In the Toy Book‘s annual State of the Industry Q&A, Jazwares‘ President Laura Zebersky discussed preschool toy development, the appeal of Squishmallows, and more.
The Toy Book: What is Jazwares’ product development strategy for preschool toys inspired by digital-first entertainment brands?
Laura Zebersky: We’ve seen a fundamental shift in how today’s preschoolers are absorbing entertainment. Just as children and their parents have watched traditional TV together for decades, families are also turning to YouTube or other streaming platforms for their favorite co-viewing content. Each content property has something unique and engaging as part of its storytelling. When developing toy lines for digital-first entertainment brands, it is critical to create play experiences that complement what kids are connecting to on the screen. To achieve this, we work closely with our licensors to develop toys that incorporate recognizable elements of the brand — whether it’s our CoComelon Musical Checkup Case that sings the popular “Doctor Checkup” song, or our Blippi figures that are dressed up as familiar characters featured in the most popular episodes.
TB: How does Jazwares come up with innovative takes on existing lines to keep them fresh and exciting for consumers?
LZ: At Jazwares, we pride ourselves on always keeping our finger on the pulse of trends. For our owned IP like First Act, we take a 360-degree approach that goes beyond the core product line with new content, educational tools, and licensed products from the hottest kids’ properties. We also look for opportunities to further build out the worlds of consumer’s favorite brands. A great example of this is Squishmallows, which introduces new characters every season that tap into current trends and seasonal moments. In 2021, we are also expanding the Squish universe with the debut of Squishville, an all-plush line of playsets and vehicles that will take the beloved brand to the next level.
TB: How does creating proprietary product lines differ from creating licensed products?
LZ: With our proprietary brands, we’re the ones responsible for establishing and growing the full IP from the ground up. We approach each new brand with a long-term strategy that looks at the full life cycle. We look closely at developing unique points of differentiation for the brand, creating a strong emotional connection with consumers, building complementary content that tells the brand story, and identifying potential brand extensions. Our newest launch, GlamCrush, is a perfect example of this strategy brought to life. In our research, we saw that beauty trends like glam makeovers and makeup crushing were peaking in popularity, however, this trend is largely untapped off the screen. This inspired GlamCrush, a new toy line anchored by collectible dolls that offer kids the same surprise-and-delight moments.
This State of the Industry Q&A response was originally published in the February 2021 edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!