Tag Archives: toys

O Is For Outdoor Toys, Ole Kirk Kristiansen, Optimus Prime and Operation – A To Z Of The Toy Business

O Is For Outdoor Toys, Ole Kirk Kristiansen, Optimus Prime and Operation – A To Z Of The Toy Business

OUTDOOR TOYS

This category brings to mind sandy beaches, playing fields and back yards, along with boisterous energetic children playing with outdoor toys. The benefit for toy companies of course in running products in this category is counter seasonal cashflow. While most toy companies tend to have minimal revenues in the first half of the year, companies selling outdoor toys can achieve significant sales to balance out the cashflow challenges of being reliant on back end of year sales. Brands like Nerf, Frisbee and Bunch O Balloons enjoy strong sales at a time of year where most other toy companies are in the red.

 

OLE KIRK KRISTIANSEN was a Danish carpenter who founded Lego way back in 1932. Understandably based on his profession, Lego’s first products were wooden toys. The move to plastic toys came about when the company purchased an injection moulding machine in 1947. Not all was plain sailing though, the Great Depression hit Denmark and hit sales of non-toy products which acted as the spur for Mr. Kristiansen to enter the toy business. Then in 1942 the Nazi’s occupied Germany, and soon after a fire destroyed his factory and stock. From these humble beginnings, Ole Kirk Kristiansen and his successors have grown Lego into the largest toy brand in the world. Therefore, it would be a strong argument to make that no other individual has had a bigger long-term impact on the toy business than Mr. Kristiansen.

 

OPTIMUS PRIME

The Transformers brand has been with us since 1984, and the most prominent character in the Transformers universe is of course Optimus Prime. The leader of the Autobots in their endless struggle against the evil and duplicity of the Decepticons, Optimus Prime is an iconic character and toy. As the Transformers brand evolved into a successful movie franchise, so Optimus Prime stepped to the fore of the movie world – bringing Transformers to a whole new generation.

 

OPERATION

When thinking of classic board games, Operation is normally towards the top of the list. Invented by John Spinello (an industrial design student) back in 1964. The game features fairly basic technology whereby players have to try to remove ‘organs’ from a patient without causing the buzzer to buzz and the nose to glow red. In more recent times licensed co-branded versions of the game have launched with a fair degree of commercial sense. Licensed versions brought to market include Star Wars, Shrek and Spider Man as the central character/patient.

 

We run a Consultancy business helping toy & games companies get ahead. For more information, check out www.KidsBrandInsight.com/services

Our Managing Director, Steve Reece, works with a limited number of companies as a non-executive director, independent board director and as a board advised. If you are interested in finding out more about this, check out the link to our service above.

 

K Is For Kenner, Karma, Korea, KB Toys & Ken – A To Z Of The Toy Business

K Is For Kenner, Karma, Korea, KB Toys & Ken – A To Z Of The Toy Business

Kenner

Kenner is best known for being the company who introduced Star Wars toys to the market, producing more than 100 unique figures and selling more than 300 million units between 1978 and 1985. Today nearly every family movie has licensed merchandise including toys. Star Wars started all that. While it seems an obvious opportunity today, back in the 1970s Mego (the prevailing figure toy company of the time) turned down the opportunity to produce toys based on the Star Wars franchise (possibly the biggest mistake in toy business history?).

Kenner stopped producing Star Wars toys after the initial trilogy of film releases faded away, but restarted again in 1995. Kenner also brought to market other iconic toys aside from Star Wars including Easy Bake Oven and Spirograph. Kenner Parker was acquired by Tonka in 1987, which in turn was purchased by Hasbro in 1991. Star Wars figures remain a key product line for Hasbro through to this day, making Star Wars toys one of the most important, commercially successful and iconic toy ranges of all time.

 

Karma

The toy industry is often a surprisingly small place. If you operate by screwing people over, it tends to be quite likely that you will get some kind of karmic payback. But also, if you are good to the people you meet over the years around the toy trade shows and in between, then you will build many lasting fruitful business relationships and friendships.

 

Korea

Korea is not normally an area of focus for toy & game companies, but with a population about the size of England, and with an advanced economy, consumer products sales in Korea can be strong. Obviously, there are some significant language and cultural barriers to doing business there, but nevertheless, for companies looking to grow their export sales, Korea deserves consideration.

 

KB Toys

KB Toys was a leading U.S. specialist toy store chain, which at one point in the 1990s had more than 1,300 stores. The company originally started as a wholesale ‘candy’ store back in 1922, and the chain lasted for just under 90 years, being in business for longer than Toys R Us in the USA. As such KB Toys was a pivotal player in the growth of the toy business, and many still mourn the loss of the 2nd best known toy specialist retail chain.

 

Ken

Behind every great woman is a great man! Ken became part of Barbie’s world since 2 years after her own launch in the market. Although the pair separated for a spell in the noughties, Ken has been known and loved by generations of children. He also appeared in the third instalment of the Toy Story franchise playing a baddy. Not a lot of people know that Ken was named after the son of Mattel founders Ruth & Elliott Handler.

 

Do you need help to understand the toy & game business? We help people from all around the world to understand and successfully enter the toy business. For more information on how we do this, check out our services here: www.KidsBrandInsight.com/services

 

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: https://playingatbusiness.libsyn.com/

 

G Is For G.I. Joe, Giochi Preziosi & Gender

G Is For G.I. Joe, Giochi Preziosi & Gender

G.I Joe is the iconic toy which created the action figure category. And G.I. Joe has been a major presence in the toy business ever since it launched in 1964. Originally, toy executives were not convinced that boys (in the 1960s) would want to play with ‘Dolls’, and this perception led to the invention of the phrase ‘action figure’. An African American figure was introduced the following year, and over the years there have been many different iterations of the G.I. Joe brand. Movies based on the franchise released in 2009 and 2013 performed ok at the box office. Snake Eyes, a G.I. Joe spin-off is due to launch within 3 weeks of the publishing of this article. Generations of children (primarily boys, see GENDER section below!) have grown up playing with G.I. Joe, and the brand looks set to enjoy success in the future.

Giochi Preziosi – founded in 1978 in Italy by Enrico Preziosi, Giochi Preziosi is a powerhouse of the toy industry, especially in Southern Europe. The company owns brands including Gormiti (monster like figures) and Cicciobello dolls. Following on from the acquisition of UK toy company Flair Leisure back in 2008, recent acquisitions of Spanish toy company Famosa and Trudi (a Plush toy company) have increased the presence and power of the company. All those doing toy business in Europe will know that Giochi Preziosi is a company with substantial and growing presence.

Gender as a topic in relation to toys is a very contentious area these days. To try to explain this as succinctly as possible: rightly or wrongly over time toys have been used by parents to help children explain traditional gender roles. Historically speaking, these were perceived to be as follows: boys/men – aggressive, physical play to reflect aggressive, physical persona. Girls/women – a softer, more nurturing outlook. We aren’t going to get into why and how those traditional perspectives of gender roles are right or wrong, but what we can be sure of is that media and social perceptions of prescribed gender roles have changed massively over the last few decades. Toy stores once labelled aisles in store as ‘Boys’ or ‘Girls’, and some toy companies still report their business on these gender specific grounds. Today though the best approach for toy companies is to create toys which they feel the market wants, but without telling people that a particular toy is for one gender or another. That isn’t always easy, but therein lies the challenge for modern day toy people – we are trying to meet the needs of traditionalists and those who are more progressive and finding that balance is really hard. In more than a decade of writing articles on the toy business, this topic of gender and toys is the only one which has consistently delivered angry backlash, so for that reason we’re going to leave this one here for now!

 

Do you need help to understand the toy & game business? We help people from all around the world to understand and successfully enter the toy business. For more information on how we do this, check out our services here: www.KidsBrandInsight.com/services

 

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: https://playingatbusiness.libsyn.com/