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.

Four Reasons Why Toy Companies Don’t Conduct Consumer Research

Posted in Uncategorized on 29 August 2013

Four Reasons Why Toy Companies Don’t Conduct Consumer Research

We thought it worth highlighting the common reasons why so many Toy companies don’t conduct consumer research:

1. Too many other inputs/pressures/stakeholders in process to complicate by adding another – this is one of THE most common reasons we find…especially in bigger companies. By the time a brand or product team has the buy in of the sales team & their retailers, senior management, QA, engineering/factory confirms they can manufacture at the right price, the creative team have delivered the right pack that everyone accepts (etcetera!), it often seems like adding another complication into the mix to ask the end consumer who is the one who will use/push for purchase what they think of a product. Sounds crazy, but it’s more common than might appear sensible! The reality though, is that properly conducted consumer research, conducted by commercially savvy researchers actually makes things simpler in the sense that while everyone has an opinion, a 3rd party report on what consumers think often holds sway over ‘I don’t like that colour on the pack’!

2. Muddled financial thinking – there are significant costs associated with developing Toys, Games & other Kid targeted products. So to add yet another 3rd party agency fee into the mix often seems a step too far. However, as people who have managed P&L’s ourselves, we’ve seen the horrendous impact of products that bomb and just won’t move off retail shelves. The reality is that consumer research which reduces your chance of launch failure, when conducted systematically over time is guaranteed to reduce your risk of launch failure, and thus will easily pay for itself. The reason why it’s guaranteed to reduce the risk is because it takes one more unknown factor into account. So for instance if your product is well liked by kids in research, but there is a significant barrier to purchase, you can acknowledge and address that barrier in terms of product & graphic design, marketing & P.O.S. The reality is that the average TV advertised product costs at least a few hundred thousand to launch, and can cost millions in lost sales, opportunity, loss of future listings and more, if it fails.

3. R&D are solely responsible for the ‘Research’ in ‘Research & Development’ – don’t get us wrong, there are hundreds of highly talented product designers in the Toy industry, we’ve worked with some amazing people. BUT, the person developing a concept is not the right person to test/validate it, because they are naturally (and rightly) passionately committed to it. By the time a company has committed any work time, resource and/or expenditure on a concept, the designer has had to justify and sell it internally. As such, the process itself makes them the wrong person to test a product’s fit with consumer needs. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with the designer testing the product with their kids or other kids they know, in fact if your designers aren’t doing this, you should get them to as a bare minimum. However, consumer insight’s value is in validating products that are on track, and highlighting issues to address with those that aren’t. The best people in most organisation’s to manage consumer research feedback & it’s place in the process are either Marketing or Management, for 2 reasons: 1. They are more removed from the product’s current form 2. They have to deal with the crap if the product fails!

4. No obvious solution – where companies don’t have consumer insight engrained within their process/way of operating, someone has to pitch for/justify funds, and then take the risk of hiring an agency to conduct the research to validate the judgement/proposed route of the instigating party on the client’s side. That’s why we make a point of understanding your business first, and the consumer second, because we want to deliver meaningful, actionable, useful findings. And because we have launched hundreds of products ourselves in previous roles, and dealt with many of the issues you face, we fully understand what happens after we leave research findings on the table.

We’re an easy choice for many clients because we have robust research credentials, having conducted hundreds of research groups with Kids, having multiple qualifications from industry acknowledged associations, but also because we can go one step (or more) beyond what kids said with you, thus ensuring value & impact.

To find out more about our research services, or for a research quote/proposal, please email us: SteveReece

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5 Common Issues We Find When Testing Toys With Kids

Posted in Uncategorized on 13 August 2013

5 Common Issues We Find When Testing Toys With Kids

You can forget about every part of your process until you understand what the target end consumer is looking for, and what they will buy.

Everything else is superfluous to this point, because if kids don’t want your products, everything else is merely part of your products journey towards the clearance aisle!

There are normally 5 main areas where we find Consumer Research helps Toy brands:

1. Dexterity fit – if your product is targeted at 4 year olds, but even a 10 year old would struggle to have the dexterity to meaningfully engage with your products you have a problem. We once tested a product range (based on a global perennial hit franchise), which was fundamentally not suitable for the target market due to lack of dexterity fit. That’s comparatively easy to identify, and only a little more complex to fix! If kids can’t play with the toy it isn’t fit for purpose, and that’s going to hurt your sales/brand.

2. Positioning mismatch – this is a biggie, because many of the most costly mistakes we’ve witnessed in the Kids Entertainment industry come from this mistake. What children perceive to be ‘coo’ and aspirational changes. So a 4 year old is driven by different motivations & aspirations than an 8 year old. Of course this sounds blindingly obvious, but alas mismatching is common. Here’s an example, we once tested a TVC for a well known Global brand. Their clever agency had created a slick and glossy advert which they thought was just great. However, when the TVC aired, it failed to deliver any significant uplift whatsoever, despite strong media spend. When we tested the advert, it was based on a concept that was meaningless to the target market. They had created an advert which had the right positioning for early teens versus primary school aged kids. The revised ad which we tested and validated created a very strong sales uplift. The most painful part of this was that if we’d tested the concept of the 1st TVC before production we could have saved $millions in media spend and production…

3. Lack Of Tactile Experience – the best Toys, the one’s which kids just keep on playing with are those which are the most tactile. Around half of the Toys we test (on average) don’t have some kind of cool feature or mechanism that means children just can’t put the Toy down. There is something ever so satisfying about clicking together Lego bricks, no wonder then that Lego is such a huge phenomenon. Clearly not every play pattern lends itself to that particular tactile experience, but priority/design direction must be given to deliver on this to maximise the chances of success in the Toy aisle.

4. Failure To Understand The Purchase Dynamic there are most commonly 2 parties to a Toy purchase – child & adult (most often this is mum/mom). There are certain factors proven to put mums/moms off i.e. need to buy batteries, annoying sounds/mechanisms, overly violent play pattern. Now for sure, sometimes the strength of the appeal to the child can outweigh the parental objections. This is normally one of the areas where we deliver most surprises to Toy companies & kids Entertainment brands when testing their products/content.

5. Failing To Address Obvious Problems – sometimes our feedback after Focus groups with children is met with a response along the lines of ‘oh yeah we knew that’. Quite often this relates to some quite fundamental functionality or positioning flaw which is guaranteed to be causing damage in terms of bad word of mouth, kids drifting away from un-compelling entertainment content or returns at retail. Yet often a company will wait until we deliver the news they already knew (often delivered with the subtlety of a baseball bat!) before doing something about it. While this may sound ridiculous, it is understandable on one level – that being that there are so many other pressures & ‘voices’ in the process normally that it takes an external ‘voice’ to assert the obvious over more inward looking concerns.

So there you have it. Frankly, we’d be very surprised if your Toys or Entertainment content didn’t suffer from some of these issues, as we find that in at least 99% of projects we find significant insight based on some of the above issues & other issues.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you embrace the benefits & value of Consumer Insight, please feel free to drop us a line via the ‘Contact Us’ page.


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Stepping Out From The Ivory Towers

Posted in Uncategorized on 12 August 2013

Stepping Out From The Ivory Towers

We’ve successfully managed industry/category leading brands…so we know that sometimes brand teams can find themselves trapped up in their ‘ivory towers’, caught between internal sell-in/debate, retail pressures, broadcast pressures, development issues and marketing development and execution.

The challenge with allowing that to happen is that it’s easy to lose touch with the reality…that being consumers choosing to take your product off the shelves, or to select your entertainment content over the vast array of alternatives on offer.

The reality is that most companies in our industry take huge financial risks with comparatively little validation. For sure most companies at least debate and argue over what should be created and developed & how, but comparatively few meaningfully test with the end consumer, who in the final analysis is the true arbiter of your success or failure.

Consumer insight is PROVEN to deliver meaningful insight into the prospects of your development. Often times, it’s about small tweaks which can make a massive difference in terms of the proposition for the end consumer, sometimes it’s more fundamental challenges, and sometimes the feedback is clearly don’t proceed with this. An example of the latter from our own experience would have seen a particular toy company save $5m that was eventually wasted, as the product was deeply flawed, yet despite our advice to that point, the toy company proceeded with the launch which bombed.

More frequently though we find we can help to validate existing presumptions, build organisational belief in products, and recommend essential (but often simple) tweaks to maximise potential for success.

The over riding point here is that if you don’t step down from the ivory towers and ask kids what they think of your content / products, you are taking a great leap into the unknown…

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Never Work With Kids & Animals…?

Posted in Uncategorized on 07 August 2013

Why Kids & Animals Are A Formula For Success In The Toy & Entertainment Industries

There is a much repeated saying in show business – never work with kids or animals. And frankly, bearing in mind how stressful & intense such productions often are, there seems to be wisdom in that.

However, when we look at the Toy business or the Kids entertainment content business, the opposite seems to apply!

From Scooby-Doo to Madagascar, from Schlecih to My Little Pony – kids and animals work in commercial terms.

The most prevalent reason for this based on consumer research we have conducted with kids (thousands of focus groups with kids) is that the animal kingdom has something to offer every kid – we have the more boisterous, energetic & funny animals i.e. dogs, the cute little things i.e. ponies, the sheer aggression of some i.e. Lions, and everything in between.

We could look deeper than this to look at how some kids (often, primarily, but not exclusively girls) have a more nurturing, caring play pattern, hence the attraction of My Little pony or Littlest Pet Shop.  Or how some kids (often, primarily but not exclusively boys) like boisterous and aggressive play patterns. or we could look at how kids love funny things, and how animals can have clear characters & personalities but can also do funny things that humans normally wouldn’t.

The reality is that the old maxim about never working with kids and animals most certainly doesn’t apply to the Toy industry or Kid targeted entertainment business!

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