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O Is For Outdoor Toys, Ole Kirk Kristiansen, Optimus Prime and Operation – A To Z Of The Toy Business


OUTDOOR TOYS

This category brings to mind sandy beaches, playing fields and back yards, along with boisterous energetic children playing with outdoor toys. The benefit for toy companies of course in running products in this category is counter seasonal cashflow. While most toy companies tend to have minimal revenues in the first half of the year, companies selling outdoor toys can achieve significant sales to balance out the cashflow challenges of being reliant on back end of year sales. Brands like Nerf, Frisbee and Bunch O Balloons enjoy strong sales at a time of year where most other toy companies are in the red.

OLE KIRK KRISTIANSEN was a Danish carpenter who founded Lego way back in 1932. Understandably based on his profession, Lego’s first products were wooden toys. The move to plastic toys came about when the company purchased an injection moulding machine in 1947. Not all was plain sailing though, the Great Depression hit Denmark and hit sales of non-toy products which acted as the spur for Mr. Kristiansen to enter the toy business. Then in 1942 the Nazi’s occupied Germany, and soon after a fire destroyed his factory and stock. From these humble beginnings, Ole Kirk Kristiansen and his successors have grown Lego into the largest toy brand in the world. Therefore, it would be a strong argument to make that no other individual has had a bigger long-term impact on the toy business than Mr. Kristiansen.

OPTIMUS PRIME

The Transformers brand has been with us since 1984, and the most prominent character in the Transformers universe is of course Optimus Prime. The leader of the Autobots in their endless struggle against the evil and duplicity of the Decepticons, Optimus Prime is an iconic character and toy. As the Transformers brand evolved into a successful movie franchise, so Optimus Prime stepped to the fore of the movie world – bringing Transformers to a whole new generation.

OPERATION

When thinking of classic board games, Operation is normally towards the top of the list. Invented by John Spinello (an industrial design student) back in 1964. The game features fairly basic technology whereby players have to try to remove ‘organs’ from a patient without causing the buzzer to buzz and the nose to glow red. In more recent times licensed co-branded versions of the game have launched with a fair degree of commercial sense. Licensed versions brought to market include Star Wars, Shrek and Spider Man as the central character/patient.

We run a Consultancy business helping toy & games companies get ahead. For more information, check out www.KidsBrandInsight.com/services


Our Managing Director, Steve Reece, works with a limited number of companies as a non-executive director, independent board director and as a board advised. If you are interested in finding out more about this, check out the link to our services above.

N Is For Nerf, Novelty & Nintendo – A To Z Of The Toy Business

NERF

Nerf has been around for more than 50 years as a brand. Originally a brand focused on outdoor sports toys, the brand came to the fore with a soft foam throwing ball in the shape of a football (that is an American football, not a European football/soccer ball!). In the last 10 to 15 years though, Nerf has moved up the ranks to become one of the biggest and most successful toy brands in the world via the dominant position the brand has in the foam blaster category of toys. There are many different variants of Nerf guns, from small to massive, and from single to multi-shot, but the core remains the same, a toy gun firing a soft foam projectile which kids just love to play with! In recent years, a number of licensed Nerf toys have come to market including products based on the video game Fortnite and long running Star Wars franchise. Little known fact: the original idea behind the Nerf brand came from famous inventor Reyn Guyer, who also invented the classic Milton Bradley game Twister.

NOVELTY

Novelty or ‘new news’ are common demands from toy buyers. The toy industry features literally millions of products, with more than 65% of toys new on the market each year. That is just a huge amount of product development ‘churn’. The toy trade therefore is in a perpetual cycle of develop, produce and sell. When toy companies present to retail buyers around the world, they inevitably want to see what’s new, and many of these new toys become the hottest toys at Christmas.

NINTENDO

The Japanese company Nintendo has had a significant impact on the global toy industry for two primary reasons: 1. The effect of their iconic console gaming machines on the broader toy business 2. Their iconic characters which have spawned strong selling toy products over decades. These famous characters include Mario & Luigi, Zelda and Donkey Kong. Nintendo started life way back in 1889 producing hand crafted card games, fast forward to today and the company had revenues of nearly $16 billion usd in fiscal year 2021. To put this in context, that’s nearly three times bigger than the largest toy company in the world. The video console business actually spawned out of and away from the toy business back in the 1970s and 1980s, and Nintendo’s iconic handheld gaming devices – the Gameboy & DS have had a long-term cannibalistic effect on toy sales, at the same time as driving sales of toys based on Nintendo characters.

We run a Consultancy business helping toy & games companies get ahead. For more information, check out www.KidsBrandInsight.com/services


Our Managing Director, Steve Reece, works with a limited number of companies as a non-executive director, independent board director and as a board advised. If you are interested in finding out more about this, check out the link to our services above.

M Is For Mattel, Monopoly, MGA, Marvel & My Little Pony – A To Z Of The Toy Business

M is one of the most important of all letters when it comes to the toy business. We have some real behemoths in this instalment.


MATTEL

Mattel was founded way back in 1945 by husband-and-wife team Ruth & Elliot Handler, along with Harold “Matt” Manson (who soon exited the business due to ill health). The company’s iconic toy brand Barbie came to market in 1959, quickly becoming the best-selling toy for the company. Barbie today is still a global market leader in the toy Doll category and is a massive profit generator for Mattel. In recent times Barbie has been adapted to meet the times we with a broader array of looks, shapes and other variations.

Mattel launched Hot Wheels in 1968, originally the product line was designed by a bonafide rocket scientist and a real-life car designer. Fisher Price makes up the third side of Mattel’s triangle of iconic brands, having been acquired by Mattel back in 1993. Mattel today remains one of the biggest toy companies in the world, and after a few rocky years looks set to be on an upward trajectory again.


MONOPOLY

THE iconic board game has sold more than 275 million copies since Parker Brothers released their version of the game back in the dark days of the great depression in 1935. Parker Brothers originally rejected the game because it was “too complicated, too technical, [and it] took too long to play”. The game is famous for causing (mostly good natured) family arguments and for games that last for hours and hours, or even days. Generation after generation has enjoyed teaching the game to their children. Today there are many, many versions of Monopoly, with numerous companies who produce local and niche versions around the world. A DVD game version and multiple video game versions have been launched. The Monopoly world championships event seeks to crown the world champion player, and there is also a variety of successful fruit and quiz machines.


MGA ENTERTAINMENT

MGA has been one of the most disruptive toy companies of all time. The company shot to the forefront of the toy business with the launch of Bratz dolls in 2001, which took significant market share from Mattel’s flagship Barbie at the time. But MGA wasn’t done disrupting, in more recent years, L.O.L. Surprise! Has been a phenomenally successful product line which appears to have all the hallmarks of a long-term brand. Aside from the Dolls category, MGA Entertainment also owns iconic U.S. toy manufacturer Little Tikes, having acquired the company from Newell Rubbermaid in 2006. Little Tikes iconic Cosy Coupe product has sold millions and millions of units over time, and is itself considered an iconic toy in the U.S.


MARVEL

In the last decade or so, Marvel has played a massive role in the toy business, with the ongoing cinematic universe being the highest grossing ever with box office takings in the region of $23 billion usd. Superheroes and villains have long since played their part in the toy business. Marvel is in many ways the modern-day cinematic representation of this. Since being acquired by Disney for $bn usd back in 2009, Marvel has been a blockbuster movie making machine, and has significantly boosted the toy business overall, especially Hasbro who have produced many iterations of Marvel toys to mush commercial success.


MY LITTLE PONY

This super cutesy line of ponies first came to market in 1981 as My Pretty Pony before becoming My Little Pony in 1982. There are have been several phases in the story of M.L.P., with numerous relaunches over the decades. The brand has sold well in excess of 100m toys over time, and spawned numerous TV series and movies.

We run a Consultancy business helping toy & games companies get ahead. For more information, check out www.KidsBrandInsight.com/services


Our Managing Director, Steve Reece, works with a limited number of companies as a non-executive director, independent board director and as a board advised. If you are interested in finding out more about this, check out the link to our services above.

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