Susan Williams is the Director of CareerNsight for North Carolina based "The Resource," a company that uses cutting edge technology to place employees with jobs and in companies that are a solid fit. Her insights are highly relevant to a rapidly changing and challenging labor market.
The shrinking labor market is impacting every industry. As the baby boomers are aging out of the workforce all organizations are struggling to find people who are able to take their company to the next level.
The toy industry is not immune. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could manufacture people who were skilled to perform the tasks we need and simply stock the shelves with them like we do with Barbie, Anna and Darth Vader? Unfortunately we can’t manufacture people to do the work our market demands.
As all industries are facing the shrinking labor market and more people are disengaged in their work, it is all the more important to determine how to align an individual with a career, as well as how to do more with less.
In an effort to effectively respond to the challenges our own company has faced and that of our clients we sought out a way to hire differently.
After much research we found Lynn Taylor, creator of the Core Values Index, and the Top Performer Profile. The Taylor Protocols System, enables companies to identify how to find the right person for the right job. The underlying premise is this, when you know how someone is “hard wired” you can understand their natural tendencies and energies that drive them daily and align them with work that will result in their highest and best contribution. When people’s energies are aligned with their work, they far out produce those who are not, allowing companies to hire fewer people who can do more work.
The Resource has used the Top Performer Profile internally, and have dramatically changed the makeup of our own company and have successfully implemented the system for our customers.
Our customers have been able to narrow their pool of candidates, to those that not only fit the background and experience they require, they now have the ability to have the predictive knowledge that their candidates are likely to succeed and out produce candidates whose energies don’t match the job .
Click here to take your own CVI.
I recently chanced upon images of Russian board games from the 1920's and 30's. It interested me because I wanted to see what games Russians were playing during the Communist era while Americans were playing capitalist games like Monopoly, Easy Money and Stock Ticker. A number of the games appear to be about war and that may well be due to the Russians having gone through World War 1, the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War in a period of 10 to 15 years.
I have to tell you that the information on the games I found was in Russian so I am not exactly sure how these games were played but the boxes and boards are fascinating. If any of our Russian readers can fill us in we would love to know more about these games.
Bryan, like any executive, brought strengths and weaknesses to the job. But did the marriage between Bryan and Mattel struggle against events beyond their control? Bryan had the honor (and it is an honor) of leading Mattel through a troubling time for business in general and for the toy industry in particular. Bryan’s four years intersected with macro cultural and demographic shifts that have challenged the company and its flagship brands” Barbie and Fisher-Price.
1. Barbie; blonde to her roots
Barbie, blonde and blue eyed in her DNA, has been confronted by a socially conscious United States and world that comes in many colors. We live in a world in which people’s idea of beauty has been expanded to include a variety of types. Today, children and their parents want to see themselves reflected back in how they view the world and the world sees them. Dolls are a prime example; so it’s a tough time to be a blonde.
Not only that, the world is now populated by community of Mom’s who loved Barbie as girls but, like any love gone bad, now question whether the relationship was good for them. Somehow, in the interim between childhood and parenthood, Barbie lost her connection and possibly her lifeline.
2. Fisher-Price; fewer babies means fewer sales
Fisher-Price depends upon a constant influx of toddlers. The United States has now completed its seventh straight year of a decline in its birthrate. Young adults graduating college with no jobs and big debts are young adults moving home. Family formation has, as a result, been in decline for several years and those who markets to young children have felt its impact. Other than going into people’s bedrooms and insisting they make babies; Bryan and Mattel could no more hold back the decline in births than King Canute could hold back the tide.
3. Small is better
If you look at the NPD list of top selling traditional toys (see below) you will notice that Lego is absent as is Hasbro. Interestingly, Mattel is the only “major” manufacturer listed and three of their products made the cut. The rest of the list is dominated by smaller, quicker moving companies. What do we make of this? Perhaps that this is a tough time to be big; change appears to occur much faster than in the past. Think of it as the globalization of the “New York minute.” A company as old and big as Mattel is a company steeped in its own culture; a culture dating back to just after World War II. Bryan and Mattel needed to speed up the decision making process so they could produce products in step with what was “happening right now” before it became “what just happened.” That was a big challenge and maybe not one possible to pull off quickly.
4. More competition and less time to play
Free play time for children is down 50% since the 1970’s and children spend a lot more time in transit. That means that mobile devices that are compact and easily accessed are a great tool for being a kid in the 21st
I was going through some articles on the latest news in the world of play and the word innovation seems to be championing the rational behind some mega deals & major success stories.
The recent deals highlighting 1) New toy ranges from Tomy supporting Pixar films “Inside Out” & “The Good Dinosaur” and 2) FremantleMedia announcing Jazwares has signed the Master Toy rights for Tree Fu Tom are great examples of the importance of innovation. In both articles, deal closers from Walt Disney & FremantleMedia emphasize their partner’s innovation as one of their main strength points. Furthermore, Lego, which has always remained one step ahead of the innovation curve, has won Toy Fair’s 2015 Editors’ Choice Award for their Minecraft set, crowned as the Construction Range of the Year in 2014 London Toy Industry Awards and has took top honor with 3 Best New Toy Awards in London Toy Fair 2015. How awesome can innovation be?
So what is innovation and what are the key elements for a successful innovation?
Innovation is defined as a new idea, device or a method. The process of coming up with something new which is more effective and offers a better value to customers. The concept of innovation is not just limited to a product design/ function, its application expands to include business processes, methods, models, channels and even communication campaigns. And while some successful innovations can place a company on the top list of its industry, others can cause massive failures or just yield short term success as we will read later in the article. So here are some key elements applied by successful companies who leverage the concept of innovation to stay competitive in the marketplace:
Brett Klisch, the inspiration behind and the host of the Creative Factor at Toy Fair is excited about putting on his 11th event. An inventor and designer himself, I decided to ask Brett some questions about this year’s Creative Factor.
Richard: I guess the most basic question is: What is the Creative Factor?
Brett: The Creative Factor is a drop-in learning center geared towards the creative folks in the toy industry: Designers, inventors and entrepreneurs. We host networking events, classes, panel sessions, art/tech demos, and offsite tours of creative companies. Topics will range from 3D printing, patent law, licensing your invention, sourcing in Asia, product design and development; with new events getting added every week…
Richard: Who Should Attend and Why?
Brett: Anyone who is in the design and creative part of the toy business or new entrepreneurs just “getting their feet wet” can gain new information from one of our many sessions. All of our events are free to badge holding attendees. Whether you are new to the industry or just want to stay up to date on new developments in product design, development, sourcing as well as patent and trademarks –we have the information you need!
Richard: What’s new and exciting about This Year’s Creative Factor?
This year we are gearing everything to what information is poignant for 2015. We have seen a rise in crowdfunding, hence the Kickstarter panel. The White house has changed the Patent laws drastically, so it is extremely important for new inventors to get all the updated info we can provide.
We are having our first class trip this year! Attendees can meet to go on a tour of the Quirky.com headquarters only a few blocks away. Those who attend will have a chance to see how this groundbreaking company is developing new inventors’ product at a pace that has never been seen before. Attendees will meet at the bottom of the escalator leading to hall 1A on Monday morning. Time TBD.
The Creative Factor is hosting its 1st ever screening of the documentary “I am Big Bird, the Caroll Spinney story.” This amazing documentary chronicles the life of Caroll Spinney, who brought Sesame Street’s Big Bird to life and still at the age of 82, puts on the costume and gives life to this enduring and beloved character. The Toy industry Association will be holding a reception before the event at the theater in Times Square. Attendees will be able to meet Caroll at the reception as well as participate in a Q&A after the show. Please email to inquire about tickets.
Trailer for "I Am Big Bird, the Caroll Spinney Story"
On Sunday morning, the Toy Industry Association is hosting a Designer/Inventor Networking Breakfast. This is open to all attendees of the show. If you are a manufacturer and are looking for some new talent, come by and have a bite to eat while chatting it up with industry creatives and designers. If you are a new inventor looking to expand your contacts with other people in the industry, feel free to come by. This will be held at the class space at booth 4878.
Richard: What are some of the Things People will See and Hear?
As Director of Libraries at The Strong, I acquire scholarly books on the study of play for the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. Although tracking down weighty academic tomes is quite fulfilling, I would be dishonest if I said that selecting children’s books for the Grada Hopeman Gelser Library didn’t liven up my job. The books available for check out in each museum exhibit are selected to complement and enhance the theme and subject matter—from Where the Sidewalk Ends in Reading Adventureland to Pete’s a Pizza in Wegmans Super Kids Market. The Strong’s newest exhibit, Play Pals, traces the evolution of dolls, action figures, toy soldiers, and plush animals through three centuries of American history. As I reviewed and purchased books for the collection, I was reminded of the rich tradition of dolls and toys in children’s literature.
The Four Dolls
The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (1883) reads more like Candide with marionettes and talking animals than the Disney version most of us remember. Pinocchio is much less endearing, landing Geppetto in prison, squashing the talking cricket, and biting off the paw of a cat. But everything ends just as well, with Pinocchio earning “real boy” status by taking to heart the lessons learned during his wild adventures.
Have you found yourself saying "there's got to be a better way" as you wrestle through the crowds, try to catch that ever elusive taxi or hunt for something palatable during mealtime at Javits Center during Toy Fair.
You are not alone as thousands who attend the annual trade show also grapple with these same challenges.
With this in mind, I asked Toy Fair veterans far and wide to divulge their deepest, darkest (alright maybe not so deep and dark), but nonetheless, useful secrets for surviving during those trying four days.
Here's what they said!
Leslye Schaefer, svp marketing & consumer products, Scholastic Media
"For my fellow female colleagues, it’s a must to wear comfortable shoes. The lower the heel the better! For everyone, be prepared for snow. Over the years, it has snowed during Toy Fair numerous times. Warm coats and boots are a good idea. Also, getting a cab outside of the Javits Center is tough at the end of the day. Make arrangements for a car service or hop on one of the Toy Fair buses to a hotel/midtown or a location where cabs will be more readily available."
Eric Levin, division head, Techno Source
"Toy Fair is unlike any other trade show out there. It's a grown-up's playground and you need to have fun. It's about bringing products to life for attendees through exciting play experiences. We always order the most padding possible for beneath our carpet to keep attendees' feet happy ."
"Alternate your shoes. Even comfortable shoes can hurt your feet after a full day of walking all over Javits and standing during showroom tours (not to mention hauling it through the streets of NYC!), so I always bring a second pair in my purse or laptop bag to change into midday. I find that alternating keeps my feet from hurting too much in one spot...and having happy feet makes for a much more successful show! I always carry snacks like almonds and high protein granola bars. They help keep your energy up, especially where there's no time to eat between appointments.
David Blanchard, director of sales & marketing, The Haywire Group, Inc.
"Purell liberally and stay hydrated! Take it from one who spent the latter half of Toy Fair last year a lovely shade of green."
There is an interesting New York Times article on kids and television: “Nickelodeon Remixes Its Formula to Fit Young Viewers’ Media Consumption.” It’s an interesting read on the challenges of providing children’s programming in a world in which children have so many media choices and so little free time.
According to the article, the challenge to providers is twofold:
1. Viewer easurements are not reliable.
It seems that in the good old days, Nielsen could easily tell you how you were doing. Now, however, it is much harder to accurately track streaming services, video on demand, apps and of course television.
2. The latest cohort of 2-14 year old kids are different.
The children who consume these various formats are different than their older siblings. They want new and different and as a result Nickelodeon is running with more original shows and utilizing writers who are multi-racial and multi-geographical.
Nickelodeon had to do something. Their viewership was down by 14% for kids 2-14 last year. If you think that was a big number; Disney Channel was down 21%.
3D Printing is purported to be a billion dollar business and the presence of what appeared to be nearly eighty 3D Printing companies at the recently conculded Consumer Electronics Show indicates that dollar figure is expected to grow. So what does that mean for those of us who manufacture our goods using plastic molds in far-away places? It could mean that, in the not too distant future, the means of production will not just reside in factories but close at hand in peoples garages, bedrooms and family rooms.
If you think the notion is far fetched, check out the above video showing the creation of a 3D printed automobie. Stay until the end and you will see it driven.
Here is a ranking of countries by readership:
April 2010 – January 2015
Yet things change so here are the top 10 for the last 12 months with Russia, India and the UAE moving into the ranks of our biggest readers:
Ranking for 2014
Thank you everyone, no matter where you are in the world.
Example of Smart Sharpen on my pen study of Russian artist Nicolai Fechins' classic painting.
I ran 400 miles in 2014 but now it starts all over again in 2015. New goals, new paths to discover and faster speeds will be the inevitable outcome of daily training. So, out goes the old and in comes the new! Not just for the brave road warriors equipped with the latest running tech, but for all of our graphic programs ranging from photo editing to 3D computer effects.
The funny thing is, I started to run just to clear my mind. The process simplified my life by helping me relieve stress and build cardio. The simplicity of grabbing an old pair of sneakers turned into acquiring the latest gear tech in the way of shoes, sport watches and seasonal clothing. I look best in black, but I digress.
The computer was originally touted as the tool to help us simplify our lives by clearing out the clutter for our professional and personal well-being. The truth of the matter, however, has evolved into something much more complicated in that we not only have to invest in computers, but also software packages, following the never-ending process of upgrades and continued learning.
In 2015, the toy industry will face the challenge of getting up to date with technology in several key areas. To add more pressure to those playing catch up, it’s a safe bet Adobe will be upgrading their products with more frequency adding the need to constantly learn new features on a steady basis.
The positive side is that this automated upgrade process will continually provide creative dreamers with amazing new toys to play with, not only raising the level of professional standards but also re-defining the way we do business. The updating of the Smart Sharpen feature of Photoshop CC bears witness to this commitment to grow their products and continually enhance the core architecture of creative tools for the better. That makes us better.
The image posted in this article clearly shows Smart Sharpen just got smarter, with more levels of intuitive user control sliders. For instance, you can take my pen sketch of an oil painting by my favorite Russian artist, Nicolai Fechin, and enlarge the image with no pixel degradation. In fact, the re-size is even sharper than the original scan.
Cover from November 2013
Global Toy News has attracted over 750,000 page views since its inception in April of 2010. That is thanks to a group of insightful writers (Bruce Lund, Mary Couzin, Kim Vandebroucke and Chris Bensch have been with us since the beginning) and highly intelligent readers who together create a place where new and sometimes challenging ideas can be launched and debated. The toy industry, our readership base, is not a particularly large community yet we draw readers from all over the world. In fact, Google Analytics tells us that our readers come from 204 countries.
Global Toy News is not the place to visit if you want to know about the latest toy or fad. We are, however, a place you will want to visit if you like to challenge your way of thinking about play and the business of play. In our archives you can find articles that ponder the relationship between play and art, socio economics; geopolitics, technology, gender and so much more.
Here is a list of some of the most read and enduring postings since the beginning.
This year’s Global Toy News Person of the Year is Darell Hammond, founder and CEO of KaBOOM! The Global Toy News Person of the Year award is given each year to an individual who has helped make the greater play industry a stronger, more enjoyable, more humane and prosperous place to work. Previous winners include Mary Couzin (2011), CEO of the Chicago Game Group; Kathleen McHugh (2012), President of ASTRA and (2013) LT Lam, founder of Fowind, Ltd. and Alice Doll Fashions, Ltd.
Darell Hammond is the passionate founder and CEO of the national non-profit KaBOOM!; the organization is dedicated to ensuring all kids – particularly the 16 million living in poverty – get the balanced and active play they need to thrive. Mr. Hammond has said that no child should have to walk more than a block to have access to a playground and he has done more than anyone in America to make that happen. Since 1996, KaBOOM! has collaborated with partners to build, open or improve nearly 16,000 playgrounds, engaged more than one million volunteers and served 7.4 million children.
KaBOOM! is now also raising awareness about playability – the extent to which a city makes it easy for all kids to get balanced and active play.The Playful City USA program is part of these efforts. As KaBOOM! puts it: “Playful City USA is a national recognition program that honors cities and towns across the country for taking bold steps that make it easy for all kids to get the play they need to thrive.”
I liked the powerful thought shared by Robin Sharma in his book “Be Extraordinary; The Greatness Guide” about Business and Love, he beautifully states: “The main competition is not for share of wallet. No. It’s for share of your customers’ hearts!”
Can’t agree any further with this brilliant thinker, because yes people buy with their emotions. They choose a brand because it makes them feel better, happier, cooler and maybe even more relaxed. This how loyalty is built and businesses successfully keep winning.
Connecting this very essential marketing element “Emotional Engagement” with toys, parents & kids, an idea crossed my mind. I imagined entering a toy store and heading to a featured area allocated especially for “Parents – Child Bonding”. This space suggests to parents different products/ brands to connect with their kids using tools of play for different age groups and can also include on site activities and demonstrations in addition to booklets explaining the importance of playing for kids and how to use it to develop deeper relations and understanding between children and parents. Thus, in addition to all the organized segments in terms of age groups, gender, product types whether it’s action figures, dolls, outdoors, arts and crafts, etc. which usually ease the shopping experience, a new added value space is initiated for a great cause. For this initiative to work effectively, toy retailers can support it with in store events and competitions requesting both kids and parents to play together in order to participate and have the chance to win. Crayola competition can be an option or even a BeyBlade event. The point is, a father might not think that he can connect with his son through the spinning tops (BeyBlades), and here comes the toy retailer’s role in making this idea click in a father’s mind.
I am in Hong Kong for the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair. In my last posting, "Radio Control, Up or Down; the look from Hong Kong," I wrote about what is happening with RC cars and vehicles. In this segment I want to fill you in on the latest with the troubled helicopter segment.
On the helicopter front- there is hope due to two trends. One is the increasing introduction of multi-axis helicopters like quad-copters and even copters with six propellers. First, savvy designers are adding protective bumpers around the propellers to minimize the opportunity for catastrophic damage during inevitable crashes. The additional propellers also make for a much more stable flying experience for more novice pilots yet still offer an enjoyable RC experience. The second trend driving innovation in this sector is the "invasion of the drones". Drone sales this past Christmas GREATLY exceeded expectations- by as much as 10 times forecast according to some sources. Many drone designs use multi-axis copter designs and that can only boost the sector as a whole.
To get a better understanding of some of the innovations in this area I met with Hubsan, a leading manufacturer of "copter drones" in Hong Kong. I spoke with Ivy Chen while watching a demonstration of one of their new copter designs as it flew high above their Hong Kong booth and relayed video back to a handheld controller. Ms. Chen shared that the quad-copter we were watching weighed only 15 grams and it easily fit in my hand, but still felt and looked substantial, when it returned to earth. It had LED lights under each propeller which added a great effect to the flying experience. Available with or without a camera, flying control appeared effortless and stable even as it flew ever higher- which should lead to fewer catastrophic "accidents". It comes with a rechargeable 3.7 volt battery and an optional SIM card to record video that can later be removed and have its data downloaded to a computer. A controller with a screen to view video from the camera in flight is also available. The base unit, with camera and standard controller, is available in the US for around $50. That is some serious bang for your buck and represents a substantial price decrease from some of the early multi-axis drone products on the market. And that is good news for this struggling sector of the market and for the pilot in all of us.
Steve Velte from the 2015 Hong Kong Toy & Games Fair
I am in Hong Kong attending the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair. It is interesting to be in the middle of where 86% of the toys are actually made. One of the categories that have always interested me is the radio control sector.
The RC sector is a mix of very hot and pretty cold. Land based RC products like cars and trucks are performing very well. What surprised me, however, is that if you are in the helicopter business, life has been tough the past few years and things weren't any better in 2014. With helicopters there are many reasons for poor performance but chief among them is that new helicopter pilots need practice and practice involves crashes. Crashes of RC helicopters utilizing traditional designs...break. In fact, the return rate on RC helicopters has created a non-sustainable business model with little potential for growth in the segment.
So how does the RC segment of the industry maintain momentum with land based vehicles and spark moribund helicopter sales? The 2015 Hong Kong Toy & Games Fair offers some insights. First I spoke with Arthur Chan of T-Link that has a new RC car that performs great on land and equally as well in the water. The "Aqua Racer" waterproof car boasts funky styling and oversized ribbed wheels that allow the car to maneuver over obstacles on land and get good traction in water. The "Aqua Racer" moves effortlessly from one medium to the other and the effect is a fun and enjoyable RC experience. To test the validity of the 'waterproof claim", samples were fully submerged for up to ten hours and then performance tested. Innovative designs like this should help this portion of the RC sector remain strong in the coming year.
What about helicopters? I will write about that in my next posting.
Steve Velte from the 2015 Hong Kong Toy & Games Fair
I’ve struggled to catch Saturday Night Live’s 40th season because I’m either out and about or asleep on the couch (usually the latter). But there’s a variety show that’s made for me—particularly due to its time slot and content—and it’s also celebrating an anniversary this year. The Mickey Mouse Club is turning 60.
Walt Disney intended his first foray into television, the Disneyland anthology series, to help fund and market his new theme park. Disneyland’s Davy Crockett miniseries (ABC, 1954–1955) enjoyed such popularity that millions of official coonskin caps sold in the first few months. On the heels of this success Disney developed The Mickey Mouse Club (ABC, 1955–1959), and those Mouse ears gave the coonskin caps a run for their money. Young audiences regarded the talented, magnetic, wholesome child stars as something between old friends and heroes. And as the Mouseketeers’ chipper performances alternated with newsreels, serials, and cartoons, the hour melted away.
The New Mickey Mouse Club (CBS, 1977) reincarnated the program for children of the original show’s viewers. The All-New Mickey Mouse Club (Disney Channel, 1989–1995) modernized the concept, incorporating SNL-style sketch comedy and performances of popular (read: less cheesy) songs. I memorized and dutifully recited the roll call from the opening credits. And when Mouseketeers Albert Fields, Tiffini Hale, Chase Hampton, Deedee Magno, and Damon Pampolina formed a band, I played The Party’s tape with my boombox speakers facing an open window so the whole neighborhood would learn about good music. (MMC also helped launch the careers of Annette Funicello, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Keri Russell, and Ryan Gosling.)
A child who is tracked by his or her parents is going to become an adult who is comfortable being tracked by the government or anyone else. That was my thought as I walked the floors of the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show. In my last posting, “CES 2015; awe, wow, yay, who and uh-oh,” I wrote about the magic and power I found at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In this one I want to talk about what happens when a fearful society intersects with technology; in particular, the potential impact of making children comfortable with being tracked.
There were on display a countless number of devices (drones, bracelets, temporary tattoos and countless other devices) that allow one to spy on and / or track a child, a cheating spouse or anyone else one chooses. We are entering the age of surveillance and it is going to be hard for people to have a sense of anonymity in the public space. The distance between the private space and the public space is collapsing and it is going to result in a different society than the one we know.
21st century parents are fearful and desire ways to make sure their children are safe when they are not present. As a result, devices that allow a parent to track their child make the adult feel more secure. But what about the children who are being tracked. Children who grow up being watched and followed will be adults who are comfortable about their government or anyone else doing the same. It’s not a surveillance state; it’s a surveillance society.
That is why I believe that our children and grandchildren will grow up in a vastly different world than the one we know. Tomorrow’s adults will have no sentimental longing for a time when one’s life was private because that notion will be absent. Just as we are aware that there was a pre-technological time when it was possible for a person to simply disappear; we have no longing for that time because we never experienced it. That may what life will be like for the next generation of adults.
I have just returned from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and came away with a sense of “awe”, “wow”, “h-m-m-m”, “woh” and “uh-oh”. This time of year usually finds me in Hong Kong but don’t think that Global Toy Experts and Global Toy News have gone missing there. Our own Steve Velte is in Hong Kong as I write this and he will be sharing his insights on that extremely important show.
Why did I want to attend CES? Toys and games, with the addition of technology and mobile platforms, are inevitably migrating towards the world of technology and consumer electronics. We at Global Toy Experts and Global Toy News are dedicating to fully understanding that world.
Here are my reflections on the CES Show:
“Awed” and “Over-awed”
I have been to a lot of trade shows and I have never seen anything like the number of people in attendance (170,000) nor the number of exhibitors (3600). What put me in awe, however, was the sheer number of companies with massive booths. It is my understanding that Sony spent $27,000,000 on their exhibit. It was so large that I had to ask someone directions on how to get back out.
The sheer number of these massive booths and there being clustered so close to each other provided a lack of visual perspective so it could at times make a human being feel not just awed but over-awed; an inspiring yet ambiguous feeling.
There were some pretty fantastic products on display. The toy and play industry was represented by, among others, WowWee, Mod Robotics, Ozobot, Spin Master, ANKI, Technosource (Kurio), Sphero, Uncle Milton and Lexibook. They showed some pretty inspiring products; from robots to educational toys to tablets to Jedi trainers.
Convergence was well on display with a new shoe, “Game Kicks” from Skechers. As they phraseit: “It’s the show you play and the game you wear.” And it is.
But there were other products on display that had the same sort of magic that great toys present; except they weren’t toys. There was a robotic printer from Zuta Labs that was the size of a softball. How does it print out when it is smaller than a piece of paper? Amazingly, and I literally said wow out loud when I saw it work; this small printer drives around on the paper and prints out as it goes.
As much as there was tons of originality; there was also a surprising amount of “me too.” There must have been close to eighty 3D printing companies exhibiting and each one had a variety of units. I believe in the future of 3D printing but it did cause me to wonder if there was enough business to support that many choices. The same could be said of drones, pet as well as human tracking devices and health trackers that came in an amazing variety of prices, sizes, colors and features.
CES is all about the near future. Each booth seems to be promoting a different vision of that future; whether it is using a scanner to analyze your skin condition or a device that prints out food. As you walk the show you attempt to make sense of the whole but each new piece of information either negates or twists what you have just seen. The result is a bit like being dropped into a time machine that can’t make a decision on which future to visit. The sense of ambiguity the experience creates challenges your brain and ultimately exhausts it. I have never seen so many people in a press room with their heads down; taking naps.
I will discuss my “Uh-oh” in my next posting.
Creating toys is still a handwork tradition, as it has been for hundreds of years. Our prototypes are fashioned painstakingly by hand, no longer of wood, but now of plastic with gear boxes, motors, springs, battery boxes and circuit boards, until they come to life.
Full of hope, we show our new toy creations to people who work for our partner toy companies here in the US, in the UK, Europe, Japan, and all over the world. Then we lovingly box and ship them out to their destinations for review, often under tight deadlines. The samples sometimes arrive just in time to make a last-minute presentation meeting.
Having been born, raised, studied and worked in United Arab Emirates I have been blessed to enjoy both sides of the coin seeing and indulging in a modern world at its finest and enjoying the beauty of the UAE’s heritage and traditions. It is always smart to adapt continuous improvement culture (Kaizen) as the Japanese call it and live by it, while retaining your authentic values. This brings me to a very essential question that always cross my mind whenever I visit toy retailers and observe specific categories: “Do worldwide toy companies know and understand our values to serve kids and parents in our region (Middle East & North Africa) in the best means? Thus, those brands become the ultimate choice for families in a certain category?”
The answer is Yes and No. The yes part is reflected in the positive steps that have been taken by few companies & retailers who have apparently realized the importance of this topic and started to take actions towards a better understanding of their customers’ values and needs in the MENA region. On the other hand, the No part is translated in the considerable gap (an opportunity), which is still waiting to be filled.
One of my distinct memories of the Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report, was its use of Augmented Reality as an advertising device of the future. The movie came out in 2002 but it showed Cruise walking through a shopping area and seeing super-imposed, computer generated images At the time I saw it as science fiction. As it turned out, Augmented Reality is very much with us as a marketing tool, has showed up in puzzles but is still relatively new to toys.
I wanted to learn more about Augmented Reality so I spoke with Kevin Mak, creator of AR Attack, a toy that allows users to shoot at aliens that appear to be showing up in their bedroom, car or playground.
AR Attack will be exhibited at the Consumer Electronics Show this week in North Hall LVCC #6531 Here is my interview:
Augmented reality has been around for a while now yet no one has until now come up with a product that has been commercially successful. Why do you feel that your AR Attack will be the product that breaks through?
Augmented Reality has been commonly used for marketing purposes, such as real time product demonstrations. AR attack is therefore among the first few toy products available with augmented reality. With the 1st person shooting experience in real time, real environment, AR Attack offers the first toy product that provides an interaction between a game app and a physical toy.
What ages are you targeting for AR Attack?
A numnber of buyers and toy comapanies, mostly from the U.S. go to Hong Kong to meet and make buying decisions but never leave the Tsim Tsha Tsui area of Kowloon. If you are one of those people, you may want to make some time, however, to make it over to Hong Kong Island for the Toys & Games Fair that takes place January 12-15. It takes place at the huge Hong Kong Convention Centre and it is quite an experience if you have never been.
In order to get a better sense of what types of products are on display, here is a list:
Among the companies represented by exihibitors:
In case you missed them, here is a list of the most popular postings on Global Toy News in 2014. First let me give congratulations to Kim Vandenbroucke for having the number 1 most read article, Bruce Lund who had number 7 and Hala Al Duwik who had number 9.
Here they are ranked in order of reader volume:
1. The Sad Side Effects of Gender Based Marketing - Kim Vandenbroucke
2. Mattel Buying Mega Brands; what it means for the play industry - Richard Gottlieb
3. Doc McStuffins; toys, race and The New York Times - Richard Gottlieb
4. Doozers, Fraggles and the vital connection between creation and destruction - Richard Gottlieb
5. Is Wal-Mart Getting in the 3D Printer Business - Richard Gottlieb
6. 5 Reasons Why I Think Hasbro Wanted to Buy Dreamworks - Richard Gottlieb
7. My Two Cents; "Toys are not auto parts Toys R Us" - Bruce Lund
8. Is Wal-Mart Having Troubles? A clue in the dairy department - Richard Gottlieb
9. Lego Strategies for Becoming the Number 1 Toy Company in the World - Hala Al Duwik
10. Is the Fall Toy Preview in Trouble? - Richard Gottlieb
The spa industry has begun to target children in a big way, going way beyond mother-daughter manicures. Adult spas are adding separate menus of services for girls, usually ages 4 to 14. In most major cities, there are now dedicated day spas for children, offering a range of massages, facials and other treatments for girls (and sometimes boys) too young to have had their first pimple.
“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
Attributed to Sigmund Freud
It is doubtful that Freud actually said: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Whether he did or did not; it is still a useful piece of advice to remember when attributing a sexual meaning to a child’s toy.
That thought came to mind over the last few days as Hasbro came under fire for a applicator in its Play-Doh Cake Mountain toy that some described as looking phallic. Here are just two of the many headlines: (AP) “Phallic Play-Doh Accessory Called Disturbing; and (NBC) “Play-Doh Vows to Replace Phallic-Shaped Play Set After Outrage.”
How did this design get out the door. Well, you can be sure that no one at Hasbro saw this toy, as any more than what it was, an applicator for applying decoration. They were making a child’s toy, not a sex toy. They were looking at the toy through the eyes of innocence.
Some adults, however, have given the product a meaning that was never intended and that a child, without adult prodding, would not apply. After all, to the most part, children are innocent and adults are not. That’s just the way the world functions but it’s a shame that an over-reaction by the few adults creates headlines and embarrassment for a principled company.
Should Hasbro have spotted this? Are parents right to be concerned? Is it all about nothing? What do you think?