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Toy Development: Should We Take An Innovative Approach Versus Following The Formula

Toy Development: Should We Take An Innovative Approach Versus Following The Formula

Toy companies often speak of innovation, yet if you looked at the average toy aisle today and compared it with the toy aisle from 10 years ago, how much would actually have changed?

You’d still see action figures, playsets and collectibles from the latest hit kids movie.

You’d still see an array of board games, construction toys, plush, vehicles etc.

Furby was in market 15 years ago, and was fluffy and lovable back then as it is today.

So where does innovation fit in?

The reality is that there are only so many themes to go around, for instance this year dinosaurs have made a major comeback for obvious reasons, princesses are still more than performing at the checkouts, monsters and zombies still abound as do cutesy animals. (For more on perennial themes in toys check out this article I wrote for the UK’s excellent Toy News magazine: http://www.toynews-online.biz/opinion/read/timeless-toy-themes-perennial-goldmines/040251) ).

Anyone who thinks they are developing toys based on a completely new theme is probably misguided or mistaken!

However, what we do see is a product development on a massive scale. While we see some massively disruptive new categories emerge (Skylanders/Disney Infinity) and established brands update their products with the latest technologies just as Furby has done…as an industry we still develop a monstrous amount of products in established product categories each and every year. Every year the Spielwarenmesse (Nuremberg) International Toy Fair showcases over 75,000 new products, which averages out at 25 new products per exhibitor. That’s a huge volume of work for any company to contemplate.

And while new tech driven products grab a disproportionate amount of the headlines, the vast majority of $sales i.e. 90%+ come via products in long established product categories.

So when we look at innovation in the toy industry, we’re mostly looking at innovative execution versus pure blue sky. The most successful toy companies tend to do the best job at blending proven formulas with executional innovations on an ongoing basis.

For sure there will always be those who try to reinvent the wheel and make it big, and good luck to them, but the analysis suggests that fresh thinking about traditional play patterns is most likely to deliver reliable long term success in the long term.

P.S. In case you haven’t heard yet, entry to The Toy Verdict Awards 2015 is now open, for more details or to enter, just go to http://www.thetoyverdict.com/the-toy-verdict-awards/

by Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight www.KidsBrandInsight.com,  a leading Consultancy to toy, game and kids entertainment companies around the world, which helps companies find the right toy & game factories, consumer research test their products with kids and parents and secure export distribution/market entry around the world.