We describe what children do as “play.” To adults that means something other than work but for children, playing is their job, it’s how they learn to socialize and think constructively. Unlike adult work, if it’s not constantly engaging, they stop and then it’s not productive. So making toys that interest children and help them develop at the same time is the toy industry’s ongoing challenge. David Scher, a serially successful toy industry veteran told me at Toy Fair, “The lifeblood of the toy business is new and innovative products. This has gotten much harder and more expensive. But without it, the toy business goes away.”
In the last several years, many schools have decreased recess and free time. That’s a challenge for the toy industry because it decreases the focus on play time for children as they grow. The industry’s response continues to evolve based on parents’ own experiences, tastes and goals. Developing toys that help children become adults in the right way will continue to be the industry’s challenge.
The toy industry is notoriously fickle and subject to rapid change. Each year, different trends are responsible for huge swings in success and failure. The industry recently had its biggest gathering of the year, Toy Fair in New York, and that’s where all the trends in the industry can be observed. I spoke with a number of people about what will take off in 2019, including Ken Seiter, EVP of the Toy Association, and these are the leading trends for 2019:
Unboxing is a fancy way of saying “taking stuff out of the box.” But it is also consistent with the overall consumer trend favoring experiences rather than products. Like the old-fashioned Russian nesting dolls, where a smaller doll of the same type is inside each outer doll, it’s the experience of opening the product that is the most important part of having it and playing with it. That’s what unboxing is about. It makes the packaging and the product into one coherent, unified experience.
Marketing of toys is changing rapidly as influencers have come to the toy business and they are having a big impact. The most important is Ryan’s World which has over 18 million subscribers on YouTube and has had over 30 billion video views.
Slime, sand, dough and other materials continue to be popular not just on their own but also as part of the unboxing trend. Having to dig through various compounds in order to get to a goal gamifies the experience of compounds. Because the products are shapeable, it encourages kids to be creative and is a playful way to encourage original thinking.
Nostalgia never seems to get old. For the toy industry it creates a warm feeling for past, positive experiences. Of course the flip side is that even with updates and modifications, it’s a way to reduce investment and risk in new product and new character development.
Food and Fragrance
The importance that young parents place on health-conscious eating has made its way to the toy business. Food-related toys and games are a way for parents to educate their children about good food choices without making it into a lesson. Scented toys are also growing.
Sports has always had a significant impact on the toy business but the phenomenal growth of eSports, led at the moment by the gaming phenomenon Fortnite, is driving a huge amount of interest, spinoffs and related games and toys.
Focusing children on tasks that lead more clearly to career skills has long been appealing to parents. The focus currently is on STEM skills (science, technology, engineer and math), particularly for girls. The STEM acronym is now often changed to STEAM with the additional “A” standing for Arts.
Well of course, if toys aren’t entertaining, what’s the point of them? But the toy industry means something else by entertainment. Entertainment in toys relates to connecting movies, tv shows and licensed properties to toys. It’s an old strategy but when the movies are current and popular, never seems to lose its appeal.
The toy industry is fast. Some trends and brands can last a long time but very often they change rapidly. Managing product development is critical to success but so is managing inventory. If a toy producer invests in a trend and the trend tapers off, being left with too much inventory at the end of the trend can wipe out all the profit that came before. So watching trends isn’t just a matter for product creation, it’s critical to the mission of a toy business throughout its life.
See the original @ https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardkestenbaum/2019/03/03/toy-trends-toy-fair-mattel-hasbro-disney-play/