Partnering with Inventors to Sell Games Successful for Educational Insights

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EI Tim full catalog page j

“A squirrel, a moose, and an owl walk into Toy Fair” was the subject line of an email I received  recently. I just had to open it. The content was even more interesting than the subject line referring to terrific new games that will be shown by Educational Insights at NY Toy Fair. They promoted:  

You may also bump into some of our inventors!  Meet them, hear their stories, beat them at their  own game, and walk away with a free signed copy. 

As most of you know, a company promoting their inventors has my heart. I’ve worked with EI before as they participate in my ChiTAG and TAGIE events and even golfed at their company golf outing (dead last in a scramble – another story for another time!). I know they have promoted their inventors for some time now, but they have really stepped it up. They have pictures and bios, even full page, of their inventors in their catalogs! The pictures featured in this article are from their catalog. 

I asked Amy Opheim, Director of Marketing, to tell us what they are up to. 

Amy: “EI’s take on inventor relations is really unique within the toy industry Rather than rollingEI Mary Jo catalog page j_Page_2  inventor concepts into our line (essentially passing them off as our own!), our goal is true collaboration.

From pitch to shelf, we partner with our inventors on everything from product and package design to play patterns and promotions.  Then we proudly highlight their unique stories on our packaging, in our catalogs, and in person at tradeshows.  The result is best-selling games like Blurt!(R) and Stix & Stone®.” 

For example, rather than closing the door on Steve Ryan, inventor of Stix & Stones, after signing his contract, EI worked with Steve to hone the play pattern, define the look and feel, and test the instructions.  Steve and co-creator/daughter Ali are featured on the box and in the catalog and have attended several key tradeshows and dealer game nights on behalf of EI.  Steve continues to work closely with EI’s marketing team to creatively promote the game.  

We’ve sent Tim Walsh, inventor of Blurt!, on media tours around the country, to school assemblies and to retailer autograph sessions – similar to book tours. Everyone loves Tim and Blurt! and we’ve found that once a retailer meets the man behind the game and hears his back story, they’ve got something to pass on to their customers.  When a teacher or parent walks into that retailer’s store looking for a fun but educational word play game, Tim comes to mind and gives them something to talk about. 

Consumers crave the human touch.  Our inventors are real people with great stories and we see no reason to hide them away. Tying the inventors closely to their products enables consumers to create a real relationship with them and the proof is in the sales. 

Inventor submitted products currently make up roughly 8% of EI’s product mix and the educational products retailer plans to carry on with their policy of partnership and transparency. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s working! 

Thanks, Amy! I’m looking forward to seeing new games and their inventors in your booth next week!

EI Ryans catalog page j

7 thoughts

  1. I received the EI catalog in the mail a few weeks before Toy Fair. I recognized the inventors and thought what great products and a terrific approach which features the products and their inventors with the players themselves, beautifully photographed and graphically different. Kudos, EI and the inventors we all love so much!

  2. Reading your article got me thinking about additional marketing ideas to sell a game I invented (and on the market). Having never worked in the toy industry articles, like Partnering with Inventors, provide me with invaluable helpful hints. Thanks so much!

  3. Love this Mary. Over the 20+ years that I have been reviewing toys from companies big and small the greatest kick I get is finding that spark of ingenuity and brilliance tucked away in a little corner or booth, dwarfed by the big boys. Seeing their passion poured into their creation and meeting with a think-outside-the-box inventor is what makes this all worthwhile.

  4. Nicely done Mary and EI. Inventors are just as valuable as book authors and it is awesome to see a company in the US taking advantage of it. There are others including Out of the Box…..hoping it becomes a trend!!

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