By Julie Livingston, Director of Business Development & Accounts,Child’s Play Communications; former Senior Director of Public Relations, Toy Industry Association

Reporters scouting Toy Fair for hot products and overarching trends are pressed for time and attention. On a good day, they may have an hour or so to peruse the aisles overflowing with eye candy. Keep in mind that, in addition to covering the spectacle of the show, they are also looking for alternative story angles of greater depth. Such angles may include:

  • Lifestyle trends and new ways that kids are engaging in play;
  • “Hometown heroes”- stories about unlikely toy inventors or inventions;
  • Emerging entertainment properties and licenses;
  • Made in the USA products; and
  • Brand legacy stories (including special anniversaries of best-loved brands and characters).

In fact, it is often these secondary and spin-off stories that get picked up by the wire services and other media outlets, resulting in greater, often national, publicity. Below, you will find tips and techniques for amplifying your Toy Fair product story.

Get Smart

Being apprised of current toy and youth entertainment trends can make the difference in being recognized by the media or passed over. An exhibit that shows your brand in some way reflects key trends will position your company as forward-thinking and in alignment with the youth market. Such trends may include (but are not limited to) web and app-connected toys, kid-friendly versions of popular gadgets, movie-inspired product lines and educational toys that engage kids in interactive learning. Prepare your staff before the show by sharing top line market intelligence: key trends, buzzwords and marketing lingo to underscore your brands’ competitive advantage and how your product is positioned for success.

From my work experiences in the toy and fashion industries, I always found it helpful to have some show-and-tell props on hand, as these will bring your trend story to life. Sizzle reels are terrific, but if that’s not in your plans or budget, take a cue from Pinterest, the social networking and virtual pin board site. Create your own physical or electronic trend boards that can be shown on a laptop. Select exciting visuals that show how your product incorporates the “on-trend” colors, packaging, play pattern, licensing component(s), or celebrity influences that illustrate the above points. With an endless amount of imagery and clip art available online, this is easy to execute and is a primary trend-communication tool.

Size Doesn’t Always Matter

Although the big brands carry a certain prestige, there is no question that many reporters are on the hunt for quirky, whimsical, and undiscovered toys and playthings at Toy Fair. Mid-size and small brands should treat the show as a phenomenal opportunity to shine, although they may have to work a little harder at garnering the attention and stop-bys. Smaller brands with limited exhibit booth space and funds can create a striking, attention-getting visual presentation that becomes a must-see at the show. Make sure you plan ahead to avoid the expense of rush charges on graphics, signage, printed materials, branded USB drives (containing press materials and visuals), or prop rentals that underscore a trend or add humor.

Package Information

Draft a press release with bullet pointed information (including a copy of your trend board) and distribute it as early as possible to the publicity team at the Toy Industry Association, the toy trend experts who are sought after by the press, as well as your key media contacts. Now is the time when these industry professionals are building their trend stories and Toy Fair exhibitor lists, so don’t delay. That said, construct trend releases that are focused and tell your story succinctly. Include a strong headline that ties back to the hot trends, captivating visuals, your Toy Fair booth number, and contact information (including mobile phone number). If necessary, note in bold, capital letters that the information is under embargo until February 10, the official opening of Toy Fair.

If it’s in your budget, capture your trend and press information on a branded USB drive. Reporters (and retail buyers) love the convenience of USB drives and how they make information, especially high-resolution graphics, easily accessible. Place your logo on the USB and produce them in quantity, as the per-unit price comes down with larger quantities.