Kids Brand Insight We're a leading Consultancy to the global kids entertainment and toy industries. We help toy companies get ahead, and kids content producers maximise their toy merchandising. We conduct commercially minded consumer research to support and guide our clients decision making.

The Phenomenon Of Toy Stockpiling & What It Means For Toy Companies

Posted in Uncategorized on 06 May 2014

The Phenomenon Of Toy Stockpiling & What It Means For Toy & Kids Entertainment Companies

One of the largest, but largely under highlighted trends we are seeing with today’s children is toy stockpiling.

In previous generations, toys were limited in quantity for the vast majority of children. Each individual toy was therefore more cherished and played with more overall than we find today.

For reasons of confidentiality/security we aren’t publishing any images of kids bedrooms with this article…but nevertheless, we have seen some truly astounding collections of toys during recent in home research sessions. Most children have literally hundreds of toys, and toy related products by the time they reach the venerable age of 7.

The reasons why this is such a critical trend to be aware of for toy companies, and kids entertainment companies looking to stay in or to enter the world of toys are several:

1. Toys Are An Easy, Budget Gift – despite large increases in manufacturing costs, toy retail price points are not significantly greater than they were decades ago. Due to the power of inflation therefore, comparatively toys are cheap from a consumer perspective these days versus some other types of consumer products. Therefore this encourages gifting by those who may or may not have an intimate knowledge of the child’s play preferences (e.g. for children’s birthday parties etc).

2. There Is A Bewildering Array of Brands & Products To Choose From – there is vast proliferation in terms of children’s entertainment brands. This means that critical mass and getting in front of the crowd becomes critical for companies. Moreover, this proliferation vastly increases the risks of launch failure. (Although the risks can be reduced by kids market research with a reputable, proven agency!).

3. Toys Have To Work Hard To Retain Interest/Keep Kids Playing – the reality is that with so many toys owned by children, the play time on each product will be limited, especially when combined with the over riding preference for screen time if allowed by parents.

4. Standalone Toys Have A Harder Time Versus Kids Entertainment Driven Products – brands with ongoing consumer immersion and multiple touch points are going to have a huge advantage in terms of staying ‘front of mind’ for children. When combined with the significant financial risks involved in launching new toy product lines, this points towards ever increasing importance of perennial brands with multiple touch points/spin offs and entertainment licenses.

This trend is just one of many we’ve observed while conducting market research with children across the UK and beyond. If you would like more information about our toy concept testing, kids entertainment content research or anything else related, please feel free to drop us a line…

…also, if you’d like to be kept up to date on future articles, news and reports, you can fill in your details on the right hand side of this page to receive further updates.

 

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Kids Brand Insight: New Consumer Research Agency Focused On Kids Entertainment Brands Launches

Posted in Uncategorized on 30 April 2014

New Consumer Research Agency Focused On Kids Entertainment Brands Launches

For release: 1st May 2014

Kids Brand Insight officially launched today to deliver qualitative research for brands in the toy, gaming and children’s entertainment sectors.

The company has already worked with leading brands to combine consumer insight from children and their families with a refreshing dose of commercial reality.

CEO Steve Reece had this to say:

“Before we launched Kids Brand Insight, we were delivering consumer insight via our other business Vici Entertainment (a leading Toy & Game business consultancy) as one of a range of services offered. However, over time the research side of our business has grown to the point where it needs it’s own standalone identity and team. Thus far, we’ve worked extensively across toys, games, TV, virtual worlds and apps. We’re looking to build on this with the official launch of Kids Brand Insight.

Client feedback has been really positive, due to our delivering director level project management and insight on all projects, combined with our broader commercial perspective which allows us to ensure we deliver useable, relevant and commercially practical findings.

Our promise is no fluff, just hard hitting consumer insight combined with the practical inside knowledge that comes from having worked in brand marketing, commercial and senior management roles in the industry.

The best way to outline our point of difference is this – if you look at live sports broadcasts on TV, they have two commentators. One is DESCRIBING what they see, the other is ANALYSING from a position of having played the game, and can therefore suggest what a team needs to change to be more successful versus just reporting that they are a goal behind!

For more information, please visit www.KidsBrandInsight.com

 

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How Kids Find Freedom In A Cotton Wool Environment…

Posted in Uncategorized on 29 April 2014

How Kids Find Freedom In A Cotton Wool Environment…

One of the major changes in how children play these days versus times gone by is the level – or lack of – physical freedom.

The older generation regale us with stories of how they didn’t have to lock their doors in times gone by, or how they played freely in the streets around where they lived until they wanted to return home.

That just isn’t an option for today’s children.

For perfectly valid reasons, parents today usually control the whereabouts of children more or less constantly, meaning that the majority of children don’t often get the chance to run (physically) free without boundaries in the way that past generations did.

When we conduct research with children today, we find a huge amount of popularity for apps and virtual worlds offering open ended play – Minecraft is a very popular example of this…we’ve found this to be THE universally loved virtual experience for kids in recent research. One of the primary drivers for this, aside from the fact that these play patterns are fun is the need of children to be able to express themselves without adult hindrance and to enjoy a degree of freedom that is not so available to them in the physical world.

We also see that creative play patterns, e.g. Lego,  have soared in conjunction with this virtual freedom of expression. Going back 15 years or more, Lego was not the force it is today, in that it was seen as very worthy by parents, but as less exciting by children. Fast forward to today and the holy grail seems to have been achieved – namely kids and parents love Lego. This has to have been influenced at least partly by the increasing need of children for freedom of expression.

So the reality is that commercial opportunity lies in giving children opportunity for freedom of movement and freedom of expression, as they seek to push beyond the cotton wool that surrounds them!

P.S. To receive our newsletter with more insights, reports and kids consumer insight news, just fill in your details on the right hand side of this page.

 

 

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Reality Check: Children Play How They Want To, Not How Designers Intend Them To…

Posted in Uncategorized on 11 April 2014

Reality Check: Children Play How They Want To, Not How Designers Intend Them To…

One of the most enjoyable parts of our work is seeing creatives and designers be inspired by consumer insight with children.

The vast majority of people involved in the creation of media content and physical products for children don’t regularly test their output with the planned target consumer. When you look at the costs for creating and launching animation, virtual worlds or toy products in this day and age, this seems to be like a gaping chasm of risk that can easily be closed or filled in via commercially minded consumer insight feedback.

In 99% of projects where creatives attend our discussion groups with kids, they come away with vastly enriched understanding about the recipient of their output. Blindingly obvious when you think about it really.

In reality (versus sat in the office presuming!), children engage how they want to engage with your toy product, TV show, virtual world or App. You can point them in a particular direction, but you’ll find they don’t always follow.

An example of this is a recent project where we took children to a playground and observed the way they played.

Notice this extensively designed and engineered apparatus with features and activities integrated in the design:

 

In reality though, the children spent more time playing on these simple bars (shown below), which had been built for children to tie their bicycles to! We observed children performing all manner of gymnastic activities on these simple bars which were never designed for the purpose of playing.

The point here is that we find even the output of the most amazingly creative, highly talented people can be hugely enhanced by testing with the target consumer, especially when the person creating is an adult, and no longer a child…because children think and act so very differently to adults.

N.B. We have dozens of examples of such disconnect between designers/creatives and kids, but we can’t share client specific research…if you’d like us to investigate the way children interact with your output – in reality – feel free to drop us a line!

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Bridging The Gap Between Client And Consumer Research Agency

Posted in Uncategorized on 05 April 2014

Bridging The Gap Between Client And Consumer Research Agency

One of the most prominent complaints clients make regarding consumer insight agencies is that they are so far removed from the client business and the realities of the commercial world they often deliver reportage of what consumers said versus analysis of what that means from a commercial standpoint.

When our team has worked client side – in clientside research departments, marketing departments and senior commercial management positions, despite our briefing out projects with an in depth knowledge of research, more often than not the research agencies we worked with failed to deliver meaningful insight due to being devoid of practical commercial experience and knowledge. It’s not that these agencies failed in terms of methodologies, moderating or other technical research skills…in fact far from it, we picked them because they excelled in these areas. The issue though is that unless you have at least some understanding of what happens in your clients business from a commercial perspective, you have little chance of delivering meaningful insight. Moreover, we found that without this level of practical commercial savvy, moderators wouldn’t ask many of the right questions in terms of analyzing key alternative directions being considered by the client.

So when we set up Kids Brand Insight, we wanted to deliver something we felt was absent from the market place…great research skills combined with commercial savvy. No fluffy, effectively meaningless/useless feedback…just hard hitting realities from the consumer standpoint, with clear evaluation of what decisions/options can be made or taken by the client’s business.

If you are seeking meaningful consumer insight which goes beyond mere reportage, and which goes further into using consumer feedback to influence your business decision making, drop us a line…

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The Critical Essential: Dexterity Testing Toys

Posted in Uncategorized on 23 October 2013

The Critical Essential: Dexterity Testing Toys

There are some factors in the success and longevity of toy products and brands which are so overwhelmingly fundamental, that it is pure folly to ignore them.

One of these factors is matching the functionality of the toy to the dexterity capability of the target age group.

This is not difficult to test (at least not for those of us who do this kind of thing for a living!), yet we find that most often toy companies chuck their products at the wall without performing even rudimentary tests to see whether the target audience can even perform the functionality of the toy.

If the target audience can’t even use the toy because it’s too difficult, fiddly, requires more fine motor skills than they have, or other reasons, then clearly the chances of creating positive word of mouth, cross selling within the range, and longer term brand committment are significantly reduced.

And as it costs somewhere between a few $hundred thousand upto $millions to launch new toy product ranges it’s entirely ridiculous that this basic functionality measure isn’t tested routinely and systematically across the industry.

For sure there are a few R&D souls out there who test with their kids, and the friends of their kids, and frankly, that’s better than nothing…but leaving this in the hands of those with a vested interest/emotional commitment to a brand is again hardly a prudent way to reduce the risk of launch failure / maximise success.

Our Toy playtesting service is guaranteed to measure dexterity factors and deliver meaningful, practical insight to spot problems, provide insight/guidance on tweaks to be made or to rubber stamp something that is really going to do the business…please feel free to get in touch if we can help.

 

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The Difference Between Thinking You Know Something And Actually Knowing It

Posted in Uncategorized on 09 October 2013

The Difference Between Thinking You Know Something And Actually Knowing It

In any successful Toy company or kids entertainment business, matters relating to products, advertising and brands are discussed and debated with a great degree of vigor, opinion and counter argument.

Many times we see groups of people sitting in a meeting room discussing something and reaching very strong and wide reaching conclusions based on either a prevailing opinion, highly subjective feedback from ever opinionated retail buyers or an unshaekable presumption from senior management.

The reality is though that in most of these circumstances, we think we know – we don’t actually know for sure.

There are 2 implications of this:

1. We might be wrong, and therefore might make costly mistakes as a result.

2. Dissent based on lack of agreement leads to paralysis, failure to follow through and other negative implications.

Again, it’s really easy to brush these matters under the carpet…or to let things drift while ‘fire fighting’ today’s urgent issues/problems in the business.

But often we find the way companies can move closer to knowing for sure versus thinking they know based on their own opinions alone is via outside, objective input – based on consumer feedback or consultancy advice from those with broader experience and no vested interest.

Outside input of this kind normally allows us to reach clear conclusions and make decisive decisions.

We’re not suggesting that this method is used to solve all disputes/arguments about direction, but in key instances, this can be the right way to go about things.

So the question is do you have any of those lingering issues/directional questions which outside consultancy or consumer insight can help you to solve?

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Screen Time, Backlash & Contradictory Trends

Posted in Uncategorized on 07 October 2013

Screen Time, Backlash & Contradictory Trends

Kids are spending more time on screens…fact!

There has been an accompanying growth in parental screen backlash i.e. turn off that TV, tablet, phone, computer etc. and go and do something else instead.

So how can we have two opposite trends at the same time? Simple…in scientific terms, sure you’ve heard the maxim of ‘Every reaction has an equal and opposite counter reaction”. There is so much truth in this when applied to the trends in Kid’s entertainment, play patterns, toy habits and gaming consumption.

The reality is that while the kid may want to spend literally every waking minute on their tablet or other device, the parent knows this is not good for the child. Clearly many parents rejoice at some peace and quiet as the child immerses themselves, and parents may also feel reassured if the child is playing with/watching a kid friendly tablet or other device/program. However, there comes a point when enough is enough, and the screen backlash comes to the fore.

Recently we tried to explain all this to a perplexed Consulting firm who had engaged us for our input to a complicated takeover deal they were working on. They asked how can there be both trends at once – for kids to spend more time on screens and for parents to be telling them to switch them off…which trend is winning? The reality is that both are (a point they eventually accepted).

So while we have seen huge growth in technology driven toys, and new media in recent years, and while this trend is only going to gather momentum, so we also have plentiful opportunity for more traditional play patterns.

The point is that the good marketer will understand this dynamic and craft a marketing message to suit the particular end of this trend spectrum they are targeting.

 

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Understanding Children’s Toy Product Preferences – Hierarchies Of Toy Appeal

Posted in Uncategorized on 13 September 2013

Understanding Children’s Toy Product Preferences – Hierarchies Of Toy Appeal

One of the most immediately apparent insights our clients get when we conduct focus groups/play-testing research with kids and the client’s toy products is the hierarchy of product appeal by type of product. In other words, the client quickly finds out if the product category/categories they are active in and their individual products are at the top of the child’s wish list, in the middle or perish the thought lower down!

The reason why this is an important realisation is because understanding the level of appeal is the first step on the road to truly understanding the purchase dynamic for a particular toy or game product. To illustrate this point – let’s look at a product or brand which we know sells very well, yet the comparative level of appeal seems low among kids bearing in mind the level of sales success enjoyed. In this instance we can begin to explore other motivators for purchase. These can include a parentally driven purchase – most likely with more worthy & educationally slanted toys i.e. science kits, board games etc.; a false purchase premise i.e. presumption by the adult purchasing that the child will want/like it, when in actual fact they’d much rather have something else; compromise purchase where the child wants something featuring a particular brand, but the adult/parent won’t purchase the product category that the child wants, but will buy something else still featuring the brand…and there are several other potential purchase drivers.

The major point though is that only by first understanding how cool, how appealing and how aspirational a product or brand is to the target consumer can we begin to identify the other factors in the purchase dynamic.

We’ve found recently that whereas video games consoles were Number 1 going back some years, today kids LOVE tablets. They love kid targeted tablets and they love the full spec versions theoretically targeted at adults.

Interestingly though, if we look at the average child’s Christmas gifts, there will normally be a headline item which the child REALLY wants like a tablet, but there will also be numerous other presents including some of those given more to satisfy the parents need to feel good for giving worthy presents than for the satisfaction of the child’s burning desire for the coolest toys.

So all this leads to the critical question – do you know where your product fits in the toy product preference hierarchy for most kids? If not, perhaps you ought to find out!

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Why Focus Groups Remain The Most Effective Way Of Testing Toys With Kids

Posted in Uncategorized on 02 September 2013

Why Focus Groups Remain The Most Effective Way Of Testing Toys With Kids

We’ve done the big quantitative studies, in fact we’ve done them for some of the biggest Toy companies in the world across multiple territories, and they did yield some insight. In particular, we conducted a huge quantitative tracking study on a major global hero brand, to enable the marketing team to allocate marketing spend (from a marketing budget of c. $15m) according to kids product preferences in the testing. Frankly, this worked based on the evidence. It seemed like the company was backing the right horses when comparing the products preferred by kids in the research and those products that sold best.

However, that was a project with a very specific focus. In the majority of cases, where the brand team are looking for more in depth feedback than a simple preference, focus groups really are the best way to go in our experience. Focus groups allow for analysis of the social effect with a particular brand or toy, for competitive comparisons and evaluation, for highlighting product, packaging and marketing collateral tweaks – some fundamentally important, and more.

The reality is that while most companies like hard stats, it’s hard to derive MEANINGFUL stats on anything other than surface level.

The challenge with most suppliers of Focus groups though i.e. research agencies, is that many of the qualitative moderators have never done anything else so they have no real life product or marketing experience, meaning they often struggle to reach the right conclusions based on consumer feedback or fail to see the wood for the trees.

From our perspective that’s a good thing, as we have robust research and Toy business/entertainment brand management AND P&L credentials and experience, we don’t ever deliver fluff. We deliver clear, meaningful feedback.

We solve problems which aren’t in the research brief, but which become apparent during the research, because we have managed brands and run P&Ls on a large and small scale in over 52 countries worldwide.

The reality is that focus groups / playtesting conducted by a strong, commercially minded research agency will normally deliver vastly more insight and value than quantitative methods. If you’d like to know more, please feel free to drop us a line…

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