Millennial moms account for almost 90 percent of the 1.5 million new mothers within last year..."
Tanya Dua, Digiday
Remember those headlines that said "The Millennials Are Coming?" Well, they're here. "Millennial moms account for almost 90 percent of the 1.5 million new mothers within last year..." That according to a very interesting article by Tanya Dua of Digiday.
The article, "The Mother of All Generations: 5 things brands should know about millennial moms," tells us that Millennial Moms "...prefer brands that align with their values." For example, one of the reasons McDonald's has been struggling is because these parents like the values expressed by fast food companies who promote natural foods.
In reading the piece, my take away is that the values expressed have to be organic to the brand and not an add-on. Giving a percentage of profits to charity is certainly a noble act. Yet, it does seem that this new generation of parents is far more attracted to companies that actually make their values an integral part of the product.
That is why I think that the McDonald's Corporation's choice to cease using chickens with human growth hormone was a step in the right direction as it was a values statement that was integral in a meaningful way to how they do business. Who would have thought that the values expressed by which chickens are used may be as impactful for this generation as the values expressed by the Ronald McDonald House was for an earlier one?
So, who in the toy and play industry has succeeded in expressing their values through their product and how it is marketed?
Do you have a company or know of one that integrates its values into its products? If you do, share it with us.
Here are some wonderful images I found on the BibliOdyssey website of late 19th and early 20th century Japanese toy designs. Very different, very interesting and quite beautiful.
Some form of hobby horse?
Magic lantern or some form of kite?
Not sure what these are but love the bird face on the left.
Stephen Davis, Executive, VP/Chief Content Officer, Hasbro is the president of Hasbro Studios, the Los Angeles-based TV development and production division of Hasbro, Inc. He oversees the development, production and distribution of more than 400 half-hours of original kids and family programming, ranging from animation to live action to game shows. He is active in a number of organizations including theBoard of Directors and Executive Committee of The National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE); the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of PCI: Media Impact, a leading NGO addressing social and health issues through media; the Board of the Hollywood Radio & Television Society (HRTS), the Los Angeles Board of Governors of The Paley Center for Media; the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences; the Advisory Council of the School of Communications/Radio, Film and Television at University of Texas at Austin and is a trustee of Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Additionally, he is an active member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), as well as a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS).
(Please note - I have bolded certain of Steve's sentences that I found particularly impactful).
I recently compared Hasbro and its current line up of brands to the 1927 Yankees with Babe Ruth and their “Murderer’s Row” batting line up. With licenses like Star Wars, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World and Disney Princesses as well as powerful in-house brands like Transformers, Magic The Gathering and My Little Pony, you are definitely the team to beat. Two questions: How did you do that and will you be competing next year in the American League?
We’ve built a strong, strategic relationship with Disney and Lucas Film and look forward to introducing even more innovative products and play experiences inspired by some of the hottest entertainment brands, from the classic properties all the way through to more recent favorites like Frozen. We’ve also created an entertainment strategy to build our in-house brands globally, and continue to retain and seek out new licensees that are best-in-class talent in their respective industries, allowing us to think differently about how our brands come to life and to try new ideas or break into new categories while staying at the forefront of trends.
If they would accept Hasbro into the American League, I suspect our “Murderer’s Row” of Hasbro talent would give them a run for their money!
I have also noticed that Hasbro is not just in a lot of play platforms (video games, apps, children’s media, traditional toys and more) but appears confident in those platforms. That calls for a special business culture. Can you describe it for us?
Hasbro has rapidly evolved way beyond a great toy & game company and into a rich portfolio of diverse business units working to expand our franchises into bona fide global lifestyle properties. We rely on great stories and great characters to reach kids and families anywhere they are consuming content, including video games and apps. Not only are we confident in each of the platforms you mentioned, but immersive brand storytelling across film and TV is a crucial part of the foundation for Hasbro. It’s where we use great stories to bring the world’s best play experiences to life.
The think-tank, the “Urban Institute,” recently released a study on birthrates among Millennial Generation women. It stated:
Between 2007 and 2012, birth rates among twenty-something women declined more than 15 percent. It remains to be seen whether the millennial women who eschewed childbearing from 2007–12 will compensate by exhibiting higher birth rates later or if this generation will have fewer children than its older counterparts.
What impact has this decline in birthrates had on the toy and play industry and has Hasbro made any changes in its business based upon the decline? For example, does the adult who wants to play become more important?
2014 was actually the best year in our history, and growth came from virtually every brand, category and region – and 2015 is shaping up to be just as impressive. We have a number of entertainment-driven brands, Transformers and My Little Pony especially, with nostalgic appeal and modern storytelling that transcends age, which has awarded us a very broad spectrum of fans. We’ve long engaged our adult fan bases in meaningful ways across several channels, from highly detailed collector scale toys all to high-end couture and more. And series based on our entertainment brands are consistently the most co-viewed shows on television today.
Available time to play is the coin of the realm for any industry that sells toys, entertainment and play. In fact, I have seen figures that indicate that free playtime is down 50% since the 1970’s. It seems like everyone, and particularly children, have less free time than ever. Should we and can we, as an industry, play a role in advocating for more free playtime for children?
It’s about advocating playtime, and adapting to the way our consumers play so we can better reach them. We continue to research and develop new technologies to enhance our consumer play experiences and provide new and innovative ways for kids of all ages to engage with our brands. Our consumers are technologically and digitally savvy and we strive to provide them with products that fit their lifestyle, which includes, engaging content, enhanced play, and immersive digital experiences. Knowing when and how to best incorporate new technology into a product, or what platforms to introduce new content based on what our consumers crave, is key to maintaining the success of our brands.
Do you have any toys on your desk? If so, can you tell us what they are?
Ok – that must be a rhetorical question! Better answered: What toys don’t I have on my desk?? Optimus, Bumblebee, Pinkie Pie, a bunch of Littlest Pets, GI Joe and Nerf Megastrike are among my “BDB’s” – Best desk buddies.
Just finished watching the newly released movie “Danny Collins” here in Dubai. Inspired by a true story, the movie talks about an aging rock star who decided to change his life when he knows that John Lennon wrote him a letter 40 years back.
The movie is very funny and emotional. One of the interesting parts of the movie, when Al Pacino (Danny) tries to fix things with his grown up son and his family whom he had never seen before, and to demonstrate care and love Danny buys loads of toys for his granddaughter from Toys ‘R’ Us. The scene doesn’t show the shopping experience itself, just spots the light on the numerous Toys ‘R’ Us bags in Danny’s van!
When you watch the movie, you will realize a strong focus on some brands like Mercedes, Hilton Hotel and other names. I am not sure if Toys ‘R’ Us was a planned tie up, nevertheless, this is a great example of what product placement in media is all about. It is a very effective strategy that offers brands great benefits in terms of massive brand exposure, connecting with audiences on a more personal level, and elevating the brand's strength through leveraging the power of association with strong movies/ shows and popular celebrities.
It will be smart for toy brands to focus more on such tie-ups and apply this advertising technique by partnering with popular TV programs, cartoons and cinema movies in addition to online shows/ series and even social media influencers to promote their products and enjoy the above benefits!
Steve Pasierb is the new CEO and President of the Toy Industry Association. Being the leader of the TIA is no easy task. We are an industry buffeted by change, government regulation, n.g.o.'s and the ever changing desires of our end users. After spending some time with Steve I found him to be more than up to the task. I think you will too. Here is my interview. And by the way, when you see him, come up and shake his hand. You will enjoy getting to know him. (Please note - I have bolded certain of Steve's sentences that I found particularly impactful).
Welcome to the toy industry. Steve, I have to ask you: You have had a successful career and could have happily stayed where you were. What is it about this industry and the TIA that attracted you?
When I spoke recently at the annual PlayCon conference in Arizona, I referred to myself as a blessed person for having been chosen to lead the TIA. I truly believe that. I’m blessed to be sitting here at this point in time, with this great cast of members and with TIA in such good condition. The attraction to this industry comes in a few ways, be it from my background in both marketing communications and public health, it’s my personal love of play and certainly it’s knowing the irrefutable fact that play is a essential component in healthy childhood development.
I’ve spent the past 23 years of my career focused on adolescent health and employing communications to educate families and advance their children’s health. The toy industry of today contains vital components of all that, be it building public understanding about product safely and proper use, or the incredible range of physical, emotional, developmental and social benefits that play brings to a child. Toys and play have to be an integral part of family life. I’m happy to champion that fact.
As a person with a foundation in the business world, I appreciate this is an industry that succeeds best when it brings maximum joy and excitement to people’s lives. We’re an industry where imagination, entertainment, innovation and design prevail. So yes, we have to be smart and savvy businesspeople -- and this industry is chock full of bright, passionate people -- but it’s wonderful that it all comes to life through the lens of a child, a sibling, a mom, a dad, a grandparent, aunt or uncle and all forms of today’s families. How cool is that!?
Culture, society, business and even the way we play are undergoing enormous and very rapid change. What special challenges do you think this represents for a new leader like yourself?
Change is a fact across society and in every business sector. The pace of change in the toy industry is quickening. Change brings insight far more often than insight brings change so let’s embrace that fact, learn and enjoy the ride. It will be different than it was, and different is okay. We'll have to work to continually find a fresh perspective. And, be willing to try new things and think differently.
One challenge at the top of my list is essentially what I call “rebranding” play for a new generation of parents and children. Millennial parents view their roles, their children, play and toys in a very different light than previous generations. We have to meet consumers where they are and then build an authentic, transparent dialogue about the role and value of play. The work that our TIA team is doing right now on the “Genius of Play” campaign and the learning we’re garnering from that experience could have transformative power when we take it national and especially when our members embrace it and bring it to life in their own communications and product promotions.
We have to be better storytellers and bring those stories to life. This in an extraordinary industry and we need a voice that both resonates and reverberates. As an industry we have to be loud, proud and all sing from the same pages in the same hymnal. It’s okay to be competitive and to seek that next percentage point of share, but let’s also grow share by growing the total category and that begins by making the category relevant in today’s society and our products aspirational in people’s lives.
We also have to tell the story of our industry's extraordinary depth of charity and community work. I see the Toy Industry Foundation growing into that force multiplier that on its own does great things like the $19 million in toys we delivered to underprivileged kids last year, but also one that amplifies the stories of our industry. Across companies and organizations of all sizes, I'd bet that total annual contribution is well above $100 million plus countless good works at the community level were people in our industry work, life and raise their own families.
We also have to welcome technology. We're seeing some fantastic adaptations of toys that integrate technology. It's also a fact that parents are buying tablets and devices for their children at younger ages. In this case, it's not a question of either tech or toys but rather one of proper balance. I’d argue that if your bottom line is to have a child be totally tech and focused relentlessly on better test scores while at the same time divorcing play and toys as being frivolous, we’ll end up with a generation 20-somethings who have great SATs but are lousy employees and members of society because they never learned to share their Lincoln Logs, collaborate with others by playing a board game or color outside the lines. Kids do need to compete in an increasingly challenging world. They also need to be kids and to laugh, to play, experiment and imagine. Those are invaluable human qualities that last a lifetime.
The toy industry was recently criticized by an NGO for having unreported, unsafe levels of chemicals in its toys. The TIA had its own testing done by an accredited lab which found that the report was false. In addition, out of 12 products cited, only four were toys. What can the toy industry do to blunt this kind of false, inflammatory reporting? How can we hold the people behind these reports to a standard of fair reporting?
Cinderella, dressed in yella
went upstairs to kiss her fella
made a mistake, kissed a snake
how many stitches did it take?
1, 2, 3,...
Jumping rope was, at least when I was a 6-year-old boy, a thing that girls mastered with an ease that still mystifies me. Particularly what astounded was their ability to do the dreaded "Hot Pepper." There I would be, in a line with other little kids, waiting my turn as the two big girls, one at each end, turned the rope. They would, at first, turn it at an easy pace, allowing a naive boy (me) to think that he had mastered the form…until….”HOT PEPPER!”
Set the table,
Don't forget the salt,
Yes, “Hot Pepper,” that moment when the rope would move immediately from an easy pace “Mable, Mable, Set the table…” to supersonic speed, causing the rope to smack into your head or tangle up your feet, causing embarrassment and bruises. Jump rope rhymes were so deceptive.
I was thinking about chants, rhymes, sidewalk songs or whatever you want to call them when it occurred to me that they might be an endangered species. Think about it, school recess is down to 15 minutes a day and children no longer play alone on the sidewalk. When do they have time to use, much less pass down, sometimes century old rhymes.
So, if older children no longer teach the chants to younger ones will the chants end up being stale rhymes in musty books or in odd parts of the Internet? It would be sad if the death of the chant were to be a side effect of too little time to play and too much parenting. It would be nice if the various toy and play industries took up causes like preserving sidewalk chants from extinction by advocating for more play time for kids in school and at home.
Below are some rhymes and, at the end, some websites where you can find more. If you have a favorite rhyme or were really good at “Hot Pepper” let us know.
Five little monkeys,
Jumping on the bed.
One fell off,
And bumped his head
Mama called the doctor,
And the doctor said:
"No more monkeys
jumping on the bed!"
I had a little puppy.
His name was Tiny Tim.
I put him in the bathtub,
To see if he could swim.
He drank up all the water.
He ate a bar of soap.
The next thing you know,
He had a bubble in his throat.
In came the doctor
(person jumps in).
In came the nurse
( person jumps in).
In came the lady
With the alligator purse
(person jumps in).
Out went the doctor
(person jumps out).
Out went the nurse
(person jumps out).
Out went the lady
With the alligator purse
(person jumps out).
and check out these websites for more rhymes:
There is, however, an opportunity for enterprising toy companies. It seems that Patrick’s major sponsor, GoDaddy.com, has decided to spend its money on international marketing. That despite the fact that Patrick “ranks No. 2 in Repucom’s Nascar driver celebrity ratings behind only Earnhardt, and is the second most popular female athlete in the country after Serena Williams, according to a 2014 Harris Poll.”
Sponsoring Dana Patrick and her number 10 race car would be a pretty cool move for an enterprising toy or gaming company seeking to attract more female consumers.
"Spew" by sculptor Ron Ulicny
Serious Scrabble players spend a great deal of time memorizing the dictionary. Well, this year they have another 6500 words to add to their vocabulary. That is thanks to Collins Publishing and its Official Scrabble Words dictionary. With new words comes new controversy. Here are just a few of the new ones I have picked out. What do you think?
AUGH - The sound of frustration that people and mostly Charlie Brown makes when they just cannot take anymore.
BLECH - The sound you make when you are disgusted with something you just ate or heard.
EMOJI - Those little cartoon faces that people use to express emotions.
GRR - The sound dogs and some people make when they are angry.
LOLZ - Laughing out loud.
THANX - Another way to say thanks.
VAPE - Inhaling from those new vapor cigarettes.
Oh yes, in case you were worried, TWERKING made it in.
"The rate of severe mental illness among children and adolescents has dropped substantially in the past generation, researchers reported Wednesday, in an analysis that defies public perceptions of trends in youngsters’ mental health."
- "Severe Mental Illness Found to Drop in Young, Defying Perceptions"
- Benedict Carey, May 20, 2015, New York Times commenting on TheNew England Journal of Medicine's findings
Andrew Rapacke is a Registered Patent Attorney at Andrew Rapacke Attorney at Law, P.A. an intellectual property firm with a focus on the toy space. Andrew may be reached at email@example.com or (407)-801-9368. Please view Andrew at www.uspatentsnmore.com
Packaging is vital to brand recognition in any industry. When it comes to the toy industry, it’s apparent when a child loves a toy’s packaging. Studies have shown that:
However, with any success come the swarms of pirates that are looking to steal your hard work and fortunes. As the number of intellectual property and litigation filings continue to increase, the importance of protections from “knockoffs” grows. Two immediate forms of intellectual property protection that can ensure you are not the next victim are trademarks and trade dress. Trademarks protect names, logos and slogans whereas trade dress protection may include the shape, color, arrangement, and graphics of the packaging.
The advantages of these protections are expansive. First, these two forms of intellectual property protection can last for decades with the proper renewal procedures. Second, is the ability to secure import protection from United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Since its inception in 2003, the CBP has targeted and intercepted counterfeit and “gray market” goods at ports before they enter U.S. markets. Furthermore, the CBP has created and implemented the robust Intellectual Property Rights Search (IPRS) database that allows individuals as well as federal agent’s to search and monitor intellectual property rights. Once you have secured registration at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, your company may apply for inclusion within this database for 20 years.
When marketing brands, marketers try to maximize reach in cost effective ways to create the required awareness, drive sales, grow the business, build customer loyalty and engage with their consumers. These objectives vary based on the product life cycle. For example: a new toy concept which is introduced recently to the market has the objective of creating awareness, a toy which competes with other strong competitors in the same category has the objective to persuade customers to choose their toy against competitors, while well established brands have the objective to stay top of mind and engage with consumers.
Above the line and below the line channels are utilized to reach the marketing objectives and now with the new social media platforms, marketers have no choice but to consider some of these channels which suit their brands and goals the best in order to reach a large audience in short span of time at relatively lower cost in comparison with other traditional marketing channels.
In addition to advertising in all its forms (outdoor, print, TV, radio, online, retail, etc) and other elements of the promotional mix like direct selling, public relations, events, promotions and social media, nowadays marketers are looking for creative ways to further boost the business and grow their markets. Here is where companies can explore the power of another tool available in their marketing kit, a tool that is usually overlooked: “Partnership Brand Marketing”. Partnership brand marketing is the idea of brining 2 or more companies/ brands together, each with their own brand equity and distribution strength. These partners usually have complementary needs and similar customers’ profiles, and they work together to further enhance the buying process and create more value to customers in addition to their own brands.
Usually partnership marketing is classified into 2 main categories; 1) Short-term (tactical) partnerships or 2) Long-term strategic partnerships. The first category is mainly boiled down to one off basis and simple cross promotions delivering tactical short-term objectives. An example would be a cross promotion between F&B brand and toys, like giving away toys with happy meals or in cereal packs. Definitely these promotions have their short term benefits in increasing sales, boosting brand exposure and reaching new audiences through new channels yet the later one - which we believe is a much stronger option - is planned on a more strategic level to include all elements of marketing mix (product, place, price & promotion), hence playing a greater role in redefining the brand, enhancing its value and expanding its distribution channels. Think about the following benefits of a strategic “partnership brand marketing” and how it can influence the 4Ps of marketing:
I’m a huge fan of novelty items. Currently, my office is adorned with miniature rubber ducks, librarian action figures, small stuffed animals, and other cute-funny-quirky trinkets. These make great conversation pieces and delight others, as well as amuse me.
I’ve found that “novelty” is often used as a catch-all term for miscellaneous items that don’t fit into traditional categories of toys, games, and dolls. For example, practical jokes, magic tricks, souvenirs, and licensed products are considered novelty items. Some manufacturers, such as Accoutrements and Basic Fun, Inc. even specifically cater to the “Gift, Novelty, and Souvenir” industry. Some novelty items are geared toward nostalgic adults. Childhood toys such as the Fisher-Price Corn Popper and Etch A Sketch can be purchased in miniature form as key chains. Tiny versions of playthings aren’t the only popular novelty for grown-ups; the offbeat Big Mouth Billy Bass, an animatronic singing wall-mounted fish activated by motion sensor, became all the rage in the 2000s.
Early toy Wright Brothers Toy Plane
Do toys inspire inventors or do inventors inspire toys? That thought keeps going through my mind as I read the wonderful new Wright Brothers biography by David McCullough. It’s really hard to tell because as you read the book, you come across the word "toy" so many times. Toys as inspiration are, as it turns out, a big part of the Wright Brothers story.
A toy inspires an inventor
According to the Wright Brothers, their passion for flight came from a toy they called the Bat. It was a stick with propellers at each end connected by rubber bands. By winding it up, they could let it go and watch it fly up into the air. A Frenchman, Alphonse Penaud, who is said to have believed that toys are educational, invented it.
McCullough quotes Wilbur Wright's teacher as observing him sitting at his desk and working with pieces of wood. When she asked him was he was doing he told her he was making a machine that he and his brother would be able to fly someday.
An inventor inspires a toy
Shortly after Wilbur Wright made his first observed flight in France (the brothers were very private and very few people were allowed to see their plane in the testing stages) a toy version hit the streets of Paris. McCullough quotes from the Chicago Tribune, which reported that it was:
(Since writing this post I have been in contact with several people at Toys R Us and they tell me that they are aggressively seeking another location in Manhattan. So, it may not be the end of an era but be the beginning of a new one. Stay tuned.)
Some things made by man seem as permanent as mountains and oceans; particularly to children. FAO Schwarz is one of those things. Amazingly, FAO Schwarz, that icon of toys and play that has been around for 145 years, is closing its doors.
Who is to blame? Well, it isn't Geoffrey the Giraffe and his Toys R Us brand owners. They would have liked to keep the store open as much as they would like to maintain a presence for their Times Square store. It wasn't the parents with whom FAO maintained some of its past glory. Nor was it the kids who seemed to sense that there was something special about a store with guards who look like they had just stepped out of the Nutcracker.
So why did FAO Schwarz have to close? Blame it on exploding rents, the Internet and the passage of time. Yes, time that has made the store feel so special in a nostalgic sort of way was no match for the headwinds of modernity that brought a new sense of not just how to shop and where to shop for toys but the very definition of what is a toy.
Think of the parade of children who walked through those doors looking for magic during the Gilded Age, the Spanish American War, World Ware I, the birth of the Soviet Union, the Roaring 20's, the Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Space Race, the Psychedelic 60's, Viet Nam, Watergate, the end of the Soviet Union 9/11 and so much more.
That parade of kids would have dressed differently while walking through the store, boys in knickers and later in jeans; girls in frilly dresses and later in jeans as well. Whatever they were wearing they shared a feeling of anticipation just before they walked through those doors. What wonderful, magical, new thing would they see?
The rapid advancement in robotics is really breathtaking. Check out this video from Boston Robotics. This looks like something out of a Star Wars movie. I believe we will be soon seeing cost reductions in these products and there is no telling what differences they will make in society, culture, the economy, war, peace and yes...the way we play.
What better topic for a break time posting than one about coffee, the ultimate break time consumable. I love it for the warmth, the taste and the way it makes my brain lights up like a fireworks display. The toy and play industry would not exist (actually capitalism would probably not exist) without coffee. And now we find out its good for you. Here is how Aaron E. Carroll puts it in his New York Times article: "More Consensus on Coffee’s Benefits Than You Might Think:"
The researchers found 36 studies involving more than 1,270,000 participants. The combined data showed that those who consumed a moderate amount of coffee, about three to five cups a day, were at the lowest risk for problems. Those who consumed five or more cups a day had no higher risk than those who consumed none.
As we explore in our "The Impact of Demographics and Income on Toys Spending" global briefing, although the world's child population has been declining, this will be a short-lived phenomenon. The trend towards smaller families in many markets ties in with other cultural and income shifts that actually stand the global toys market in good stead. Our briefing analyses two key determinants of demand -demographic and income trends - to understand their impact on toys sales in the future.
Shrinking global child population is a short-lived phenomenon
The global child population has been declining, largely due to falling family sizes. However, this is a transitory trend and the child population is set to start increasing again.
Largest 0-14 year-old populations
In absolute terms, Asia Pacific and Africa and Middle East have the largest 0-14 yearold
populations. Conversely they also have relatively low spend per child.
Attractive toys markets: China vs Russia
China has by far the most households with an annual disposable income of over
US$10,000; however, the number of 0-14 year olds is expected to remain static over
2013-2018. This suggests good fundamentals for toys growth particularly in urban
areas. Between 2013-2018, Russia will record the highest increase in its 0-14 year-old
population, translating into more than 2.5 million more children, while having the fourth
biggest middle class.
Spend per child vs number of children per household
In countries where the average number of children per household is above one,
spending on traditional toys and games per child does not exceed US$70 in a given
Later families and working women
Overall, the older the average age of women at childbirth, the higher the spend on
traditional toys and games per child. As modern mothers continue to work, for various
reasons, the limits on parental time require products that can fill this gap. In almost all
countries where the average age of women at birth is high, spend per child on
traditional toys and games exceeded US$320 in 2013.
Single parent households
Single parent households tend to be among the poorest, creating a need for cheaper products. Low-priced, high-volume toys tend to find success in markets where single parent households are more common.
“Among older women who are unmarried, ages 35 to 39... the birthrate was 48 percent higher in 2012 than in 2002."
In my last posting, “The 'Baby Bust;' how bad is it?" I wrote about what is being described as an historic decline in the U.S. birthrate. Who is not having babies? It is women in their 20’s with the decline being led by Hispanic women and single women.
There was only one group of unmarried women for whom the birthrate increased in recent years: those 35 and older. In many cases, they are having babies outside of marriage by choice, with more resources and education than the typical single mother.
It is this quote from the article that I find particularly noteworthy: “Among older women who are unmarried, ages 35 to 39, however, the birthrate was 48 percent higher in 2012 than in 2002, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.”
This means that while babies born without fathers have gone down among younger people, many of them struggling to make a living and a life, there is a new group of single women who have the means to create a comfortable life for themselves and their children.
In 1976, 36 percent of women in their early 40s had four or more children,compared with just 12 percent in 2014. And 18 percent of mothers in their 40s had just one child last year, compared with 10 percent in 1976.
I once heard a college basketball coach say that he lived in a world in a never changing world of 18 to 22 years old boys and men. He grew older each year but those he had to train and lead remained the same.
Sometimes I think that those of us in the toy and play industry see our market as a group of kids, 3 to 12 years old who never change. We get older but they stay the same.
That’s a nice fantasy but the number of babies born each year and who has them creates an ever-changing group of children with different tastes, perspectives and desires. I thought about that as I read several articles recently on the challenges and changes taking place in who has babies and how many there are.
Consider this headline from CNBC: “Baby bust! Millennials' birth rate drop may signal historic shift.” Here is a telling quote by the author, Dan Mangan:
The birth rates for women in their 20s saw a 15 percent drop from 2007 to 2012, the Urban Institute report released Tuesday found. The decrease contributed to falling birth rates for women overall, after more than three decades of relative stability.
According to the website, listchallenges.com, there are 616 comic book characters that are not published by Marvel or DC. That's a lot of intellectual property that could be mined for toys, games, movies, apps, video games and more. You may well be familiar with some of them like Zippy the Pinhead, Astro Boy and Archie Andrews to name a few. It is the ones that were new to me that I found anywhere from funny to bizarre to compelling. What really attracted me, however, was the artwork. Here are my favorites. If you want to review the complete list, you can do so by clicking here.
The Woman in Red (see above) is now in the public domain. Love the way the artist created a bigger presence for the character by the color and the way the dress swirls out and takes up space.
She was a policewoman who was frustrated with her job and took on this secret identity. She first appeared in 1940 but recently had an appearance in a movie as late as 2010: Avenging Force; the Scarab.
Captain Canuck is a superhero from, of course, Canada! He first appeared in 1975, set in a future 1993 in which Canada is the most powerful country in the world. The Captain is still very much around and has been featured in a web series and comic books. The current publisher is Chapter House Books. Love the costume.
What I like about Durham Red is she looks like she could be spotted walking around lower Manhattan. She is a bounty hunter with a little bit of vampire in her. Durham Red is published by Rebellion Publishing.
General Jumbo was introduced in 1953 by the UK comic book, The Beano which is still published by D.C. Thomson & Co. It features a 12 year old boy who is in command, via remote control, of a miniature army. What a great concept for a line of toys.
There are plenty more so take your time and work your way through. It's fun and you may come up with a big idea.
I find it really intriguing to see what comes next when large companies make socially oriented changes. Due to their sheer scale, these big businesses have the ability to create a ripple effect. I think that is what we are going to see as a reaction to Amazon’s decision to end gender designations for toys.
As Caroline Bologna pointed out in her Huffington Post article, “Amazon Removes Boys and Girls from Toy Categories”: “…if you look at the category sidebar on the Toys & Games section of Amazon, you'll notice that the option to sort toys by gender is no longer there -- while a cached view of the site shows it previously included "boys" and "girls." Bologna goes on to point out that gender designations still pop up in some parts of the site but it is believed that they will eventually be eliminated as well.
The ripple effect could recently be seen in McDonald's recent announcement that it would cease serving chicken that has been treated with human antibiotics. Within weeks, Tyson Foods announced that they would cease using human antibiotics with their chickens as well.
"According to brothers, Wilbur and Orville Wright...it began for them with a toy from France, a small helicopter brought home by their father, Bishop Milton Wright, a great believer in the educational value of toys...It was little more than a stick with twin propellers and twisted rubber bands, and probably cost 50 cents. 'Look here, boys,' said the Bishop, something concealed in his hands. When he let it go it flew to the ceiling."
Great parents and great toys can make history happen.
After a long week of work, I decided to take time with myself to read a very exciting and interesting book called “Brick by Brick: How Lego rewrote the rules of innovation” while enjoying a warm cup of Latte.
Going through the first chapter of the book, the author David Robertson tells a very interesting story about Godtfred Kirk (the son of Ole Kirk - Lego's owner) who has worked with his father in Lego since he was 12 years old. One time during the old days when Lego was still producing wooden toys Godtfred shared the fact that he managed to save money by using just 2 coats of varnish instead the standard, which were 3 on a group of duck toys. While Godtfred felt very happy Ole got really upset and instructed his son (who later became the CEO of the company) to go back and rectify his error. This incident inspired Godtfred to later carve his dad’s working value into a wooden plaque which says “Det bedste er ikke for godt” – “Only the best is good enough”. A mural size photograph of the plaque is now placed at the entrance to the cafeteria in the Lego’s Group Billund head offices. And as the author describes it: “It’s a signpost that summons Lego staffer to exceptional performance”.
Indeed it is such great commitment to the company’s core values that has made Lego stand out from the competition and create almost indestructible Lego bricks! It’s Ole’s authenticity to stay true to his beliefs, reinforcing those beliefs in his people and being both firm and genuine with his team even in situations when his own son took an action that wasn’t aligned with the company’s values. What a great role model!
Do not read this book straight through from beginning to end! These pages contain many different adventures you can go on….
The adventures you take are a result of your choice. You are responsible because you choose!
For 36 years these opening lines have beckoned booklovers and reluctant readers alike to become part of the story in the Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) series. Written in the second person point-of-view, the novels make the reader the protagonist with the freedom to make story-changing decisions. In less than an hour, you can save the Titanic from its fateful brush with the iceberg (and thwart would-be gold-thieves), shoot off distress flares in vain from the deck of the sinking ship, and escape in a life boat, only to be haunted by memories of the tragedy for the rest of your life. The reader plays the story like a game, honing his strategy each time through.
Thomas Edison introduced the worlds first talking doll in 1890. Collectors have been reluctant to play the tiny records that came inside so science has stepped up to the task and digitized the sound. Maybe it would have been better if they had not. Click here to hear the recording.
By the way, I calculated the $10 retail based on the inflation index since 1890 and todays equivalent would be $250. This was definitely a toy for very rich kids.
In my last posting, “A Big Fail: “Toxic Toys in Albany County” PART 1,” I described how an “unsafe” toy report , "Toxic Toys in Albany County," by an organization called “Clean & Healthy New York” had failed to meet a minimum standard in how it classified products in its account. Two-thirds of the products cited were not toys, yet the organization chose to use the word “Toys” in the title of its report, giving a false impression as to toy safety.
In Part 2 I want to focus on their failure in methodology. The report states its methodology as follows: “In late October and early November 2014, we visited a number of stores, and using our X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) Analyzer, identified a dozen products that contained chemicals of concern. We then tested more thoroughly in our offices, using the XRF Analyzer.”
When a toy company makes a product, it is required to detail where the product was made, to provide a lot or tracking number and to indicate clearly age grading and any potential dangers. If “Clean & Healthy New York” were a toy company they would have failed this standard.
For example, it would be helpful to know which X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) Analyzers were used. Like any piece of equipment, there are analyzers and there are analyzers. “Clean & Healthy New York” stated the manufacturer as Innov-X. I checked the website and their XRF Analyzers come in a variety of styles and levels of sophistication. Which one did “Clean & Healthy New York” use? We don’t know.
In reading the rest of their statement on methodology I noticed that there was no information on who did the testing, what their training was and how knowledgeable they were in using, reading and analyzing the data. The report did list: “Research: Bobbi Chase Wilding.” But who is Bobbi Wilding, what are her credentials and training and what exactly did she do? We don’t know because the report does not tell us.
Credit must go to the Toy Industry Association which had an independent testing lab test the toy products and ran an article under the following headline: “Federally Accredited Lab Finds: Clean and Healthy NYS ‘Toxic Toys’ Report is Wrong.” According to the TIA, all toy products cited were found to be safe.
Here is what I think:
Bottom line, Clean & Healthy New York failed its community, stakeholders and the toy industry by failing to provide full transparency and accuracy. And that is truly bad for toy safety and children.
An organization called “Clean & Healthy New York” has been making news recently with its report “Toxic Toys in Albany County.” The report purports to have tested toys in that part of New York State and to have found high levels of dangerous chemicals in toys. What I found to be ironic is that this report would fail minimal toy industry and governmental standards for transparency and accuracy.
I have been following the NGO unsafe toys lists for several years now and what I find consistently is a tendency to tag all children’s products as toys; to utilize testing practices with questionable equipment used by untrained or poorly trained analysts and to overstate their findings through the use of inaccurate and dramatic headlines. The result, no matter how well meaning, is that they shoot safety advocacy in the foot by unnecessarily scaring parents with exaggerated claims and promoting draconian laws that damage businesses.
Toys fall under different safety standards than other products. Not only that, toys for younger children have different testing standard than those for older children. Therefore, one cannot include items from differing product categories together as the standards differ.
The “Toxic Toys in Albany County” failed this reporting standard by implying in its title that all the products were toys. In reality, the report cited twelve "toys" as being dangerous. Tellingly, only four of the items in question are actually toys. The following non-toy products were tagged as toys by the report:
1 Charm bracelet (jewelry)
1 Necklace (jewelry)
1 Hairclip, jewelry, bracelet set (jewelry)
1 Beaded sparkle charm jewelry (jewelry)
1 “16 piece accessory set” (party)
2 fashion hair clips (hair accessories)
1 Luggage tag (travel)
That means that of the 12 “toys”, 4 were actually jewelry items, 2 were hair accessories, 1 a travel accessory and 1 a party item. This of course demands the question, why did the “Toxic Toys in Albany County” report choose to list these products as toys when they could have listed them as children’s products, jewelry, hair accessories, etc.? What makes this question even more important is that the report openly states that they “…tested a variety of toys, accessories, novelty products and apparel (underlining is mine)."
The difference in what you call these items is not just one of semantics:
The toy industry and the video game business have, since the days of Pong and Space Invaders, been in a fight for consumer play dollars. I therefore find it somewhat ironic that it is Phygital play, the blending of physical toys with digital play that has become the lifesaver for video game maker, Nintendo. Popularized by Activision’s Skylanders and then by Disney Infinity, Phygital toys have become a major component of the world of play, blurring the line between that which is real and that which is virtual.
Nintendo's Wii has never been the game changer that the company had hoped it would be. Gamers prefer other platforms like those from Sony and Microsoft. As a result the company has seen declining sales. Fortune magazine explores Nintendo’s use of the Phygital to make its comeback in an intriguing article by John Gaudiosi entitled: “A year ago, Nintendo was on the brink. Now it's back, and here's why.” Gaudiosi puts it this way in his opening sentence: “The introduction of Nintendo’s amiibo figures last year has revitalized the company, providing much needed revenue. The $13 toys-to-life video game figurines have sold out at retailers worldwide.”
So popular have these amiibo figurine become that the company sold 5.7 million in only two months in 2014. These toys (there are now 57 different figurines), that interact with Nintendo’s consoles, have caused, according to the article, “… an uptick in Wii U console sales in the U.S., including a 10 percent rise in Wii U hardware sales last November and a 29 percent increase for 2014 as a whole, compared to 2013. That trend has continued into 2015 with a 20 percent increase through the first quarter, according to the NPD Group.”
Each year Harris releases a list of the top brands based upon "Familiarity, Quality and Consideration." Harris polled over 38,000 Americans and considered more than 1,400 brands in148 categories. I went through and picked out the brands that I thought Global Toy News readers would find most relevant; (there were no categories for toys.) If you want to see the full list: Click Here.
Gaming Console - Sony Playstation PS4
Video Game Series - Grand Theft Auto
Sports League - NFL
Greeting Cards - Hallmark
Kid's TV - Sprout
ERetailer - Amazon
Online Department Store - Kohls
Online Mass Merchandiser - Target (Notable that despite its troubles, Target ranks highest - RG).
Warehouse Club - Costco
Department Stores - Kohls
Mass Merchandiser - Target (Notable that despite its troubles, Target ranks highest - RG).
Pharmacy - CVS
Value Store - Dollar Tree
Social Networking Site - Youtube