Toys & Innovation; 3 Elements For A Successful Innovation


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I was going through some articles on the latest news in the world of play and the word innovation seems to be championing the rational behind some mega deals & major success stories.

The recent deals highlighting 1) New toy ranges from Tomy supporting Pixar films “Inside Out” & “The Good Dinosaur” and 2) FremantleMedia announcing Jazwares has signed the Master Toy rights for Tree Fu Tom are great examples of the importance of innovation. In both articles, deal closers from Walt Disney & FremantleMedia emphasize their partner’s innovation as one of their main strength points. Furthermore, Lego, which has always remained one step ahead of the innovation curve, has won Toy Fair’s 2015 Editors’ Choice Award for their Minecraft set, crowned as the Construction Range of the Year in 2014 London Toy Industry Awards and has took top honor with 3 Best New Toy Awards in London Toy Fair 2015. How awesome can innovation be?

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So what is innovation and what are the key elements for a successful innovation?
Innovation is defined as a new idea, device or a method. The process of coming up with something new which is more effective and offers a better value to customers. The concept of innovation is not just limited to a product design/ function, its application expands to include business processes, methods, models, channels and even communication campaigns. And while some successful innovations can place a company on the top list of its industry, others can cause massive failures or just yield short term success as we will read later in the article. So here are some key elements applied by successful companies who leverage the concept of innovation to stay competitive in the marketplace: 

  • Adapting new technologies, which are complementary and relevant to the brand. Nowadays children are growing older at a younger age, and kids are increasingly owning tablets and smart phones, thus innovative toy companies work on expanding their offering from physical play to digital play. Jakks Pacific miWorld Play sets, Hasbro N-Strike Elite Nerf Cam ECS-12 Blaster and Lego Fusion are successful examples of the usage of technology by adding digital apps to traditional toys. Moreover, with new emerging technologies such as augmented reality and 3D printing it will be interesting to observe how companies will play the game to keep along with the latest trends.

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  • Harnessing the global talent pool through crowdsourcing. The brilliant strategy among many others that supported one of the top innovative toy companies Lego through its toughest times between 1993-2004 when the company was facing bankruptcy. Instead of relying merely on their own R&D department, Lego tapped the innovation of others. Till this moment in time, Lego receives ideas and proposals by fans through Lego IDEAS and if a project gets 10,000 votes, the set enters the Lego Review phase, then the review board evaluates it and decides which new project will become the next Lego product. As a token of appreciation the creator of the product gets % on product sales. And once the design phase is finalized, product gets produced, shipped to source and ready to be purchased. 


  • Linking innovation to business strategy & goals. During its hard time between 1993-2004 Lego partnered with production companies behind the popular movies Harry Potter & Star Wars to produce licensed Lego sets, the strategy supported in increasing Lego sales for a while, then dropped once the movies’ hype faded away as consumers were more interested in the movie theme rather than the Lego theme itself, a problem that Lego later realized and led it to work on its original brick theme. Therefore, along with Lego licensed sets, the company focused on linking creativity to its main business goals and on reviving interests in Lego basic sets such as police stations, school sets, and vehicle sets (sets that can be used more than one time and complement each other). And as a result of reconnecting innovation to business strategy, Lego solved a major problem it was facing in the market place and successfully managed to retain childrens' passion toward its yellow bricks. 

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Beside the above 3 elements, other essential business factors that lead to a successful innovation are: identification of a need/ problem, the know-how (field knowledge), collaboration (team work) and value creation.

Ultimately, companies topping the list in the industry understand the true value behind innovation as a key element to a successful business and they work hard on consistently developing their innovation portfolio to stay competitive and ahead of the game. Hence, if your company aims to win then Keep Innovating!

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