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I Is For Innovation & Inventors – A To Z of The Toy Business

I Is For Innovation & Inventors – A To Z of The Toy Business


If you look back at old toy catalogues or watch old toy adverts on YouTube, there is an awful lot of similarities between today’s toys and the toys of yesteryear. So much so in fact, that some people in the toy business focus more on sales and marketing spend than they do on innovation and genuinely trying to find something that hasn’t been done before.

What innovation does though is to create more compelling play experiences, and incremental sales opportunities.

Thinking about how innovation applies to the toy business, the most obvious example appears to be Furby. Your very own electronic furry pal, capable of interacting with children and of seemingly coming to life. But innovation is not always about whizzy technology.

An area of the toy business which was once unfashionable for major companies but which now drives the industry overall is pocket money and collectable toys. Before the global financial crisis of the late noughties, major toy companies tended to pooh-pooh selling toys at such low-price points, as it is so much harder to justify product development and marketing against lower priced products…that is unless the lower priced products sell in ridiculous quantities, which is what has been happening for some time now in this category. As such, the ability to deliver great play based on a much more limited spec has led to wave after wave of innovation from Shopkins through to L.O.L. Surprise!


We can’t discuss innovation in the toy & game business without also talking about the mighty role of Inventors in our industry. Those outside the toy business don’t realise the critical role that independent inventors play. The fact that major toy & game companies have teams of Inventor Liaison staff shows just how important external concepts & ideas are in terms of feeding the everlasting churn of product development. With more than two thirds of toys being new on shelf each year, there is a huge volume of concepts needed. Inventing though isn’t a career path for the light-hearted, with many great concepts not finding their way to market, and royalty payments coming a long time after the original work was done by the inventors. We estimate though that there are around 100-200 full time toy & game inventors globally making a full time living from creating toy & game concepts…and after all there are certainly worse ways to earn a living!

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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:


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