Harold Chizick, CEO of ChizSix Marketing & Media, shares insight and predictions on toy industry marketing in this extended edition of The Toy Book’s 2023 State of the Industry Q&A roundtable. Want more insight from the all-stars of the toy industry? Click here to explore this year’s lineup!
The Toy Book: What will be some of the top marketing strategies in 2023?
Harold Chizick: Marketing strategies will need to be based on three fundamental principles for brands to be successful. 1. Understanding consumer behavior and trends and knowing how to integrate them into marketing plans; 2. Integrating marketing plans better than ever into sales strategies and goals by building campaigns to support and reach the consumer in-store, online, and on direct channels; and 3. Rise above the “me too” clutter and use the “white space” to reach your consumer.
We love strategies and execution that are tied to goals, growing brands, and moving product. This can only be achieved by tight integration between marketing, sales, and consumer insights. The importance of the three working together will ensure that marketing strategies are not only aligned with goals, but also that they are affordable and executable. More important than the “big idea” is the right idea.
TB: From the outset, some might feel that it appears you’ve essentially gotten the band back together following a detour of sorts. ChizSix is a new agency with a familiar name and some familiar faces. What’s different and what hasn’t changed?
HC: ChizSix should not be considered a band reunion tour, in fact, there are many differences in our approach. To help execute the new vision we know we needed some of our most talented and trusted colleagues from the past. Jen and I knew immediately that starting from scratch would require building a team that has been there before and understands start-up, client service, and had the experience and creativity level to deliver the “POW!” that ChizSix stands for.
Talya Gaborieau and Kassandra O’Brien were always the two talents we needed to build the new agency and we are proud to have them as partners. There are other past colleagues we envision working with again, but that scaling will take time. The biggest difference in our approach is based on our structure of offering clients three ways to work with us: 1. Our preferred approach is full-year engagement on a retainer model in which we provide full marketing services; 2. We will work with brands on a project basis to support specific events, launches, or needs; and 3. Media buying. This includes digital, social, TV, and influencer marketing. What has not changed and never will is our strong commitment to client service and delivering POW in everything we do. I believe that my career course provides me with a better understanding of the needs and operations of the manufacturer and that is an understanding that cannot be comprehended without walking in a toymaker’s shoes.
TB: How has the influencer marketing space changed and what should toymakers be aware of?
HC: My general feeling is that toymakers still do not have a full comprehension of the influencer marketing space and how to best leverage its potential and use it to reach the consumer. Knowing the landscape and how to approach TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and the many other social platforms depends on your target consumer and then balancing the program based on their consumption behaviors.
TB: In what ways can toymakers best prepare for unexpected challenges in 2023?
HC: I say expect the unexpected! Manage budgets with flexibility. Invest in understanding the consumer and marketing messages that fill a void in the marketplace. Manage inventory and plan conservatively, but be ready to strike when the opportunity presents itself. Build an infrastructure to take advantage of direct-to-consumer (D2C) opportunities through digital strategies. Have the right experienced partners by your side as the toy industry enters a post-pandemic era of economic uncertainty.
TB: What are your overall predictions for the state of the toy industry and its trends this year?
HC: I predict we will see considerable consolidation of small and medium-sized toymakers. Diamonds in the rough have always satiated companies looking for opportunities for rapid growth. Play patterns with perpetual and basic appeal will thrive. I also think collectibles and plush will continue to grow, providing consumers with comfort.
TB: How does Toy Fair moving from February to September impact your business, and what’s your take on the trade show shift?
HC: In running agencies, I have always believed that it is important to be where the customer is and I know manufacturers believe the same. Nothing beats face-to-face and in-person meetings, however, the COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot when it comes to selling products to retailers. While the selling has gone on I personally put a high value on trade shows and live interaction. There’s nothing better than touching, feeling, and playing!