9 Fundamental Factors For Building Toy Brands
While much is written and claimed about the impact on social media of modern day Toy marketing, there is still one prevailing truth – brands are critical to ensuring long term success, stability and asset value for Toy companies.
The industry tends to split between the larger, more corporate players with their vast teams of Brand marketing staff, and the smaller often owner managed companies who may aspire to the same brand building values, but perhaps have less resources with which to build. For both though, there are certain critical Brand management fundamentals that cannot be ignored:
1. Know where you need to get to
The winning approach to building brands does not rely on accidental factors & yearly planning. If you look at all the global corporate players, who are most adept at managing and growing Brands, they work on a 3-5 year basis. If you look at pretty much any Brand owned by these companies, there is a medium term plan versus a year by year planning approach. For sure the plan changes, but if you asked any Brand Manager in these companies to explain how they see the Brand growing in the next 5 years, they will be able to explain in depth.
In the past I’ve seen this more robust longer term Brand plan pump up the selling price on several Brands by several hundred per cent, so this is not just theory, having a clear path of where you intend to take your Brand contributes to convincing would be investors/ purchasers of your Brand of it’s merits. More importantly in the short term though is the impact within your business and to your retail partners. The more they can see there is a clear and credible vision, the more likely they are to support your Brand.
2. Brands need to be extended
It’s very important that successful Brands are extended, because successful and incremental brand revenue significantly increases the value of the underlying intellectual property. Moreover, Brand extensions can be highly profitable by ‘piggy backing’ the ‘parent’ sku in terms of awareness & advertising spend. Retail will normally back new iterations of a proven performer, so sometimes Brand extensions can be an easier sell. (note the word SOMETIMES!).
For a fantastic example of a Brand extension program, look no further than Lego. Their approach is unparalleled – City, Creator, Friends etc.
3. The Brand builders toolkit
Brand management is not a secret science, especially not in this age. There are countless tools Brand teams can use to define and develop their Brands. Some classic tools include the ‘Brand pyramid’, ‘Brand Maps’, ‘Boston Consulting Group matrix’ and more. Just Google those phrases, and you’ll find some fantastically helpful tools, that will aid your communication of your Brand plans, the essence of what your Brand is and more.
4. Process drives Brand building
Successful Brand building Toy companies don’t ask themselves what they can develop to sell for next year. They ask themselves what each Brand needs to grow, to fill all suitable gaps and THEN, and only then do they look at any old thing to sell if they need more sales.
So a Brand oriented development process is critical.
5. Sell Brands not just product – brand managers versus product managers
This is both an ideological point, and a point of organisation. Those companies whose approach is to throw any old thing at the market and see what sticks tend to have Product Managers in their teams. Those companies with coherent Brand plans will normally always have Brand Managers.
This is not just a semantic point – by making people accountable for ‘Products’, we put the focus on the news and exciting products being developed…but if we have a Brand management approach, we will then consider the existing, boring but consistent and proven product already in market and working year after year.
Brand teams are accountable for the strength and performance of their BRANDS not just the new products they launch. So if a new marketing initiative grows an existing product, that’s highly motivating to a Brand Manager. If a Brand explicitly doesn’t need a particular product even if it’s interesting/cool, a Brand manager’s success is tied in with the success of their Brands and as such they will be more likely to make the right decision.
6. Brands have a clear and distinctive identity
There are plenty of highly generic Toy product lines with a ‘Brand’ label, being described as Brands out there, yet they have no clear and distinguishable identity. There is no value or recognition in these supposed Brands. For sure the company can describe them as Brands, but they aren’t fooling anyone!
Nearly all definitions of ‘Brand’ identify clear and distinctive identity as critical i.e. Coke and Pepsi are both dark coloured, fizzy, caffeinated drinks with a similar taste, yet they are both clearly identifiable and distinguishable Brands. There is only one Monopoly, but thousands of board games. There are thousands of different makes of Dolls, but only one Monster High. And it seems as if anyone can create plastic building blocks these days, but there is only one Lego.
Don’t kid yourself, just using the word ‘Brand’ doesn’t make it a Brand – ensure you have a clear and distinctive identity, and then work hard on building Brand awareness.
7. Successful Brands have clear values and a clear and consistent communication message
This is simple, Brands have to be about something / stand for something. And if they get that bit right, then they need a clear, consistent communication message across all media. Doesn’t matter if it’s TV, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or anything else – the message needs to be coherent and consistent.
8. Financial reporting on Brand by Brand basis
This is another important organisational point.
If your business reports financial performance on a product by product or retail account basis, you will not maximise Brand growth. Financial focus on Brands versus anything else provides clear markers, goalposts and success measurement for product and commercial teams.
And if you’re going to pay your staff bonuses (normally a good idea if you want to keep them!), think hard on how to reward based on hitting Brand development goals versus P&L goals only.
9. Brand Licensing
Brand Licensing can considerably increase your Brand awareness, Brand equity, Brand revenue and more. Be realistic though – you know how conservative you are with finding licenses strong enough, if your Brand is still ‘incubating’, plan for Licensing, but don’t expect anyone to sign up yet. However, if you have a strong, established and successful Brand, consider rolling out a Brand Licensing program.
It should be apparent at this point that most Brands don’t grow by accident, it takes hard work – in planning AND execution, but following some of the above should help!