If you want a best-selling toy, it’s no longer enough to make a talking doll or a battery-powered toy car, slap it in an eye-catching box and call it a day.
Kids want their toys to be as innovative as possible and oftentimes that reaches beyond the toy itself, said Kevin Young, a principal at Continuum. His company works as a design and innovation consultancy for companies including American Express, Coca-Cola, Dunkin’ Donuts, as well as some of the top toy companies like Fisher Price and Legos.
So what makes a toy a best seller? You have to appeal to the kids and what they want on a subconscious level. So if it’s a toy that fulfills their desire to be more like their care-giving parent, the child will look for a doll or toy that they can care for. Wii, for example, allows kids to see themselves on television and imagine themselves as a star athlete. Legos let kids create something that has never been made before in a 3-dimensional way.
“As adults we sometimes underestimate the consumer knowledge that kids have,” Young said. “They’re incredibly savvy consumers. If a new toy comes out their ability to research it, read reviews— These are things that 8 and 10 year olds are doing.”
The best-selling toys, he said, are the ones that kids have never seen before but still appeal to those basic desires that are a part of growing up.
“Legos filled all the criteria,” Young said. “All those before them were stacking toys and if you go over and if you went over and hit them they would fall over.”
But to stay current, Lego and other popular toy brands have had to do a lot over the years, what Young and his team call touch points.
The touch points are additions that go along with the brand of a toy meant to draw kids in as much as possible. Monster High, for example, isn’t just dolls. Mattel also released a series of webisodes that children can watch on the computer or a mobile device. They also came out with a 4-issue magazine, an interactive iPad app with figurines that are used to play the game, and other games played through the website.
Interactive dolls have been around for awhile now. Tickle Me Elmo was one of the first, laughing when it is tickled. This year, we featured Disney Doc McStuffins Time for Your Check Up Doll as one of the hot toys of the holiday season.
The doll also comes with a stuffed lamb and medical tools. She sings a “Time for Your Check Up” song and as the child performs the check up, the lamb responds to the thermometer, stethoscope, and otoscope.
But she also has her own TV show, which is why Dr. McStuffins is so popular.
“If they can do something new in the toy industry or really are able to create a meaningful connection with the kids,” they set themselves apart and are able to sell well year after year, Young said.
Young said there is a shift coming up in the toy market, however, and companies like Leap Frog that are known for making child-friendly technology, like this year’s LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer Crayola Creativity Bundle, will likely need to make adjustments in their products to keep up with the times.
Rather than paying $100 for a children’s tablet, kids are becoming savvy enough to use their parents technology. Popular children’s apps like Sparklefish or for older children, Angry Birds, are making it so that any tablet can become more kid-friendly.
Fisher price even came out with a product that puts an old iPhone into a plastic, colorful “apptivity” case that protects it from drool, teething, and other abuse that is a given for children 6 months and older. There are also free recommended education apps for the children that are very popular, Young said.
“It’s just a direct hit—apps for kids,” Young said. “I think it’s only going to get more challenging” for toy-making companies.
The author is solely responsible for the content.