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When you work in the toy & game business all day, every day, you can get somewhat removed from the reality of how our end consumers (i.e. parents & their kids) regard and interact with our product output.

The consumer reality today is that most toys represent in effect a ‘throwaway’ purchase…despite, or maybe because of all the retailer pressure on keeping prices low, toys & games don’t represent a purchase of much significance in most cases. Something really high end like a $700 Lego Millennium Falcon toy would be a very considerable purchase, but the vast majority of toy sales are $30 retail price or less.

Children can form strong emotional bonds with toys, and these bonds can remain for life. Often classic toy brands get passed on from one generation to the next because of this strong emotional attachment and nostalgia. But the vast majority of toys are forgotten by the child quite soon after receipt.

I have written often before about the concept of ‘Toy Stockpiling’ whereby children collect literally hundreds of toys through their childhood, and by the time they are getting to the age of moving past toys, they probably have a bedroom full of toys and games, they may also have a playroom in the house also full of toys & games.

So we have to be realistic about our expectations of consumers when it comes to our products. You may give a child some valuable developmental support. You may help them to learn how to interpret and interact with the world around them, and you should also bring a child at least a fleeting moment of joy and entertainment. But you are unlikely to be delivering anything truly earth shattering, and as such we should focus on delivering compelling concepts and properly functional toys which are safe to use instead of trying to be too clever and intellectual.

Critically we should also understand that as much as we complicate things, our end consumer is in the end much simpler than we are, and their interaction with our products is often fleeting and shallow. Many times I have seen through the power of consumer playtesting that it is more important to get kids to react to your products both conceptually and in terms of functionality than it is to sit in our ‘ivory tower’ offices pontificating about features, what our retail customers think of the product and where we can afford to cut costs to get the product to market. The answers to so many of our product development and sales conundrums can be answered by testing the toys with the end consumer.

As we enter a period where we see more pressure on consumer spending through the holiday season than we have been used to we may well find that the secret to developing commercially successful products is to ensure they are validated in advance of mass manufacturing by our end consumer on their own terms.

We run a Consultancy business for toy companies. We work with major toy companies through to start ups and one person bands. For more information on how we help toy companies grow their distribution around the world:

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