its entire inventory of Slinkys in just 90 minutes.

This “walking” toy was actually an accidental creation. In an attempt to develop springs to support sensitive instruments aboard ships in war time, James inadvertently created a spring that bounced around different levels of his workshop and recoiled into an upright position. Fascinated by this discovery, he experimented with different types of steel and tensions, and, a year later, made a spring that would walk—the Slinky.

[Read more...]