Last week was Toy Fair 2013 in New York City. A random insight that I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I happen to love going to trade shows like this and seeing all the new things that are coming out. I think it’s all part of my thirst for different inspirations that help my brain connect new things in ways I wouldn’t of otherwise come up with, as well as my desire to get better at learning to see things in new ways. If you ever wanted to be inspired for a day, figure out a way to make it to Toy Fair. It’s not exactly CES or SXSW, but you can be wowed.
Looking at the way a company presents themselves (or hides themselves) at the show or seeing the ways that the latest toys are put together and manufactured or materials they’re made with and what the overall toy trends are can help cross-pollinate things in your mind that wouldn’t of otherwise exist. Seeing how companies partner together, how other companies integrate different things into their products (iPads into old traditional plastic toys) can spark a creative idea for your next endeavor.
That all being said, here’s some things that stood out.
- An even bigger wave of the future of toys will be the marriage of traditional type toys with high end technology form factors like an iPad. Forget just doing apps, what could you physically build around an iPad that someone can use besides cases and covers.
- Simple can still be king. One of my ‘dammit, why didn’t I think of that moments’ came when seeing a new product which is basically an (updated link 4/15/13) angel type wing that laces through any shoe to make your shoes have wings. Simple, catchy, will stop kids in the hallway and make them say, where did you get that. What simple things could you add to what you already wear/do/eat everyday to build a new category of products?
- I was saddened at the very small percentage of active outdoor related toys. Technology is great, but let’s make sure we’re thinking about physical exercise as well. The only big hits I saw in that category were slacklines and zip lines for your home. I really wish I had a zip line growing up. I wonder when that will be a standard field in realtor.com you can search on. That being said, if it’s a less crowded market, does it leave room for a smaller upstart. Nike, Up and others are focusing on making the adult market more active with technology, is the next step to do that with kids as well?
- Privacy still reigns. It’s interesting to see companies that go out of their way to hide what they can show at fairs like this. Crayola (and many others) had 10 ft walls barricading their showcase where they only let in select buyers. Mattel took over a whole separate floor so they could control the guest list even more carefully. I’m not one to knock keeping confidential info. confidential – but does this all make sense? If someone wanted to knock off a product someone came out with they could do it within days of its first public release anyway (yes, I know that would be too late for a big box store/etc. retailer to then accept it, etc..) Secondly, as a company are you really relying on feedback from the folks you let into your secret cave at the show to determine which products you move forward with into full scale production/etc.? If that’s the case save the money and video conference with each of them individually. You’ll have much more time to get even better feedback. Better yet, instead of relying on those conversations use test markets and real data, not opinion, to make your decisions and recommendations.
- I don’t know which is more important – the product itself or the licensed brand/character that it utilizes. There were lots of Disney characters licensed for products this year and while some of the products themselves seemed questionable I’m betting they’ll do great just because of the character. Are you falling into that trap with your brands and your products? Are your products as great as they can be that they would stand on their own if they didn’t have your well established brand name behind them?
- If you do want to see more of the stuff on the floor – check out this post here and Toy Fair’s YouTube channel.
The most important lesson I still think though is that it’s important to step away from the day to day, get ‘out of the office’, and experience new things. While I did originally go for a digital kids marketing related reason, the extracurricular learnings were probably even more valuable.
What other types of shows do you like to go to outside of the normal ones in your field?