Source: Pixabay

by Cristy Collins, vice president of brand strategy, ChizComm Beacon Media

As the year comes to an end, the toy industry is typically gearing up for toy fairs, planning showroom space and samples, and setting up appointments. It’s how we wrap the year and ring in a new one. 2021 will begin quite differently than in years past, meaning that we must operate differently and evolve the way we communicate with customers and consumers.

The Challenge of Virtual Meetings

In a trade show or showroom setting, there are samples that you can touch, see, play, and interact with. We’re reminded of the simplicity and joy of play. It’s fun! Capturing that same feeling can be difficult in a virtual situation. Losing the physical experience is hard enough, but grabbing the attention of a buyer and keeping it via video can be even more challenging. Given the postponement of the Hong Kong, Nuremberg, and Toy Fair New York trade shows especially, missed opportunities for last looks with buyers and access to live press coverage presents an additional hurdle.

To help overcome this, the more detailed and immersive a presentation to buyers and press, the better. Investing in rich video to highlight product features, product and lifestyle images, and finished packaging that can be easily demonstrated is more important now than ever. In addition, having an abundance of samples on key items to send out to prospective news outlets, reviewers, and buyers is critical. Arm your marketing and PR teams with more, earlier.

Losses and Gains

From a consumer marketing standpoint, as we enter the holiday season, we are all thinking about the final few weeks to reach target audiences, how to move the needle from awareness to purchase, and how we carry the momentum forward into spring 2021. With restrictions on school attendance, shopping, social gatherings, and more, we’ve lost some of the word of mouth — including important playground banter — to help pass along what’s new, cool, and trending in the toy and game world. With fewer people in stores, we also lose the touch-and-feel retail experience that often drives kids to request and mom and gift-givers to relent.

Conversely, we are seeing opportunities open up to manufacturers and marketers. As kids and families spend more time at home, we’re seeing an increase in media consumption across all screens. Playground banter is becoming in-game chatter among older kids. With these shifts, more opportunities to reach kids and families in different ways open up. We also know that as families spend less time in-store they are spending more time shopping online, to the tune of an expected 35% increase this holiday season, per EMarketer.

What does this mean for manufacturers?

Whether traditional or streaming, TV remains the No. 1 way to reach kids. That alone may no longer be enough to drive success. A rich media-mix across multiple screens is necessary. Perhaps the most important piece this holiday season is a drive to retail component with robust landing pages to highlight product features and brand depth. This serves as a bridge from TV commercials and influencer or online videos to the path to purchase. Another consideration is the timing of tactics within the marketing plan and the percent of budget and time allocated among them. For example, what used to be a predictable window for sales conversion has now started earlier and extended longer due to reliance on online purchasing. This means the percent of time and budget allocated to driving to retail sales vs. building awareness or driving to content must shift as well.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

At the end of the day, kids are still kids. They are still circling the items they want in retail catalogs and dreaming of toys, games, and electronics to put on holiday lists or show off to their friends. They are still influenced by what they hear and see on TV, from other kids, and online. Moms are still the gatekeeper to spending. As manufacturers and marketers, we still need and want to reach kids and families. We simply must go about it in new ways.