New collectibles focus on the duality of toys

It’s all about the surprise inside. Toys need to be more than just a simple, shelf-worthy figure to pique kids’ interest. Whether there’s a mystery surprise inside, a blind bag package to unbox, or an extra activity to play, it’s no longer just about the collectible figurine or the surprise reveal inside, but rather an even bigger reveal that supports continued play value.

As part of last year’s trend of “radical reveals,” kids unboxed collectible toys and uncovered a unique surprise that added to the play experience with a one-and-done reveal. MGA Entertainment has dominated this category and stayed ahead of this trend with its popular L.O.L. Surprise! dolls. This line brought a new way to collect dolls as kids unwrap mystery packaging to unveil multiple accessories and a doll hidden inside. In fact, according to the NPD Group, L.O.L Surprise! was three times larger than the next popular collectible in the market.

Since it’s all about bigger and better surprises, especially given that most collectibles already come in a blind package, what’s next? What differentiates one collectible from the others in the market?

The answer: Slime, confetti, glitter, sand, or other tactile surprises hidden inside that kids can touch or feel. Not only do most of these toys still feature a blind bag component for kids to unwrap, but upon opening, kids discover an extra layer of play as well. Think of the confetti in Spin Master’s Party Popteenies, the slimy goo coating Mattel’s Breakout Beasts, and the sand surrounding MindWare’s Dig it Up! Dragons. These extra tactile surprises enhance the reveal and give kids an additional activity for more play value.

“Tactile appeal is ultimately key in this category. Without that, it is tough to succeed. However, toy companies also need to be wary of not overcomplicating things,” says Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight. “Our company has conducted more than 1,200 focus groups, and the most successful collectible toys we tested are often the simplest. They just need to be compelling in terms of touch, visuals, and character matrix.”

Treasure X Aliens, from Moose Toys

Finding a compound inside also plays a key role in the unboxing process, and gives kids the first element to discover. With even more ways to play, kids keep coming back again and again.

“By combining another popular element to an already popular toy, you can extend the life cycle of that trend,” says Nick Tarzia, owner of retailer Stamford Toys based in Stamford, Connecticut. “It also adds value to the product for the purchaser.”

Collectible toys themselves have transformed into a more developed experience, too.

“It’s not just an unboxing experience, it’s not just a physical reveal of a figure, but it’s part of the storytelling,” says Kotomi Nanjo, director of global marketing for girls at Moose Toys. “Treasure X Aliens is a good example; the end product is not just a figure, but it leads into a larger story that’s being delivered through webisodes. You don’t just get a figure to display, you get to play out a story with it.”

The idea that a collectible can be more than just a figure on a shelf is transforming the category, with toy companies working to create extra tactile elements or additional play sets for kids to engage in imaginative play with the characters they collect.

THRILL OF THE MYSTERY

Collectibles are hardly a new trend; adults have long compiled toys and merchandise on a shelf to view and collect, with no intention to play with them. Alternatively, kids have grown to expect more out of playtime. Collectibles — much like other toys — have shifted to reflect new changes in the market, adding play value to keep kids entertained and to validate the spend for parents.

Currently, the unboxing trend is at the forefront of today’s culture. Thanks to YouTube and its popular unboxing videos, kids can watch the excitement that comes from discovering what’s inside on screen and enjoy replicating that in reality.

Adding to the excitement, certain hidden figures are more exclusive, coming in rare and super rare versions so kids want to keep collecting.

“That thrill lies in the mystery,” says Lindsey Scheftic, vice president of marketing for Skyrocket. “Part of [the] fun for kids is that they love the process of opening and revealing, and that anticipation of what you’re going to get.”

COLLECT FIRST, THEN PLAY

Collectibles now also focus on multiple ways to play, with even the packaging becoming part of the toy.

“I think children’s play patterns really changed in the last few years,” Scheftic says. “Whereas adults or children of the ‘80s and ‘90s were just collecting dolls to collect dolls, today it’s more about collecting dolls, but also that imaginative play and having something and creating something that a child doesn’t throw away and can keep and play with.”

Toy lines such as Funrise’s Rainbow Butterfly Unicorn Kitty 9 Lives Surprise and Hog Wild’s Tony Hawk Box Boarders feature characters that kids can collect, but with packaging that functions as part of a play set that kids can build and use.

With Skyrocket’s Blume, a flower pot serves as the packaging for the collectible. Rather than simply opening a blind package, Blume mimics the gardening process to add an extra “wow” factor to the surprise discovery for kids to see which collectible doll they got. Kids can sprinkle water droplets on the “seeds” and watch as the doll’s over-the-top hairdo sprouts from the flower pot base. Kids can collect 22 different doll styles, and the reveal makes the toy stand out.

“We wanted to make something where there was a purpose and a use for everything that came into that little pack,” Scheftic says. “What’s exciting about the flower pot is that you can see the surprises you get along the way.”

CREATING A “WOW” MOMENT

Toy companies are going above and beyond to come up with creative ways to enhance the big reveal and create wow-worthy moments. Kids want a big, exciting gesture that will spark a moment of joy with their toys.

“Surprises for adults can be scary, but for kids who haven’t lived through adulthood, [they] are still fun,” Scheftic says. “They are excited, not scared, about what’s going to come through the reveal, and are not often disappointed about what’s coming out on the other side.”

Many toys have the unboxing blind reveal, a tactile surprise to touch, and a transforming play set, but what really piques kids’ interest is that “it” factor and that moment of awe when they open their toys for the first time.

“There’s so many different types of reveal toys out there,” Scheftic says. “We wanted to make sure that we had a [wow] factor for anyone who saw it [Blume], and not just the first time but the second, [and] the third. There’s that repeat excitement that comes with revealing because you don’t know what’s going to pop out the pot.”