Shehnaz Safiuddin is an innovative brand builder and marketer with expertise in creating relevant, differentiated brands that stand the test of time while keeping up with the times. She recently launched Snap Kick Marketing Inc., a brand strategy and marketing consultancy with focus on market analysis, consumer insights, and innovation, to drive brand strategy. Safiuddin has over 25 years of experience in consumer goods and retail marketing, including 16+ years in toys at Fisher-Price and TOMY International. She has extensive experience growing established brands, identifying new brand opportunities, creating break-through marketing plans, and launching innovative new products, particularly in the area of kid and family targeted brands.
It’s happened to all of us. You’re deep in thought, working on a project, and suddenly the phone dings indicating a new message has just arrived. Without hesitation you immediately stop what you’re doing to look at the message. And in an instant you have shifted your focus to something completely different and you’ve lost track of your original project. This is today’s version of Shiny Object Syndrome – something catches our attention and we are distracted.
Technology is changing at such a rapid pace and continues to exponentially increase the speed of just about everything we do. At every turn there is something new, a “shiny object” – a new app, a new gadget, a reinvented old gadget, an upgraded smartphone or tablet, a new way to watch content, a new way to create content, the list goes on.
This fast pace of technology, and the idea that what’s new is interesting and appealing for only a short period of time, has significantly affected the toy and entertainment industries. Long gone are the days when a manufacturer could amortize tooling over multiple years, or film and TV studios could assume their children’s programming (and associated royalty revenue) would last for years on end.
As entertainment companies, both large and small, are launching more new content each year, children’s appetite for new news is accelerating as well. Of course, one could argue the chicken and egg aspect of the current toy industry phenomenon – are children’s attention spans and interest in a particular property or show seemingly shorter because there is new content and subsequently new toys at every turn or are we developing new content and toys more quickly because attention spans are shrinking. That’s debatable.
Either way, as an increasing percentage of the toy industry is dependent upon the latest new property, license, or tech craze, we have seen the industry face shorter and shorter product and brand lifecycles. You get one season (sometimes less) to prove yourself and that’s it. You’re either “in” or you’re out.
So what can we do about this?
- Set the Right Expectations: First, it’s all in the planning. Developing a toy line for a new property in today’s environment requires more discipline in planning. Be realistic about year 1 expectations from both a content appeal and ratings perspective (knowing that another new show or movie is already in queue), as well as from a forecasting and inventory standpoint. In a crowded field, it’s getting harder to capture audiences with new content, and “top-seller” toy quantities of yesteryear are not necessarily the same quantities today. No one wants to leave money on the table, but you don’t want 10 years’ worth of inventory either! It’s a balance.
- Stay Ahead of the Curve: Even as you’re launching a new brand or property, you have to look ahead. At the onset, assume you’re going to be successful, and map out new innovation to keep your brand top-of-mind and relevant in years 2, 3 and beyond. You can no longer wait to see if you’re going to be successful before planning your next hot news. If you do, your hot news will quickly become yesterday’s news.
- Keep it Fresh: When you have a brand, format or property that’s a proven success, keep it updated and fresh. Branch out into new, relevant categories or add updated characters. Redesign the look to make it more contemporary. Integrate a new technology to keep it relevant.
- Spot the Trends: Keeping an eye on trends is not something you do only when you’re starting new development. It should be an ongoing process to ensure you’re always forward-focused. Get in the trenches and talk to your consumers. What are the new things they’re doing? How are their attitudes changing? And how will this affect the relevancy of your brand? The best brands don’t react to consumer trends, they anticipate them.
The key, no matter how established your brand, is to BE the shiny new object so you’re not replaced by some other shiny object that comes along!