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Steven Reece We are a leading Consultancy to kids entertainment brands including TV, toys & games. Our services include cutting edge qualitative consumer insight and consulting with entertainment brands to maximise their merchandising potential.

To Err Is Human…& Essential For Toy Industry Success

Posted in Uncategorized on 26 February 2014

To Err Is Human…& Essential For Toy Industry Success

Across the toy industry, between 2/3rds and 3/4s of all SKUs are new each and every year…

…or to put it another way, as an industry we have to replace the majority of our products on an annual basis.

The obvious conclusion from this has to be that not every toy product works, because if it did, why would we need to replace them every year?

For sure we have the annual movie slate, but there is a significant enough quantity of ever green brands to avoid this being the primary driver in us having to replace so large a percentage of product in market.

So the reality is that many products do ok for one year, and then fade away, but in addition, an uncomfortably large percentage of new products we launch does not cut the mustard i.e. it fails.

In some companies, the failure of a major product line is greeted with hysteria leading to a massive backlash of negativity and risk averse business decision making…

…this misses the point. As humans we err, it’s natural for us to make mistakes, because that’s how we learn. The same applies to toy companies!

Why then do companies so often fail to expect an ongoing process of failure in order to find the next smash hit, especially when it’s so fundamental to the cycle of our industry!?

If your company can’t afford for a particular product line to launch then think seriously about whether you really want to launch it, and perhaps consider a better business strategy, which allows you to place multiple ‘bets’ on new product lines, and where no single product or product line launch failure can cause catastrophe for your business…because in this business to ‘err’ is endemic!

 

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Vibrant U.S. Toy Industry Hits The Heights At TIA Toy Fair 2014

Posted in Uncategorized on 20 February 2014

Vibrant U.S. Toy Industry Hits The Heights At TIA Toy Fair 2014

This week saw the coming and going of the 111th TIA American International Toy Fair.

And it came and went with a bang!

Despite reports of a tough peak trading period in Q4 2013, this week’s big event was full of optimism and a certain air of ‘joie de vivre’ prevailed. Of course Americans are an inherently optimistic people, and who wouldn’t be optimistic running a toy business in the world’s largest toy market by far…a market which captures close to 1/4 of the total global toy market between it’s boundaries.

Nevertheless, despite the overall market size, there have been more than enough challenges to deal with in the last 5 years for the US (and other) toy markets, and so such an overwhelmingly positive outlook as we saw this week seems a sign of good things to come. We recently wrote in this blog that we see forward growth for the next few years for the toy industry, as the macro economic environment begins to re-inflate after the global financial crisis hit. The tablet explosion has taken away a lot of the competitive/comparative narrative between the next gen consoles which launched last year and the toy industry. Historically (for as long as video game consoles have existed at least), the first 2 years of new console systems has negatively impacted toy sales/toy market sizes. And so, it was no wonder that 2013 had a tough ending.

Yet the innovation on display this week at the NYC toy fair looks certain to see the toy industry counter attack with strong impact in 2014.

I attended the TIA seminar where TIA trend experts identified the key trends in the market, those being: Large toys, RC innovation, Educational toys, Zombies & Monsters and other things that go bump in the night, Retro/Back to basics & Custom made toys. For the full details/official press release click here: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/top-toy-trends-of-2014-announced-by-toy-industry-association-tia-the-official-voice-of-toy-fair-245868101.html

I can’t disagree with any of these trends, although I would add an additional trend for higher price points. As the US economy looks to rise from the gloom, it is evident that certain high priced toys have been not just selling well – some have been flying (and that’s not just the RC items…ho ho). The toy industry has a habit of allowing retail to bash down price points, before someone/something finally pushes through a spectacular product/s which fully justify a higher price, as evidenced by the resurgent success of Furby this time around. All too often our industry allows itself to be constrained by standard maxims such as $19.99 is the ceiling for toy products in mass retail…err I don’t think so! That may be towards the ceiling for run of the mill products, but consumers will pay for the value in a high end toy, and so for me this is one of the biggest trends of the moment, because increasing average price points is very likely to drive $ market growth. Crappy product won’t cut it at high price points, but really cool stuff will. This trend is set to expand it’s impact considerably judging by the product’s on display at The Javits Center this week.

And beyond that, let’s not forget as ever, that it’s the 98% of sales which are not news worthy i.e. business as usual which pays most of the wages in our industry, regardless of the news worthy hits & trends…a point which was again evident this week, as the more traditional long-standing categories came out fighting with strong within category innovation evident all around.

Finally, hat’s off to the Toy Industry Association…it’s no easy feat to deliver such a vibrant event packed to the brim with great companies, great people and fantastic toys.

 

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How Toy Companies Can Most Effectively Achieve Sales Growth & Margin Protection While Dealing With Retailers

Posted in Uncategorized on 13 February 2014

How Toy Companies Can Protect Margin In An Ever More Brutal Retail Environment

Recently a good industry friend of mine jokingly criticised this Blog for steering away from the real hard nitty gritty reality of day to day trading in the toy world. It’s all very well looking at trends and consumers, but the main challenge for most toy companies is dealing effectively with retailers (he said!).

So, here follows some thoughts on how to maximise listings, stock intake and to protect margin in a brutal retail environment:

1. Understand Where You Fit In First – you need to be clear on what piece of the supplier/product ‘jigsaw’ you are/can be. For instance if your company is a global giant with huge brands and marketing investment, you are likely to offer high turnover, footfall driving effect and on the flip side lesser retail margin. if however you are an agile small company with an innovative approach, a constant stream of cool new products and nowhere near the bureaucracy or apparent inflexibility of a global giant you offer something different and complimentary. If on the other hand you have a selection of ‘me too’ products, offer average (or worse) retail margin, and are awkward to deal with…then best of luck to you!

2. Negotiating Is As Much A Reflection Of The Balance Of Power As It Is Your Wonderful Negotiating – we’d all like to think we are brilliant negotiators, but the reality is that the circumstances of the relationship and competitive pecking order of suppliers is really what fixes the parameters for your trading. For sure you might be able to shave 1/2 a point here or there, and make sure you do when you can, as such savings become critical when seeking to maximise profits, but if you are towards the back end of the retailer’s supplier list in terms of perceived importance, you’re going to have to work an awful lot harder to trade on anything approaching your terms versus the must list suppliers/category leaders.

Once you understand and embrace this, it actually becomes easier to play the right kind of role. if you are a top supplier that the retailer effectively has to trade with, expect lots of whingeing/hissy fits, and listings. If you are just about hanging in there, expect a fair degree of indifference, lack of focus and only so many opportunities to impress. Save the histrionics, for the sake of your business you have to justify your company as a supplier at each and every contact point!

3. Setup/Maintain Chains Of Sign Offs / Communications – allowing yourself the opportunity to agree anything of substance in a pressured meeting situation is normally a mistake. It’s human nature, regardless of how battle hardened we are, to be influenced by professional buyers who now how to crank on the pressure, and who can hold the fates of our careers and companies in their hands. The best way to avoid having too much ability to agree on the spot under pressure is to have a sign off process/system that means you can’t agree on the spot whether you want to or not…and by the way this applies especially to owner managed companies. If you have to let the ultimate decision maker near the negotiations, invent a system or at least a pretend system which gives you a get out on the spot! CFO’s or Financial Directors are the easiest to blame, as most business people expect them to be the person/department that says ‘NO’!

Big companies do this best, because by default they have more layers of management all of whom need to ‘stick their oar in’ on decisions large and small. So while this can often be a frustration for customers, it actually usually works in the favour of the supplier. If your positioning is to be smaller and nimbler than the big guys, then make your excuses, discuss on the phone on the way back to the office (while complying with relevant driving regulations!), and call the buyer back when you get back with a decision/counter proposal.

4. Listen, Question, Probe – Then Repeat! – without wanting this to sound like a corny sales training program, listening is the first part of any selling. The more you listen, question and probe, the more you understand what the customer needs/is looking for. Keep repeating this process until it is abundantly clear what is required, then repeat back tot he buyer what they so painstakingly said they wanted…humans like to remain consistent, so many a time I have seen buyers asked what they wanted feeling like they should take what the company brought back, because not to do so is to potentially lose credibility in negotiations…admittedly consistency is more obvious with some buyers than others…mostly with those whose buying is based on rational analysis versus gut feel/personal preference/my kids like this etc. (no names supplied!).

5. Deliver More Smash Hit Products To Market – the one sure fire way to move the balance of power in your favour is to deliver more smash hit products to market. Retailers need hit toys – they drive footfall at key spending periods for mass market retailers, and for specialist Toy retailers they pay the way for all the other slow selling range they have to have to keep the stores full!

So there you go, a bit more nitty gritty from the sharp end in honour of my honourable friend!

P.S. If you’d like to receive our e-newsletter with more articles, hints, tips etc, please feel free to sign up for it by entering your details on the right hand side of this page…

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The Unique Opportunity Of The American International (New York) Toy Fair

Posted in Uncategorized on 11 February 2014

The Unique Opportunity Of The American International (New York) Toy Fair

This weekend sees the opening of the 111th American International Toy Fair.

Tens of thousands of visitors are expected to flock to the show to see more than 1,000 exhibitors display their wares.

The unique opportunity to connect with key players in the world’s biggest (by far) Toy market is not one to be sniffed at. The U.S. Toy market is said to be worth in excess of $20 billion at retail each and every year, which means this one country makes up around 25% of the total global market for Toys.

To miss this key event is to miss the chance to maximise your business opportunity in a 1/4 of the available market. Surely that would be crazy if you have any aspiration to building your Export business into the U.S.?

Watch this space for our show report next week…and in the meantime if you’d like to build your Export business into North America, feel free to drop us a line & we’ll see how we can help!

 

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What Toy & Game Inventors Need To Understand About Toy & Game Companies…

Posted in Uncategorized on 07 February 2014

What Toy & Game Inventors Need To Understand About Toy & Game Companies…

As someone who has had the good fortune to sit on both sides of the fence between Toy/Game company versus inventor/inventor rep, it’s apparent to me that there is less understanding than perhaps there should be in many situations.

This is of course to be expected, because until we ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’ we can’t truly understand the pressures of their world.

So while the following is by no means the be all and end all of what toy inventors or game inventors need to know about their potential partner companies, it’s at least a starting point:

1. This Is A Numbers x Quality Game – the reality is that the large global companies view many thousands (i.e. 4-10k) of concepts each year, and select any where from a mere handful up to 20 or 30 to become real products. Even mid size and smaller companies are routinely viewing hundreds of concepts each and every year. So if we do some simple math/s we can easily deduce that each product we present (all other things being equal) has a chance of being successful of somewhere between 1 in 2,000 to at best of 1 in 100. Logically, the best way to reduce the odds in your favour are to have more concepts to present.

We also need to look at quality – at least half of all submissions, maybe more are just not up to scratch in quality terms – either due to crappy presentation, generic or overly niched concept or other factors. Clearly having high quality concepts will significantly increase the chance of placing products.

Finally, while the top few companies globally may (dependent on deal terms, global commitment levels etc.) offer the biggest pay back should they choose & successfully launch your product, the best way to increase the chance of getting your product out there is to present it to more than just a handful of companies. There are thousands if not low tens of thousands of toy companies in the world…think about that!

2. There Is A Full On, Helter Skelter Business Going On Around The Person You’re Trying To Sell Your Concept To - Toy businesses do not employ excess staff resource to sit around waiting for you to call in order to ask if they’ve made up their minds yet about your product/concept! Rather they employ just about enough people at a stretch to do everything that needs to be done. And once you step outside the top Global players, your contact doubtless has other ‘hats’/functions they are performing – from marketing, R&D to owning & running the business.

So take account of this, and behave with some respect for the pressure they are under if you want to win friends & influence people!

3. Most Toy Companies Struggle To Make More Net Profit Than They Pay As An Inventor %Age - the percentage offered for your creation may seem somewhere from modest to pathetic to you, representing a fraction of the actual selling price of the finished product, but do your homework before you get overly aggressive on this beyond the realms of commercial reality, as you could alienate those who would be great partners for you. Go check out the published results of Toy & Game companies, and see if you can find one earning double digit profit percentage…speaking as someone who has managed P&L’s at length for companies big & small, I can tell you that a few percentage points for an idea is far more attractive & comparatively rewarding than a few percentage points for cashflowing 90-95% of the sales value in costs throughout the year, taking stock risk, dealing with retailers, staff, marketing, finance, factories etc. Being optimistically realistic within a commercially credible royalty %age range will go as far as having cool concepts much of the time!

4. One Product Toy & game Companies Don’t Tend To Last For Long - or to put in another way, companies have to run multiple products (as well as yours!) to reduce risk, manage product lifecycles, extend offering to build retail support etc. This means that your product will get only as much focus as it merits from a commercial standpoint. For sure you can be a real pain in the ass, and sometimes this will get you increased focus short term, but at some point the company’s management will over rule tantrums & awkwardness based on common sense (in my experience).

5. Toy & Game Companies Can Be Influenced Positively For Your Long Term Benefit – to balance out the previous point, just want to be clear, I’m not saying leave them to it, and accept anything that comes back from them i.e. renegotiations of commercial terms, lack of support etc., but it’s a case of giving them a long term perspective of your product being rewarding to their business in balance with what’s involved in making it work…that’s not easy, but if you look at the most successful professional inventors/Inventing. groups, they manage to do this.

There is more to add on this topic, but that’s enough of a start point for now…

 

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Hope Springs Eternal – Global Toy Industry Set For Years Of Growth…?

Posted in Uncategorized on 07 February 2014

Hope Springs Eternal – Global Toy Industry Set For Years Of Growth…?

After the storm comes the calm, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and of course economic cycles under a capitalist system follow a boom and bust pattern.

So here’s the thing, we had years of economic recession, horrendously tough financing environment, retail closures, bad debts and of belt tightening.

And after the reaction comes an equal and opposite reaction i.e. after bust comes boom! I remember reading in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography that Arnold had a call with Warren Buffet when the global financial crisis hit. Arnold passes on Buffet’s opinion at the time that the global economy would resemble a ball that went flat for years until it begins to get air pumped back into it…

…well, at last there are strong signs that the global economy, and certainly the major English speaking markets are on the rebound.

I’m no economist (as any CFO’s who worked with me will tell you!), but the major indicators of economic health are starting to read more and more positive. For sure we still have governments with massive debt problems, but such issues are often reduced in scope by economic growth and the surplus taxation that brings.

All of which is nice for the world as a whole, but what does it mean for the global Toy industry? Well it means opportunity and growth frankly.

While it’s a commonly asserted perspective that the toy industry is recession proof, (I prefer to describe it as recession resistant i.e. it’s still impacted but not as much as other industries), the reality is that there have been huge structural changes and shifts from the start of the global financial crisis until now. Retail consolidation, the ongoing maturity of online retail, supplier consolidation, reduction in the cost advantages of manufacturing in China & surrounding countries (not reduction in advantage versus removal of advantage for clarity’s sake!), plus many other factors.

So to cut to what matters – our industry is poised for a very strong 5-10 years ahead. Companies are leaner and meaner, overall it appears that staff are perhaps more appreciative of being employed versus being lucratively employed, Technology continues to push the play opportunity further onwards, while the traditional Toy categories maintain their appeal and functional benefits.

There will always be winners and losers at a micro level, but taking the macro perspective the outlook is beginning to look up at long last!

We recently had the UK & Nuremberg toy fairs over here in Europe. And frankly they were buzzing with positive energy (in most cases).

So just like when lost ships find port again, the end of (this) financial crisis is in sight…for sure there are still major challenges afoot, but the only way seems to be up!

P.S. No I haven’t overdosed on Prozac, the green shoots are all around us!

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Spielwarenmesse – Nuremberg Toy Fair 2014…Bigger And Better, Plus the 4 Types Of Toy Fair Attendees

Posted in Uncategorized on 03 February 2014

Spielwarenmesse – Nuremberg Toy Fair 2014…Bigger And Better!

Another year, another Nuremberg…only this time the show was even bigger and better than before.

The new Hall (3A) on the East side of the show added extra capacity, as well as extra mileage to the journey round the fair! This new space showcased some strong trends in the industry, as well as allowing additional exhibitors to present their wares in a Hall guaranteed good footfall due to the Toy Business Forum and other events taking place there, as well as the product and trend displays.

As most of my meetings were between Halls 12, 10 and 7, it took me 4 days of frenetic activity before I managed to swing by the new Hall. One of the well known true-isms of Toy fairs is that the organised meetings are really important, but that often it’s the impromptu discussions in the aisles between Halls/meetings which deliver surprising and unexpected re-connecting and opportunity. As such, every time I had a meeting finish early, I nearly made it to Hall 3A, but was caught in one of these impromptu meetings, and had to swing back for the next appointment back on the West side of the fair.

Which brings me on to my next point – we identified 4 types of people at Toy Fairs while at Nuremberg this time round:

1. Strollers – often the more creative among us, who use the show as an opportunity to stroll around and be inspired to new creative thoughts.

2. Busy Bee’s – these are the people who run from meeting to meeting in a hard sweat, and with an often completely unrealistically overloaded schedule. (Alas I myself fall into this category!).

3. Exhibitors – these are the backbone of the show, they fund the show to the greater degree, they bring a ludicrous quantity of cool toys to the event and of course seek to sell, sell, sell. However, there is a sub section of the ‘Exhibitors’ category, that being those who have had enough (usual by Day 4 and beyond!). Any interest from passers by is normally seized upon to relieve the hard work of waiting, waiting, waiting.

4. Stand Loiterers – these are normally to be found at the Stands of the major corporate companies, where there is a large organisation, and where there is often no specific purpose for attending the show, beyond meeting the expectation from colleagues that they will be there.

Maybe there are a few other categories of attendees missing, but for me there is golden wisdom in the idea of maximising the opportunity of doing a year’s worth of business in one frenetic (exhausting!) trip to Nuremberg, and so clearly we would mostly want to aspire to make the most of the event by pushing for the maximum opportunity and benefit, and for that one extra opportunity in a distant hall, regardless of how much our feet hurt (or our heads depending on our propensity for Weissbier!).

Which leads me to the final point for those who attended – the golden promise of positive Toy fair conversations is naught without follow up and determined chasing up of the vast array of potential opportunities created…buyers see a huge amount of products, and whittle down to actually select as little as a few percent of the products they see, regardless of how much they said they liked your latest offering on your stand!

Hats off to the Spielwarenmesse team for all their hard work in delivering the largest Toy trade show in the world again – stunningly well organised, fantastically attended and a real must not miss event for our industry.

STOP PRESS – shortly after posting this Blog post, the official attendance for the show was announced as being in excess of 76,000 – an increase of c. 5% on last year’s show.

 

 

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Here Comes Spielwarenmesse – The Nuremberg Toy Fair Is Here Again!

Posted in Uncategorized on 27 January 2014

Spielwarenmesse – Nuremberg Toy Fair 2014 

The bags are packed (with warm clothing), a frenetic period of meeting organising is nearly done, and the excitement mounts!

This will be my 14th visit to the world’s largest Toy trade show, and my 12th consecutive show – I missed 2003 due to an extended period of leisure travelling…as much as I love the toy industry, I had to choose Fiji over Nuremberg that year!

The reason why I and nearly 100,000 other visitors keep returning to this city in Middle Franconia at this time of the year is because there is simply no other opportunity to do Toy business with so many companies and people from all around the world. With in excess of 2,700 exhibitors alone, the sheer scale of the Spielwarenmesse is mind blowing for first time visitors, and often exhausting (but worth it) for old hands!

Over the years, we’ve found ourselves adding extra days to visit, as each day spent at the show can be worth a month’s work back in the office. From the early days of visiting for the first 2 days only, we now attend for 5 full days, and still can’t get to see everyone we wanted to.

For those of us with a tendency to overdo the after show hospitality, Spielwarenmesse offers the huge opportunity to burn off much of the excess with the vast sprawling site meaning a waistline reducing walking opportunity, and countless ‘corridor’ meetings, which so often are the most valuable ones!

If you haven’t previously visited the Spielwarenmesse’s excellent website, I highly recommend it: www.spielwarenmesse.de – it features a full exhibitor database, and countless other handy resources to make your visit more effective/efficient.

Also worth checking out is www.YourToyCom.com – the official Blog of the show organisers, a great place to network within the industry and of course a handy place to catch more articles written by us!

Happy travels and wishing you a productive fair.

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BTHA UK Toy Fair 2014 – A Rip Roaring Success…Again!

Posted in Uncategorized on 27 January 2014

BTHA UK Toy Fair 2014 Report

The sore feet have healed, the follow up is nearly all done, and the UK toy trade starts to look at other forthcoming events.

But what should we make of the British Toy & Hobby Association’s UK Toy Fair this time round?

It seems evident from our perspective that this was a fantastic show – again. The fair seems to have got better and better since it moved back from Excel in London’s Docklands a few years back.

The move of several heavy hitters up stairs seemed to disperse foot traffic more evenly around the show, unlike the last couple of years where we’ve seen more of a concentration on the centre of the main floor.

The mood among most companies and people I spoke to was somewhere between reservedly positive to highly ebullient! While retail remains it’s perennial blood bath, and trading continues to challenge/vex depending on your standpoint, the mood overall seems more positive than at any point since the global financial crisis hit.

During the show the total UK toy market size was reported as being down 1% year on year, with low priced toys taking a hit, and Electronic Toys, especially kid targeted Tablets having another bumper year. The reality is that we always have winners and losers, but a pretty much static market has to be welcomed in the sense that things could be oh so much worse!

So congratulations again to the BTHA, and all the companies and people who made this year’s show a smashing success, proving yet again the durability, vibrancy and resourcefulness of the UK toy trade.

 

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9 Fundamental Factors For Building Toy Brands

Posted in Uncategorized on 17 January 2014

 

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!

 

 

 

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