Genna Rosenberg, CEO & Chief Ideator at GennComm ImaGENNation discusses strategies for the months ahead, the challenges and opportunities facing smaller toy companies, and predictions for the future 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 were some of the big wins for GennComm in 2022, and what are some strategies to watch for this year?

Genna Rosenberg: We celebrated our 10th anniversary at GennComm in 2022 and had some really cool successes for our clients, partners, and divisions over the last year (and decade) that we’re proud to have been aligned with. We work hard on all of our clients’ initiatives, but I love campaigns that lean into social impact. Consumers today are activists with their pocketbooks and powerful social networks, and I personally think an intentional focus on social impact is not just nice to have, it’s a powerful marketing strategy and business imperative. Whether it be by buying toys that are sustainable or inclusive or can enhance the lives of consumers, or sharing social media campaigns that give back or inspire on TikTok, Instagram, and more, brands that improve lives and our planet shined brightly in 2022.

Subway Surfers
SYBO’s Subway Surfers celebrated 10 years of mobile gaming last year. | Source: SYBO

In 2022, we collaborated on some incredible social good initiatives with our clients, and whenever we could, we guided industry colleagues to use their superpowers to help others, too. Our client, SYBO Subway Surfers, also celebrated its 10th birthday in 2022 — still the most downloaded endless runner game in Apple’s App Store’s history, and running strong after a decade!

GennComm helped amplify social impact programs that empowered their worldhood to Game for Good, and supported programs like their alliances with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and Ecologi, with whom they planted 500,000 trees in real life (IRL) as gamers populated digital forests in-game — so cool! They shared their programming with snackable videos and were one of the top brands on Tik Tok along the way.

Dr. Lisa Williams shows off the Sept. 2022 edition of The Toy Book at The Toy Association’s 2023 Preview in Dallas.

It was an incredible honor to work with Dr. Lisa Williams to share-out to the world her amazing multicultural and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever dolls from World of EPI, and then to have them win TOTY Doll of the Year was uber exciting! I was also privileged to co-host the Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment (WiT) 30th Anniversary Wonder Women Awards for a 10th time — and my final time before passing the torch. We’ve grown that event from just more than 100 people to more than 800 people, united our industry, and celebrated the most deserving group of extraordinary honorees and Wonder Women over the years, which was a huge honor. WiT also connects the community via social networks to share its empowering content generously.

And lastly, what a dream it was to lead a Licensing University talk on “The Upside of Licensing: Leading with Intention for Social Impact,” with the Grandmother of Juneteenth, Ms. Opal Lee, and social impact Changemaker Anita Castellar at Licensing Expo last summer!

TB: Aside from marketing, you’re also involved with product development. What is the biggest challenge — and the biggest opportunity — facing smaller toy manufacturers in 2023?

GR: On the GennComm ImaGENNation side, we just got word that our fourth patent for memory foam in plush has been allowed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for squishy plush toys, which is so exciting.

We licensed this first to The Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co. in 2017, which they still use in Squeezamals plush all these years later. We have a ton of new ideation in the pipeline powered by these patents, including some new brands in the social impact space.

PunchBox Surprise from Master Toys & Novelties | Source: GennComm ImaGENNation

We debuted our new surprise reveal package and delivery system called PunchBox Surprise at The Toy Association’s 2023 Preview and Holiday Market in Dallas last fall. We had a huge response in the Diverse Marketing booth, and it was featured in The Toy Book’s most innovative toys for 2023 issue. Created by my brilliant client and friend Maria Diaz, Master Toys & Novelties is our first licensee.

One of the biggest opportunities we have is that we have really innovative ideas that toymakers seem to love. It’s incredibly validating and we have some exciting partnerships we’ll be announcing over the coming months. One of our biggest challenges is that, like the toymakers, we also have been negatively impacted by the inventory backup and slowdowns at retail. This state of the industry affects toy companies from being able to be as bullish as they want to be with new innovations they take on. So some deals are taking much longer than everyone would like.

TB: How does Toy Fair moving from February to September impact your business, and what’s your take on the trade show shift?

GR: From a public relations (PR) perspective, I think the shift in the Toy Fair should be a good thing for companies who can divide their space, and show fall 2023 drivers to the media in one area and fall 2024 drivers behind closed doors. It should be doable if folks have a solid PR strategy and roadmap for doing so

A version of this Q&A was originally published in the 2023 edition of The BIG Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue! Want to receive The Toy Book in print? Click here for subscription options!