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The 5 Biggest Toy Packaging Mistakes

Our team has worked on literally thousands of individual toys & games, and across all these products the area where we have seen the most mistakes is most definitely in the packaging.

Packaging is a crucial part of the marketing mix, because often consumers won’t see your advertising. But in store and online they will see your packaging, and therefore, packaging is the fundamental foundational pillar of all toy & game marketing.

Good packaging doesn’t make a bad product good, but it does make it more likely to sell!

Here are the 5 most common mistakes we have observed over time with toy & game packaging:

  • Functional failure

Often times toy companies spend a lot of time on the graphic design of their packaging, but typically leave the structural engineering of the packaging to the factory. This can be a costly mistake. In the last 12 months we have worked on about a dozen toys & games that had a fundamental packaging structural design issue. Issues observed have included packaging that is supposed to stand up on shelf, so that the store can just put product free standing on shelf. Due to either too small a base footprint or due to an inherently unstable packaging structure, several products would not stand up on shelf, which means that they would fall over on shelf either falling off shelf or sprawling over the display space looking bad. This is such an easy thing to fix! Packaging should have a solid base so it can stand up if that is how the product is to be merchandised. #basics!

  • Failure to effectively, clearly and overtly communicate key product features & benefits

Packaging is a marketing tool. The packaging should clearly show a cool product with emphasis on compelling features and benefits. On a recent project we purchased some competitor samples to compare with the products of our client. One of the products from a major toy company (who shall remain nameless to spare their blushes!) was a really good product with a best-in-class TVC. However, the product was completely cocooned in a weird packaging design which probably meant to be intriguing like an upscale blind bag, but with the only text aside from the logo being a multitude of copyright lines and legal lines in different languages it was not clear what the product was, what it did or why the child should want it! That scores 0/10. Before trying to be too clever, packaging designers should be distilling down the key selling points to communicate clearly what they are – either in text or with images. Children are very basic creatures compared with adults – subtlety is not a formula for success typically with toy & game packaging aimed at children.

  • Failing to protect the product inside sufficiently

Packaging exists in the first place to protect the product inside from damage and wear and tear in transit/while on display in retail. Therefore, above all packaging should protect the product inside. There are plenty of examples of packaging which has failed to protect the product, just go into any retail store and you will find examples of someone getting this wrong. Sometimes it is due to cost stripping, but the bigger picture view makes it clear that there is no point saving a couple of cents if the product is not then saleable.

  • Failing to use all the space available

The prevailing merchandising of products varies from country to country. For instance, I was greatly surprised the first time I visited a department store in Germany because due to the number of board games on sale, the products were not merchandised showing the major space & communication point of the front of the box. Instead, just the end or the side of the box was on display, and therefore those games which communicated more on the end and sides of the box sold better!

  • Failing to stand out on shelf

One of the greatest challenges in a market full of competitive products is achieving standout. When you walk an aisle in a toy specialist retail store you are met with a visual explosion of colour. It takes skill and design nous to create packaging which stands out in such a ‘loud’ visual setting.

Do you need help to understand the toy & game business? We help people from all around the world to understand and successfully enter the toy business. For more information on how we do this, check out our services here:

Have you listened to our Playing At Business podcast? We talk about selling toys & games, interview successful people from across the toy business & we look at key trends in the toy & game business:

Supply Chain Diversification – The Second Biggest Toy Industry Trend

Aside from (the hopefully) short-term of impacts there are two massive trends having a massive effect on the toy business now and probably for the next decade. The first is sustainability. If your company isn’t in a sustainable product category or if your products are primarily made of plastic materials, then sustainable initiatives are becoming more and more important to keep consumer onside and buying toys.

Aside from sustainability though there is one major shift happening which does not get the headlines but is nevertheless throwing up massive challenges for toy companies. The shift is coming in terms of manufacturing hubs. Whereas we once relied primarily, or often completely on China for manufacturing at affordable costs and with good efficiency, the situation has changed significantly in that a proportion of production is seeping away from China into other countries.

There are a number of drivers of this, which we have covered in detail in other articles, but perhaps the best way to share that with you is to watch this YouTube video explainer we published a year or so back:

This video explains why China is not going to remain the same primary source for toys as it once was. The point of this article though is to discuss how toy companies can manage the ongoing change.

There have been ongoing problems in toy supply recently – from the initial shutdowns in China due to Covid-19 through to shipping problems, and before that Trump’s tariffs on China, rising costs and much more.

The bottom line here is that toy companies are going to move from a model of having a relatively easy and efficient sole manufacturing hub to needing to diversify their risk across more regions. We have been advising our clients to set up multi-hub capability.

This comes with some pain though – because there is no perfect solution to replacing what China has become. Despite occasional pain points, China has been very reliable and the easy option compared with many other manufacturing hubs. But what happens for companies who don’t set up the multi-hub set up is that when issues hit like they have in the last 18 months or so, supply gets threatened. By having at least small production already set up with vendors to diversify risk, companies can ramp up more quickly than those starting from scratch.

The reality toy companies need to accept though is that these hubs are not necessarily going to be easier. Moving from China’s vastly experienced factories to lesser experienced companies in areas with less mature supply chain can be painful & take a lot of work. But this is where the trend is heading to whether we like it or not. As per our video presentation above, we believe China will keep around half of the toy production they had at the start of this decade, but the rest is going to dissipate further afield with India, Vietnam, other Asian countries and ‘Near shoring’ taking up some of the slack.

The multi-hub sourcing strategy is going to be an ongoing major factor in the toy business for the next decade.

Do you need help to understand the toy & game business? We help people from all around the world to understand and successfully enter the toy business. For more information on how we do this, check out our services here:

China’s Delivery Robots & Online Gaming Limitations: Implications For The Toy Business

Things affecting the toy business seem to keep on occurring in China with a frequency we don’t see in other countries. We’ve written at length about supply chain issues & the ridiculous price of container shipping right now. But this week there have been two more occurrences in China which may affect the toy business.

Chinese Tech Giant Alibaba Announces Increased Role In Delivery For Robots

Alibaba have announced that they will be rolling out 1,000 delivery robots in China to manage the final delivery of parcels bought via online shopping. This is important because China tends to be at or near the forefront of e-commerce and m-commerce. One of the primary drivers is the volume of Chinese people in China who are buying via e-commerce, with over 1 billion people shopping this way versus approximately 300 million people in India and c. 250m in the USA. Therefore, China is dealing with the largest challenges in terms of fulfilling a ridiculously high number of people ordering and needing delivery.

Bearing in mind how critical Amazon now is in major Western toy markets, what happens with e-commerce in China is likely to be adopted by Amazon in the West at some point if it proves to be successful. For sure there are many challenges of robots operating in urban environments and it can’t be easy to ensure hey drop off parcels in the right circumstances, but the future is here already as far as robot delivery is concerned.

When we think about some of the labour shortages affecting delivery services recently, robots could well offer part of the solution.

China Limits Online Gaming Time For Children

Big news coming out of China recently with reports that the government will limit online gaming time for under 18s to a maximum of three hours per week in a move aimed at reducing gaming addiction, poor eyesight and other social factors. This could be good news for the toy business, as those children who can’t spend time & money gaming as much as they would like may buy more toys or have more toys given to them. It I hard to estimate what positive impact this could have on toy sales, but it seems likely to offer a systemic boost going forward based on how long children will spend playing video games if left to their own devices!

We run a Consultancy business helping toy & games companies get ahead. For more information, check out

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 service above.

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