When you take a historical view of troubling times in relatively modern history, the toy & games business has usually traded through with some degree of success and certainly without existential threat to the industry. The reasons for this are well known and we have recently written on this at length, but in summary this durability of our business is due to children still needing stimulation and play, and parents wanting to still look after their children’s emotional and developmental needs. In tough times, these underlying drivers actually get stronger in many ways.
This is one of the reasons why classic toy and games brands survive, or even thrive in difficult times.
But the other angle to look at this from is the likelihood of new perennial classic toy brands being formed out of this horrible situation. People tend to have an emotional bond with their favourite toys from childhood, it’s such a formative period of our lives and so both in terms of practical impact at the time and in terms of rosy nostalgic memories people tend to think very positively of the toys they played with.
What happens when times are tough is that people’s emotions run higher as we all deal with a new type of challenges from medical to economic through to managing tough emotions and even balancing mental health under circumstances most of us have never experienced. Therefore the emotional imprint of this experience is much deeper, which means that the things that help us get through these times will touch us more deeply and create a far stronger bond.
For everyone this is a difficult time, but for children in particular it can be very difficult to understand what is happening, and for them to be carrying a lot of fear with them right now. Toys can help children to feel more secure and imaginative play can help them to express and develop their feelings and find ways to manage. Board games can help them spend quality time with their parents in a fun way without the boredom which can come for many children from being made to follow strict educational curriculum.
The upshot of all of this is that new brands which manage to successfully establish themselves in the marketplace and the minds of people could find themselves becoming massive hits over a very long time. And here’s the best example of how this effect can work – aside from world wars, arguably the toughest period of time for most people in the ‘West’ in the last 100 years would be The Great Depression of the 1920s and into the 1930s. As people struggled to find work and food, the disruption to normal life was comparable in impact to what is happening today, albeit it lasted for a lot longer than the current crisis will hopefully. Out of this period of time came the king of board games – Monopoly. The bonds formed by people going through tough times playing Monopoly, arguing and negotiating away with their family and friends and eventually winning the game (if they could get to the end!) has lead to the massive long term success of the game and brand.
So, while all indications around us are that we should be fearful as businesses and slash the red pen through everything, furlough or fire our staff and slash all new product development and batten down the hatches for a crisis, the reality is that while some of this will sadly be necessary it needs to be balanced with the massive opportunity driven by the stronger than usual needs of humankind for comfort, fun and support. There is no doubt that some companies and some brands will come through this crisis as winners, and new classic toys and games will become firmly fixed alongside the likes of Monopoly, Barbie, Rubiks Cube and others.
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