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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.

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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Toy Stockpiling: The Reality Of Kids & Toys In The Current Age…

Posted in Uncategorized on 06 January 2014

Toy Stockpiling: The Reality Of Kids & Toys In The Current Age…

Going back in time, toys were like gold to children – each individual toy was to be savored, treasured and protected from the grabbing hands of siblings and friends. Because in those days the majority of children were lucky to get more than a handful of toys given to them at Christmas, birthdays and throughout the year.

One of the major shifts I’ve seen in my time in the toy industry (based on conducting research with kids in the late 1990s through to today) is the huge proliferation of children owning dozens, or often literally hundreds of toys. This isn’t by the way subjective or just my opinion – during the course of dozens of research projects, we’ve visited parents and kids in their homes, and had the parents tour us through the toy chests and bedrooms of their children. Typically, by the time a child reaches the point of transition from child to ‘tween’, they have accumulated at least a dozen or more ‘major’ toys as presents from birthdays and Christmas, plus a staggering amount of smaller toy products.

For instance, to give you a couple of examples, one consumer home we visited had a number of major feature Toys inc. car racing sets, train sets, electronic devices, vast construction toy displays, plus an entire wardrobe stacked from top to bottom with toys – there must literally have been hundreds of individual toys in that wardrobe – and that isn’t untypical of what we see.

One of the major observations our company points out to those outsiders who try to understand the toy industry is that price points for each distinct spec/category of toys have not increased dramatically in a couple of decades. I have written here before about seeing an advert from the 1980’s for a popular board game which had more or less the same retail price as the current day version does, despite nearly 30 years of inflation!

The reality is our industry has become extremely efficient at bashing out great products at a really sharp price, and as such over time we have moved the consumer paradigm from being primarily about toys to be cherished and valued to products at an impulse cost which encourages gifting, collecting and increasingly stretched focus for play time on each individual toy.

This clearly doesn’t apply to the higher priced products such as kids tablets, interactive toys such as Furby, and high end construction/hobby sets, which still have hero level status…but the reality outside of those heroes is that to spend $€£ 5-10 on a gift these days is nothing – regardless of recessions and austerity – thus the phenomena of toy stockpiling has gathered pace.

The obvious implication of this is that inevitably the amount of time that kids are actually playing with each secondary (non hero) toy has to be significantly less). In fact many are played with at the point of receiving, and then forgotten. Ask any parent what happens when they re-organise/move round their child’s bedroom – normally parents tell us that their kids suddenly find toys they’d forgotten they owned, which then become the focus of a brief intensive play period before the toy in question falls back into obscurity.

The ultimate and over riding implication of this though is hugely positive for the toy industry – it’s very unlikely that we can actually saturate our market from a macro perspective. Children will continue to receive toys throughout their childhoods, with their level of ownership based more on occasion driven gifting than on the capacity of their toy storage!

Even better, because children comparatively quickly move through toy category preferences as they age, they will often clear out their younger or ‘baby-ish’ toys to make room for the new stuff which is more appealing at their current age.

Moreover, while we may see continuing competitive pressure over time from hot electronic gadgets and gimmicks from outside the toy industry, this really only impacts the hero level toy products, not those products at $£€20 or less!

So while toy stockpiling may not be leading to increased playing with our products, it is nevertheless a trend which leads to ongoing sales opportunity if we get the right products, brands, marketing and retail listings in place!

P.S. Final caveat – this article refers to ‘stocking fillers’, birthday party gifts and supplementary products only – we’re actually seeing increasing signs of focused play time with hero presents at much higher price points  i.e. kids tablets etc., more on this in future articles…


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Toys: The Consumer Insight Advantage

Posted in Uncategorized on 02 January 2014

Toys: The Consumer Insight Advantage

The toy industry is a highly process driven industry. We have processes for creating product, managing brands, manufacturing and more.

However, the toy industry as a whole is terrible at inserting meaningful, actionable consumer insight into the overall process.

For sure every company has the ‘I took this home and my kids think…’ approach to consumer insight, but that’s hardly scientific.

Bearing in mind new toy ranges cost from $100k-$several millions to launch, and that an entire year can be a write off if products fail, it would seem obviously rational to try to minimise the risk of toy launch failure by rigorously testing new products with the target audience before the bulk of cost has been incurred surely i.e. before manufacturing begins and before media is bought.

Please understand as with most things, there is good research and bad research. There is actionable, practical insight versus fluffy so what. But still in an ever more cut throat market we must take reasonable, affordable steps to reduce risk. Consumer insight is a proven risk reducer – whether due to highlighting deeply flawed/likely to fail toy lines, or due to the numerous small, but impactful tweaks made based on consumer research findings!

When we begin working with a toy company on an advisory basis, after asking to see relevant sales and profit data, the next thing we ask for is the relevant consumer insight the client company has. Around 9/10 of them produce no meaningful consumer insight, and of the remainder, less than half have anything robust on which to base business decisions with huge implications!

So we then show them how to ‘take a snapshot’ of their brand and products, and the categories which they are in…all from a consumer perspective. In every case where we have done this there has been significant insight with a clear and obvious benefit in terms of understanding and direction for future developments. New products can then be tested against the snapshot as well as in their own right.

Here are the key steps to taking a consumer snapshot – perhaps readers of this article can implement some or all of these:

1. Online retail audit – in this day and age, consumer reviews are a powerful factor in either encouraging/prompting purchase or inhibiting it. The obvious example for the major markets here is Amazon. By reviewing Amazon listings for a toy company’s products, one can see a live sales ranking versus other products in the same category, consumer ratings, consumer feedback comments and more. Clearly there are many other online retailers we can review as part of our desk based research.

This is the absolute bare minimum you should be doing on a regular basis.

2. ‘Qualitative’ Brand and concept testing with children and parents via focus groups. This is our preferred method, which normally offers huge insight into the factors influencing purchase, play and gifting. This also gives the opportunity to gauge comparative competitive appeal, and advantages and disadvantages against the competition.

3. ‘Quantitative’ surveys. This type of research provides hard numbers to guide insight. In our experience, this method can be very insightful, and can deliver compelling numbers to sales teams to aid sell in. However, this method is limited in terms of the depth it can explore, and so it normally comes second to focus groups in terms of value delivered based on our previous experience.

4. Play-testing research – this is in essence similar to focus groups, except that the focus is less on brand and marketing issues, and more about testing the functionality and play experience the product offers. On average, we find that around 1 in 2, or 1 in 3 toys tested have some kind of fundamental (normally fixable) drawback which acts to reduce the success and longevity of the product. Such drawbacks are normally quickly found via play-testing research. Common findings relate to the dexterity of children at a particular age versus the functionality of a toy…often the toy worked fine for the adult product designer! This can be conducted informally with any children  i.e. Staff children, nieces, nephews, schools, activity groups for children, or via a specialist playtesting/research service.

There are more variations and methodologies, but in essence the main options are covered here.

So, now there are no excuses for not engaging with the most important link in the chain!

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What Toy Companies Can Learn From The X Factor…!

Posted in Uncategorized on 26 November 2013

What Toy Companies Can Learn From The X Factor…!

This weekend just gone, the smash hit TV show The X Factor celebrated it’s 10 year anniversary.

It’s also likely to celebrate it’s umpteenth UK Christmas No. 1 when the eventual winner releases their single.

Which is all very nice, but actually there is a really important point of learning in that for Toy companies…

…integrating marketing messages into media content is a highly effective sales driver.

The X Factor hugely empowers the public to vote en masse for and pick their favoured mass appeal pop stars.  So in a sense The X Factor is a champion for consumer choice!

It’s also though fantastic artist launch testing and integrated marketing for those involved in the music business side of the output of the show. There’s a reason why Simon Cowell is always smiling!

It isn’t just the music industry though that has taken this alternative and highly effective approach to engaging a media audience to promote a product. This weekend I read Mark Burnett’s book – if you haven’t heard of him, he created the hit reality TV shows ‘Survivor’, ‘The Apprentice’, ‘The Contender’ and others. he entered the TV world almost accidentally, as he was setting up a massive scale eco/endurance challenge, and needed financial backing which he partially found via TV companies. Where he really got his business model to fly though was when he integrated advertising messages directly into the programming to prove his programming would return for the TV networks and himself.

The point of all this comparison with other industries is that most Toy companies could do an awful lot more to follow this approach. Now don’t get me wrong – there are significant regulatory and ethical hurdles to consider and overcome, because we are selling to children, but in the end, there is always an ethical way of getting things done.

Two examples from our industry – a massively capable colleague of mine once negotiated for a difficult puzzle product to be placed into a famous TV reality show as part of a challenge/exercise. Total media value c. $300,000. Total cost – a standard licensee royalty %, no advance, nothing paid until success was achieved.

The other example I would use is a major Games company which placed giant versions of their games into a kids physical challenge TV show, and saw massive sales uplift…not surprising when the show effectively demonstrated the products to the target audience while keeping them highly entertained.

These are just 2 examples from my own experience, but there are many more out there.

The challenge is that many companies and marketing teams become lazy, and get caught in the TV advertising addiction i.e. let’s just place it on TV. This is fine as an overall strategy, but sometimes to achieve exceptional results we need to take exceptional steps. It’s hard work negotiating an integrated media campaign. It takes more work and effort to make it work sometimes also, but as the X Factor proves – it can really, really work in commercial terms…

So, how can you implement this in your business…?

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