The Toy Book catches up with Bob Wann, CEO of PlayMonster.
Patch Products is now PlayMonster! What’s the story behind the new name?
The name was changed to PlayMonster to better represent the diversity and quality of the company’s product line, which is a reflection of our mission and values. We started the process several months ago with motivation to simply update and evolve our logo, but as we researched and examined the changing marketplace, we saw an opportunity to create a playful new brand name that better expresses our belief in the power of play and that play is not only about fun, but also about making a difference in people’s lives.
The new name also better reflects that we are champions of play, a belief and attitude shared by all of our employees—from the management team to sales people to product creators.
How has PlayMonster evolved over the past 30 years?
PlayMonster was founded as Patch Products in 1985 and named for co-founders and brothers Fran and Bryce Patch. The company started more than 30 years ago with children’s puzzles, but has since grown into one of the world’s leading manufacturers and marketers of award-winning games and toys that enrich the lives of the young and the young at heart. The company has grown tremendously over the past five years alone, because we’ve expanded from being a games-only company into a multi-category toy and game company developing play for all ages, with our infant toy line Mirari, all the way to our best-selling games such as The Game of THINGS… for adults. With this variety of products, we’re now shipping millions of units of toy and game products per year, three times as many as we did five years ago. We wholeheartedly believe in bringing high-quality play to people of all ages, and will continue to do so under the PlayMonster name.
PlayMonster has experienced rapid growth over the past few years, and is now a top 30 toy company. To what do you attribute this growth, and how do you plan to maintain it?
We’ve continued to be picky about the games we create and take under our brand. We only want to produce quality products that have timeless play, not a toy or game that’s frivolous, or some short-term fad that will not have long-term appeal. A good example of this is our popular party game 5 Second Rule. We first started working on it seven years ago, and today it’s even more popular than it was when it first launched. It is still a top seller because of the fun interaction it creates. Ellen DeGeneres enjoys it so much that she frequently plays the game on her show, and the interaction between her and her guests is hilarious. In the same way we’re picky about specific ideas, we’re also careful in the acquisitions we make. We look for long-lasting play value, often with a point of difference that makes it special, and that’s what we found with our most recent acquisition of Roominate.
What inspired the acquisition of Roominate? How will this acquisition impact PlayMonster?
With the acquisition of Roominate, a line of toys designed to open up possibilities for kids by showing them that creativity and engineering are fun, PlayMonster expands into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) category.
STEM is one of the fastest-growing categories in the toy industry today. What makes Roominate different is that not only do parents like it because it delivers on the principles of STEM, but kids love it because it’s so much fun they want to play with it over and over again. The founders of Roominate did a fantastic job of designing this line with the help of kids so that the fun is new every time. What good is a STEM toy if it’s not fun and kids don’t want to use it, right?
In an age where kids are spending more time with technology at younger ages, how are you helping kids and families spend more time playing together?
We make fun games and toys that promote interaction and quality time by playing with friends and family. We are champions of play because play brings people together with laugh-out-loud fun, and that’s important in today’s high-pressure world. We offer a fun way to escape stress and “screen time”and consumers clearly seem to be responding to that, as evidenced by not only by our increasing sales, but also by all of the awards and accolades our products have received recently. In the last six years alone we have had eight TOTY (Toy Industry Toy of the Year) award finalists across multiple categories—that’s a huge accomplishment for us, as well as a great honor.
What are your future plans and expectations?
We expect to continue to achieve high growth as PlayMonster by continuing our momentum and building on what’s been successful for us, and so far that’s two very essential things: The first is providing great play for all ages, not just for kids or adults or infants, but for everyone. The second is providing high-quality play that stands the test of time and offers a remarkable play experience, not games or toys that will only hold interest for a few days. These two ingredients, plus scaling up our marketing and advertising on digital media and TV, will be our key to continued growth. Last year we promoted one item, Chrono Bomb, on TV, and this year we plan to promote several more, including our popular kids’ game Yeti in My Spaghetti. So we’re definitely Yeti—oops, I mean ready—for an exciting new year!