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A Deeper Examination Of The Kidult Toy Space: Consumer Segmentations

A Deeper Examination Of The Kidult Toy Space: Consumer Segmentations

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Of all the many areas of the Toy business I comment on or write about, the ‘Kidult’ space has been the most in demand across the last year or so. I have various articles & podcasts already out there on this topic, and some more articles in the works with leading Toy trade publishers.


The one area though which I haven’t explored in depth, and which I haven’t seen defined clearly elsewhere in the same way as many things are defined in the toy industry is the segmentation of this market. ‘Kidult’ is a very easy label to apply, but it is currently being applied as a blanket term to some very different groups of people, whose only link is often just having an age that is measured in double figures!


In order to maximise the opportunities in the ‘Kidult’ space we need to be clearer about the different consumer segments making up the market. The marketing message we need to give to a model train devotee in their 60s for example would be very different from that we would need to give to someone in their late teens who is collecting Marvel action figures.

Before I get into my attempt to segment the ‘Kidult’ space, I just want to caveat this article with the admission that I don’t have all the answers on this. This is just my take, and I would very much welcome all and any feedback as to where I have got this wrong, and where I have missed sub-segments who you know your products are currently appealing to and selling to.


THE SEGMENTATION OF THE KIDULT SPACE





SEGMENT 1: HOBBYIST/MODELS

This first segment is one of the oldest and most established. Anyone who has visited Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg will recognise that Models are still big business, there are literally hundreds of exhibitors showing off fine models which are often ultra detailed and super authentic. They also often work in the sense that they move around in the way the subject of the models would.



Sub segment A: Railway Models – many generations of children have had model railways running around on a fixed board or in a loft, but their interest is often driven or supported by adult enthusiasts in their family i.e. fathers or grandfathers. This is predominantly (but not exclusively) a male hobby. Different generations can connect via their interest in model trains. Often they are more excited by different trains from different eras based on their own life experiences.


Sub segment B: Military Models – there is a substantial market in military models. In many ‘Western’ countries militarism is discouraged, but even there military models represent a good niche product segment. In some other countries militarism is less discouraged, and as a result military models can be big business. Even before the horrific invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s Russia, ex-Soviet countries were more strongly into military themes and models for example.


Sub segment C: Automotive Models – from slot car racing through to super detailed beautiful die cast miniature representations of classic cars and prestige vehicles Automotive models are a significant segment of the Models segment of the ‘Kidult’ space.


SEGMENT 2: GAMES

Gameplaying is primarily driven by those seeking a social experience. This makes it distinctly different from most other product areas included under the ‘Kidult’ banner, in that a game is in effect primarily a social experience as much as it is a physical thing.


Sub segment A: Model/miniature-based gaming – the most obvious example of this sub segment of Gaming in the Kidult arena is the Warhammer franchise from Games Workshop. For the last full year trading results released, Games Workshop was showing total revenues of over $500m USD, so this is clearly a significant segment in monetary terms.


Sub segment B: Collectable Card Games and Trading Card Games – the most prominent example I can think of here is Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast’s hugely successful Magic: The Gathering franchise. I remember conducting consumer research for Magic: The Gathering in Europe soon after Hasbro acquired the brand. As a closet geek, I have to say it was one of my favourite brands I worked on in my Hasbro days, but even so, I had no idea back then that Magic would become a $billion brand and such a major player in the Toy & Game business overall. The funny thing is back then the major attraction for Hasbro was the Pokemon TCG rights, and Magic: The Gathering was honestly not really understood by the majority of Hasbro’s mass market box shifting teams I worked in back then. So massive hats off to Hasbro for both the brand development strategy over time, but also for allowing Wizards & Magic to thrive. The consumer for Trading Card Games is typically highly knowledgeable and super enthusiastic, and so authenticity and maintaining credibility are important with this type of consumer.


Sub segment C: Core (or Hardcore) Gamers

Anyone who has attended Gencon or Essen Spieltage has experienced this consumer segment en masse and in the flesh! Wandering among tens of thousands of unwashed hardcore board games devotees is quite an experience. Typically, this type of Gamer and this type of ‘Kidult’ will be well educated and fairly intellectual, largely because to play really in-depth Games requires a lot of rules and mental acuity. I remember asking for a demo of a game at the Essen show, and advising the demonstrator that I only had 10 minutes. Rather than try to show me how the game played physically, he recited the instructions perfectly in a dull monotone for all of the ten minutes. I have to admit that I left him none the wiser as to how the Game played, because my brain is not flexible enough to instantly translate a 10 page rule book into a clear picture pf how the game played!


Sub segment D: Mainstream Party Games

This is almost the opposite end of the spectrum, again illustrating why the term ‘Kidult’ is far too broad and vague to be of much practical use. This type of game is normally simple in concept and simple in gameplay to quickly attract mass market audiences. The obvious examples I can think of are Games such as What Do you Meme, you could also include such classics as Trivial Pursuit and Cranium in this category. Although the makers of this game may be horrified by this classification, I would also place Cards Against Humanity in this sub segment due to a). the simplicity of the concept and gameplay mechanic and b). due to the sheer volume of games sold. In short, this sub segment covers any adults who play simpler Games with other adults, using the game as a social facilitator and group entertainment activity.

SEGMENT 3: BIG KIDS

I think most people working in the Toy & Game business will identify with this segment. Many of the people I have worked with have a big kids approach to our business. We are lucky to be of the generations where maintaining a child-like outlook is not considered ridiculous and inappropriate for adults…

Sub segment A: It’s for my kids (!). This sub segment is pretty obvious – we all know a Dad who keeps buying big fancy Toys ‘for his kids’…when in reality he wants to play with that high spec RC product himself! This is an important dynamic though, because a product which brings together parent and child can create a strong emotional bond and create nostalgic feedings…and emotions and nostalgia can be really effective for driving Toy sales.


Sub segment B: Affinity based i.e. just love RC or shooting (Nerf) – this sub segment of ‘Big Kids’ is more about a ‘Kidult’ with a strong affinity. Some adults just love RC cars, or shooting, or some other play pattern, this love of a particular play pattern can stick with them for life. This can lead to very high lifetime customer value over a long period of time.

Sub segment C: Active i.e. Frisbee, skateboarding, stunt scooters – this sub segment is fairly self-explanatory. This can be teenagers, people of college age, through to parents trying to stay active with their families.


SEGMENT 4: Collectors – Affinity – the impulse to collect can be one of the most powerful instincts Toy companies can depend on. I would argue that the massive success of Funko over the last decade and a half (notwithstanding their recent blip) has been largely driven by their brilliant harnessing of this collectors instinct. Most adults really like something that can be turned into a Toy, whether it’s a major movie hero like Spiderman or Thor, or whether it’s a more obscure character, Funko and many other companies deliver to the impulse to own pop culture related merchandise.


SEGMENT 5: Collectors – Investment Driven – these collectors are collecting in the hope that the Toys they collect can be worth more money in the future than they are today. Needless to say some Investment Driven Collectors will be more financially successful than others, but in most cases the products will not even be unboxed, and as such this sub segment is attracted by strong brands, niche limited edition product runs and aesthetically attractive products.


In case you think it’s a nonsense to consider making money from Toys, consider the reports on the following weblinks. The first is a report suggesting that collecting Lego products could offer better investment returns than Gold! The second report is a website dedicated to investing in Lego products.

SEGMENT 6: TECHNICAL BUILDERS & CONSTRUCTORS – arguably the specific Toy product I refer to most often in relation to the ‘Kidult’ space is the Lego Millennium Falcon product which retails for in excess of $700 USD. I know 4 grown men in my social group, who don’t work in the Toy business, who own this product! If you tried to tell people from my grandparents generation that grown men would own a Toy which cost this much money they would genuinely think you were crazy. This reinforces one of the primary principles of selling to ‘Kidults’ – they can spend as much as they want on Toys unlike your average 4 year old who is totally beholden to their parents. Therefore, the classic Toy price point limitations don’t necessarily exist in the Kidult space. If the product is aspirational enough and offers sufficient value, pricepoints can be far greater than classic pricepoints like $9.99 and $19.99.

This sub segment primarily consists of those who enjoyed building Lego, Meccano or other Construction systems when they were kids, and who still love that process now as adults.


CONCLUSIONS

Every attempt at consumer segmentation is eventually found to be incorrect and incomplete, because human beings are quite complicated and difficult to define. This however has been my attempt to dig deeper under the bonnet of the juggernaut called the ‘Kidult’ segment. Just to illustrate how insufficient these types of consumer segmentations are, I would myself identify and align myself with 5 out of 6 of the categories highlighted above. But nevertheless, I hope to stimulate further discussion and greater understanding of the over simplicity of applying the ‘Kidult’ label across the board. If you think I missed any consumer segments or sub segments in the ‘Kidult’ space, please do reach out and let me know :)




PLAYING AT BUSINESS PODCAST

Here’s the latest episodes of my Playing At Business podcast:

Ep 96 – 5 CHARACTERISTICS OF BEST-SELLING TOYS & GAMES

There are some recurring characteristics of best- selling Toys & Games. In this episode we run through the 5 most important features. This is not so much creative inspiration as it is a tick list for new Toy & Games products in development.


Ep 95 – HOW TO SELL MORE TOYS & GAMES INTERNATIONALLY

Regardless of which country is your home market, the opportunity outside your borders is greater...in this episode we take a look at some simple ways to significantly increase your export sales of Toys & Games.


Ep 94 – 5 KEY TIPS TO FIND & VALIDATE FACTORIES

In this episode host Steve Reece talks about his experience helping more than 100 Toy & Game companies find manufacturing around the world, and he shares 5 key tips for finding & validating new Toy factories. We look at why most companies make a massive mistake by focusing on manufacturing cost as the primary assessment factor for a new Toy & Game factory, and much more.


AND FINALLY…

If you want to find out more about my Toy & Game business consultancy services, please just click the link below. Our company has helped hundreds of Toy & Game companies to get ahead and grow sales/make more profit. I have worked on all product categories across a 20+ year career in Toys & Games, and genuinely love sharing knowledge, contacts and facilitating greater success for our clients. https://www.toyindustryjournal.com/toy-business-consultancy


Sign up for my free e-newsletter and receive all the latest reports, analysis and insights on the Toy & Games business: sign up for free here: https://forms.aweber.com/form/54/1325077854.htm

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