Tonies’ Drew Vernon | Source: The Toy Book

It was just under a year ago that Tonies launched in the U.S. Now, the little screen-free audio player and its growing library of add-ons continues to build market share as families connect through storytelling. Following recent news regarding new partnerships, additional licensed content, and retail expansion across physical and digital platforms, the company has quickly expanded. The Toy Book caught up with Drew Vernon, marketing director of Tonies USA, for an update on how the international hit looks ahead of its second year in the States.

The Toy Book: With Tonies approaching one year at retail in the U.S., what are some of the biggest wins and challenges you’ve experienced?
Drew Vernon: We’ve worked really hard to set up our presence in FAO Schwarz, Camp, and hundreds of independent toy retailers. Seeing how our brand can come to life in physical spaces has been really rewarding. The biggest challenge has been trying to make our first brand impression in the midst of the pandemic where newness hasn’t been weighing as large on buyers’ minds.

TB: Why are screen-free experiences so critical for kids and families right now?
DV: Screentime for kids is through the roof. We believe that parents are itching for more screen-free options when it comes to entertaining and educating their children.

Tonies x GoNoodle | Source: Tonies USA

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TB: Your recent collaboration with GoNoodle brings a new educational element to the Tonies platform. Can you tell us a bit about the collaboration?
DV: GoNoodle has long been known as a fun and engaging brand offering a variety of children’s content. We’re able to serve as an extension of their brand to deliver mindfulness content in a screen-free way.

TB: Early education is a hot topic in the U.S. How has Tonies been exploring acceleration in that space?
DV: We’re diving into early education and have created “Tonies for teachers,” which is a program showing how educators can use Tonies in classrooms, libraries, and museums. We’re pursuing a number of collaborations in this space and are excited to share more news soon!

TB: In recent months, Tonies has added new characters and new accessories, including headphones. What is the future outlook for growing the system as kids age up?
DV: The trouble is that we have so many ideas we have trouble choosing which to prioritize. We will start by offering age-relevant fiction and non-fiction content for our growing Toniebox fans.

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