About Us

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.

The Loom Band Phenomenon – Understanding Consumer Motivators – Research Report

Posted in Uncategorized on 23 July 2014

The Loom Band Phenomenon – Understanding Consumer Motivators – Research Report

We recently conducted a research study with kids in the UK looking at the motivations and consumer dynamics behind the massive success of loom bands in the UK this year so far.

We’ve conducted research into many previous crazes, and usually find some common factors at play, however, the loom band craze was found to have somewhat different consumer drivers versus the ‘usual’ hit in this space.

To read the research report in full, please go to:


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BBC Radio 5 Interview With Steve – Explaining Frozen Toy Shortage

Posted in Uncategorized on 08 July 2014

BBC Radio Interview With Steve – Explaining Frozen Toy Shortage

Steve was recently interviewed by Stephen Nolan on BBC Radio 5 Live as part of a piece looking at the shortage of Frozen toys.

Steve was pleased to give a toy industry perspective on the shortage, and to be given the chance to act as a de facto spokesperson for the toy industry in general in order to ensure the industry was portrayed fairly.

To listen to the interview, just click play below…



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Kids Brand Insight – Toy Consumer Research Bootcamp

Posted in Uncategorized on 13 June 2014

Kids Brand Insight – Toy Consumer Research Bootcamp

A special one off industry event will be held in Central London, U.K. on Wednesday July 23rd. The Toy Consumer Research Bootcamp will help people in the industry understand how they can use consumer research to test and improve their products, and to reduce the risk of product launch failure.

The event will be run by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight – a leading consumer research consultancy working exclusively in the toy, gaming and kids entertainment sectors. All content on the day will focus specifically on the needs of companies in this industry.

The event will cover the following areas:

  • Introduction to consumer research.
  • Different types of consumer research, and when/why to use them.
  • Problems/issues which can be resolved via research – including examples of typical research topics, and how to robustly test for solutions.
  • Toy specific research factors inc. researching with children, mums and testing flimsy prototypes.
  • Content specific research factors inc. TV animation, Apps, online, books/comics/magazines.
  • Doing it on the cheap – how to do your own ‘rough and ready’ research testing to achieve maximum benefit at least cost.
  • Commissioning research studies, how to avoid wasting money & what to look for in an agency.
  • How to manage consumer research agencies.
  • Practical coaching on discussion group moderating/how to run playtesting sessions.
  • How product designers can consumer test products without ‘it’s my baby’ bias in the findings!
  • Reporting research findings – how to deliver realistic, actionable findings from research.

Early bird tickets are available for £197 (+VAT) until seven days before the event, after which time the price will go up to £297 (+VAT).

“As an industry we don’t tend to test products with our end consumer as much as perhaps we should. ” said Kids Brand Insight CEO Steve Reece. “The purpose of this training day on Wednesday 23rd July is to help build understanding of how research works, how it can help toy companies to deliver top selling product ranges and how to best use it for maximum results.”

More information / ticket bookings please click here: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/kids-brand-insight-toy-consumer-research-bootcamp-tickets-11942996825


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Kids Brand Insight – New Consumer Research Agency Focused On Kids Entertainment Brands Launches

Posted in Uncategorized on 30 April 2014

New Consumer Research Agency Focused On Kids Entertainment Brands Launches

For release: 1st May 2014

Kids Brand Insight officially launched today to deliver qualitative research for brands in the toy, gaming and children’s entertainment sectors.

The company has already worked with leading brands to combine consumer insight from children and their families with a refreshing dose of commercial reality.

CEO Steve Reece had this to say:

“Before we launched Kids Brand Insight, we were delivering consumer insight via our other business Vici Entertainment (a leading Toy & Game business consultancy) as one of a range of services offered. However, over time the research side of our business has grown to the point where it needs it’s own standalone identity and team. Thus far, we’ve worked extensively across toys, games, TV, virtual worlds and apps. We’re looking to build on this with the official launch of Kids Brand Insight.

Client feedback has been really positive, due to our delivering director level project management and insight on all projects, combined with our broader commercial perspective which allows us to ensure we deliver useable, relevant and commercially practical findings.

Our promise is no fluff, just hard hitting consumer insight combined with the practical inside knowledge that comes from having worked in brand marketing, commercial and senior management roles in the industry.

The best way to outline our point of difference is this – if you look at live sports broadcasts on TV, they have two commentators. One is DESCRIBING what they see, the other is ANALYSING from a position of having played the game, and can therefore suggest what a team needs to change to be more successful versus just reporting that they are a goal behind!

For more information, please visit www.KidsBrandInsight.com


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5 Top Tips For Tech Companies Wanting To Enter Toy Business

Posted in Uncategorized on 28 March 2014

5 Top Tips For Technology Companies Wanting To Enter Toy Business

There is considerable opportunity in the area of fusing new technology with toys. This isn’t news…in fact technology has been enriching toys for as long as living memory, but nevertheless the rate of technological innovation has been so rapid over the past decade or so that the toy industry has even more open arms in the direction of technology, technology innovators and technology companies.

Here’s 5 tips for Tech companies who want to get ther tech into the toy aisle in some way, shape or form:

1. Experience first, Tech 2nd – tech driven toys rarely sell just because they have cool new tech in them, or at least rarely sell well for any period of time. Gimmicks come and go, but fantastic user experience is where it’s at.

2. Technology comes and goes, so brands for long term value – sorry to be the one to break this to you, but your tech probably only has so long before it becomes obsolete…that’s just the nature of the beast. But by using your tech to build brands you can build long term value – for instance while the tech behind the original Furby is no longer at the cutting edge arguably, the brand survives and performs in a similar if technologically more advance fashion.

3. Increase your chances by creating a product execution presentation versus showing off the tech itself – turn your tech into a cool toy, you don’t need a finished product, but bring it to life, as humans in general tend to struggle to think conceptually sometimes (even in the toy concept business!

4. How is/can your tech be protected in the toy space – if every man and his dog can use the same or similar tech you have a problem…toy companies invest massively in new product launches, so they need to feel like there is something protectable should they achieve sales success, otherwise me-too/knock off product strips away the value of success, and will stop your tech getting to market via the toy aisle.

5. Find a quick in-road to the industry – we work with hundreds of toy companies around the world, drop us a line if you’d like to run your tech by us/get our help placing your tech in the toy world!

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5 Essential Points Toy & Game Companies Need To Know About Professional Toy & Game Inventors

Posted in Uncategorized on 18 March 2014

5 Essential Points Toy & Game Companies Need To Know About Professional Toy & Game Inventors

Recently we posted an article looking at what toy & game inventors need to understand about toy & game companies. Now we’re going to flip things around and look at key points that toy & game companies need to know about professional toy & game inventors/developers…

Professional inventors unfairly get a bad press sometimes from toy & game companies. They are sometimes described to us as not commercially minded or as a financial scourge due to the heinous and utterly outrageous offence of needing ongoing payment of royalty checks to keep supplying groundbreaking top selling toy concepts!

Yet the reality is that product – actually make that really cool product – is at the heart of the success of any company in this business. So surely we need to think more carefully and value more highly those who are a more or less inexhaustable source of cool concepts & new product ideas…?

To reiterate that point, here’s 5 essential points toy & game companies might want to consider and appreciate about professional toy & game inventors:

1. You Need More Cool Product…Professional Inventors Are One Of Your Best Options For Finding It – between 50 to 75% of ALL product SKUs are new to the market each and every year! In other words, our industry is perpetually locked in a race to churn out enough SKUs to maintain shelf space and drive sales. And these new products have to come from somewhere. So any toy company which isn’t actively soliciting as many new toy concept submissions as it can possibly handle (or even more than that) from professional toy inventors is really missing a trick. Unless you’re one of a tiny minority of companies that has evergreen SKUs representing most or all of your business, you need at least a few of these new concepts every year on an ongoing basis if you want to stay in business!

2. You Present Products That Bomb Too…But You Also Have Hits (Just Like Inventors!) - there is no way on earth that any person or company can develop only amazingly cool products or only create massive hit products. The market just doesn’t work like that. Toy companies have their fair share of failed products or products where you just should have known better than to launch – what were you thinking of?! The same applies to professional toy inventors…but the point is not every single concept in their portfolio has to be exactly what you need, and some of them are bound to suck/completely miss the mark. But the purpose of a thorough concept acquisition process is to sort the wheat from the chaff, and to find the golden nuggets among the stinkers!

3. You’re Saving Money By Paying Inventor Royalties & Building High Potential Value Brand I.P. At The Same Time – our company is increasingly representing and / or consulting with professional inventors to help them reach more companies and place more product…BUT where we are different is that I’ve worked extensively on the toy company side and sat in front of CFO’s asking why are we paying royalties on product without an entertainment brand attached to it? Or why are we still paying royalties on this product which we’ve been running for years, surely we’ve paid the inventor enough money by now? So we feel we have unique insight into the reality of how this process really works and what the substantial financial benefits are for toy companies (regardless of the CFO’s complaints!).

Here’s the answer – there are 4 primary options for toy companies to get new products: a). Develop concepts from scratch and pay wages/take on overhead for the resources to do so b). Buy in finished product/manufacturing license for existing product from other companies c). License from professional inventors.

The advantage of developing own concepts is largely theoretical in terms of the overall market situation, as there are few (if any) toy companies with global reach and significant market share that manages to deliver enough products solely via it’s own R&D department. For sure if you’re a smaller or low mid size player you can do this, and perhaps should, but only in exceptional circumstances does this deliver enough volume of new products for companies with their own distribution across multiple markets/categories etc.

The advantage of buying or licensing in from other toy companies is that market ready, proven product can be acquired without the effort, resource, level of launch failure risk and financial investment of developing your own products. At first glance this seems like a golden formula…however, there are several disadvantages of this approach, firstly you are building brand I.P. owned by someone else (not clever if you want to build long term shareholder value, higher profitability, security and eventually sell your business), you don’t get to sell into all markets globally, only those designated to you by the company owning the brand, of course you have to pay a premium in terms of the margin or royalties from the brand owning company and perhaps most saliently, the rights can be taken away from you, despite all your hard work building the brand up in your market. Now I’m not suggesting companies shouldn’t do this, just that it doesn’t make sense to me to work on this business model alone for long term success and shareholder value.

Then finally, there is the option to select from a seemingly endless array of amazing concepts created by professional toy designers, who are ready and enthusiastically willing to work away in faith and at their own risk on anywhere from dozens to hundreds of new product concepts purely on the basis that someone eventually may want to bring one to market. Under a standard inventor agreement, the licensing company is likely to have auto renewal should they continue to have the product in market to an agreed level of performance (so the rights won’t disappear as long as the products keep selling), there is usually stipulation for exploitation of the brand I.P. into other product areas with the upside potential that offers. Moreover, the company commercially retains full control over the brand for as many markets as they agree i.e. global if negotiated thus, therefore opening up export opportunities and perhaps the chance to use proven products to open up subsidiaries in other markets. And of course the outsourced, pay you if it works royalty model allows for considerably less in house R&D overhead & investment at risk from the toy company (admittedly R&D work is still needed, but at a significantly lower level versus originating all concepts internally).

But all these financial/business model scenarios are meaningless unless there are sales to be had, and so the ultimate counter argument to a CFO’s ‘why are we paying royalties’ stance is always because any prudent business would rather pay a small royalty on something than no royalties on nothing! And the nature of P&L’s in the toy industry is such that lost or missed sales hurt profitability more than anything else.

The bottom line is that toy and game companies should be elated when you have to pay inventor royalties, and the higher the amount to be paid, the more elated they should be, because it means they have an incremental hit product which they didn’t originate and wouldn’t otherwise have had!

4. There Is A Limited Pool Of Top Level Professional Toy Inventors (And By The Way They Talk To Each Other) – or to put this another way, beware blowing inventor / invention group relationships, because there are is a finite number of potential partners out there for your toy company or games company…and if you make a habit of ripping off, alienating or disrespecting people or companies from this elite group, the word will spread, and good luck getting enough inventor originated product into your line then…then you get to watch as your competitors feel the benefit of your short term errant approach!

5. Check Out This Hall Of Fame Of Hit Toy & Game Products Created By Inventors – we can talk about the business model, financial relationships and whether toy and game inventors are hard work for companies to manage or not, but there is really one ludicrously powerful way to eject those issues from any debate on the impact of these self driven warriors who make up the creative heart and soul of our industry…just check out this brief list of inventor originated products:

  • Furby
  • Etch-A-Sketch
  • Bop It
  • Tickle Me Elmo
  • Mr. Potato Head
  • Connect 4
  • Hungry Hippos
  • Rubiks Cube

I could go on (and on, and on) with this list, but even this brief list of just a handful of inventor originated products gets the message across…

…so the question for toy & game companies is whether it’s worth sifting through  hundreds/thousands of new concepts, building relationships over time, launching the odd flop here or there, and paying royalties in order to find the next Furby, Mr. Potato Head or Rubiks Cube…err, yes I think so!

P.S. If you are a professional inventor looking to place more products/present to more companies (Europe, North America and beyond), or whether you are a toy company looking for cool toy and game concepts, please feel free to drop us a line via the ‘Contact Us’ page…

Finally, if you found this article interesting and / or useful, why not sign up to our newsletter by inputting your details in the sign up form on the right hand side of this page…?

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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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