WHY COLLECTABLE TOYS ARE NOW DRIVING THE TOY INDUSTRY
Collectable (sometimes called ‘pocket money’) toys have been around for a long time.
There are certain timeless fundamental factors for collectable toys including real tactile appeal/compulsion, cues for collecting e.g. wide character matrix and portability to allow children to carry the toys around and play with them wherever their friends are e.g. school, playground, friends house etc.
Traditionally this category was largely ignored by the larger toy companies because you have to sell high quantities of units at 3 or 4 €uros/USD/£GBP to add up to the multi millions big companies typically need to make a product or brand worthwhile.
This changed though during the financial crisis, suddenly the world economy tightened, and the major toy companies took the strategically sound step of launching more lower price point toys at a time when money was very short for many families.
In the last few years, the collectable toy category has become a primary driver of the toy industry. While we once looked to movie toys for the growth spikes in the global toy industry, today movie toys appear to be more like a solid foundation with a movie slate with constant output of toyetic movies which means we don’t have quote the same peaks and troughs as we once did. Instead, today collectable toys are really driving the overall industry growth trends.
The key players in this space – Moose, MGA, Spin Master etc. are of a size where they can develop and deliver big things, but they are small enough (or at least have been until this point) that they can follow the trends and try risky new product launches which would be too ‘out there’ for the more corporate long established companies.
The key trends which we see driving the collectable categories current strength are:
- Changed Viewing Habits – i.e. children not watching as much ‘TV’, so toy category not as TV advertising driven as in the past, but more driven by YouTube content, this is after all increasingly where kids are viewing. This allows kids to share online what they like and to share their play patterns in the way that previous collectable toys couldn’t. For sure we’ve always had the ‘playground effect’ where schools become viral toy drivers, but today we get that PLUS online viral effect.
- Collectable but higher priced – this has been a major move, toy pricepoints seem to have been set in stone for decades i.e. a board game costs €14.99-19.99, an action figure $9.99 to $19.99 etc. If you look back at toy ads from the 1980’s on You Tube, you can see pricepoints which are scarily close to the price points today! What this means in practise is that most toys are no longer a considered purchase, but more of a throwaway product. $10 or $20 is nothing nowadays, and so children get given anywhere from dozens to hundreds of $20 toys during their childhood. This leads to a phenomenon I have outlined before – ‘TOY STOCKPILING’ – whereby children have toys overflowing from their homes but don’t actually spend much time playing with them. The last few years has seen a real pushing of ‘collectable’ toy pricepoints as the consumer proves that the hard price point categories our retailers have shoe-horned us into are no longer valid. All those times a retailer told us that type of toy HAS to be $3.99 or 9.99 or maximum ceiling is $19.99 etc., yet the consumer is now far more in control of what is on offer to them to buy. Therefore, when L.O.L. Surprise! and other toys which have the same format as traditional ‘collectable’ toys ramp up the offering to double (or even higher) the previous pricepoints they are riding the wave of the point in time when the historical trend of under priced toys reverted to more realistic pricing. Combining high volume items with pricepoints which are twice as high as the traditional ceiling for collectable toys solves that historical issue of collectable toys selling lots of units but unimpressive total $$$ as mentioned above!
- Unboxing/surprise – while YouTube unboxing is comparatively recent, surprise is not new – this has been a key element in selling some lower price point toy items for decades. The combination of the two though is proving to be a ridiculously powerful formula for toys! With unboxing videos now being a primary marketing driver for the toy industry overall and especially for some categories, combining ‘Surprise toys’ with this paradigm blasting marketing model has proven to be MASSIVE for the toy business, and is arguably fundamentally the biggest driver of the collectable toy category and therefore currently the toy industry as a whole!
- Top notch toy design and ideation – this is arguably less a trend and more a competence, but there is no doubt that there is some clever clreative thinking behind many of today’s successful colelctable toy lines.
So, these are actually very exciting times for the toy industry because we’re in the midst of a toy marketing revolution which is yet to reach full maturity, and those companies quick, agile and risk resistant enough to ride the new wave are winning through and growing rapidly.
We recently launched a new brand and product management service. Our small team of highly qualified, experienced toy people are now working with toy companies on a project basis to support them where they need flexible resources. We have worked on/Consulted with many top collectable toy brands/products. To find out more, head to our sister company Kids Brand Insight here: http://www.kidsbrandinsight.com/services/