Spielwarenmesse: Dolls can be impressive in functionality & ugliness, too

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Dolls can be impressive in functionality & ugliness, too

from Harald Hemmerlein

Dolls and soft toys are among the staple foods of the toy industry. Dolls have probably accompanied people as "worry eaters", comforters and substitutes for loved ones since time immemorial - in all manner of guises. Anyone who wants to be successful in this sector has to come up with something really special outside the highly price sensitive mass market, something that kindles enthusiasm among consumers. It's quite amazing how designers, product developers and manufacturers keep managing to do this.

For example with ugliness. Fugglers originally come from the United Kingdom but Spin Master have now added them to their portfolio. There are 50 different Fugglers who all pull grim faces but at the same time beg you to adopt them. Some of them have teeth and eyes that shine in the dark. "One of the major pillars of our general growth strategy is to seize market opportunities like the Fugglers that exploit our competitive strength and brand portfolio effectively. We want to create innovative brands that kindle emotions, that are noticed all over the world and that are different from everything else", explained Ben Gadbois, Spin Master's Global President and COO. "We found the unusual charm of the Fugglers extremely innovative and they fulfilled our aim of expanding the boundaries of innovation, creativity and fun.“

Horror effects in the unboxing trend

The American company MGA Entertainment has also taken up the horror theme and at the same time is exploiting the currently popular unboxing trend. "Crate Creatures" for children from around four plus come packed in the form of a cage. Children free the creatures by breaking the lock on the cage using the crowbar that comes with the toy. Once free, the monsters are "fed" with their favourite food. Mealtimes are accompanied by the sounds of munching. There is also a recoding function so children can speak to the creatures and they talk back in monster-speak - forwards or backwards.

Or why not experiment with surprising gadgets? Who would have expected to find agricultural or construction machinery in the soft toy department? J.C. Bamford Excavators Limited (JCB) is a British manufacturer of construction, industrial and agricultural machinery. JCB has now joined forces with the British company High Resolution Design (HRD) as its licensee. HRD produces soft toy versions of some JCB machines with lots of true-to-life details and moveable elements. HRD’s Director Joel Berkowitz: "Being a brand that stands for martial-like equipment, we had to be sure we could communicate this brand message successfully in the soft toy market. By creating movable elements and storage compartments for other toys, I think we have created a really attractive offer."

Celebrities on the soft toy shelf

Contemporary historical and social events often attract exceptional international attention. Margarete Steiff GmbH has exploited the wedding of the commoner actress Meghan Markle to Prince Henry of Wales, Prinz Harry for short, on 19 May 2018 at Windsor Castle. The bride and groom are presented as a miniature couple in a blue gift box. The pendant teddy bear set "Wedding" contains two teddy bear pendants made of mohair. The bear bride has a patterned body with a Swarovski crystal and a lace collar. The groom is dressed traditionally in black with a bow tie with Swarovski crystal. The two bears have a connecting charm at the bottom of the pendant chain which can be used flexibly as a pendant or for a bracelet.

Licensing plays a central role

As in all product groups in the toy industry, licensed themes also play a central role for dolls and soft toys. Ty Inc. has brought the protagonists of the internationally successful pre-school TV series Paw Patrol to life as 42 cm soft toy figures. There are now two new members of Paw Patrol: Everest, a husky lady who bounds up every mountain with ease and Tracker, a jungle puppy who can swing from tree to tree.
Another good idea for success in the soft toy segment is to give children and present-givers the chance to experience and act out nature conservation as ambassadors.

HEUNEC GmbH & Co. KG uses the Red Indian boy Yakari under licence. He is the ambassador for nature conservation. Great Eagle, Yakari's totem and protector, equips him with special gifts that many children can only dream of: Yakari can understand the language of animals and even talk to them. Together with his horse Little Thunder and his girlfriend Rainbow, he wanders through the countryside as a an ambassador of conscious interaction with nature.

Innovative robotics technology

High-tech features also score points in the doll sector. Luvabella, the baby doll from the Canadian company Spin Master, can learn and has amazing true-to-life facial expressions and gestures. She can produce over one thousand reactions and learn over 100 sentences and words. Luvabella adds lots of new excitement to playing mummy and child role play games. This is all possible with innovative robotics technology The interactive doll acts and responds with true-to-life facial expressions and gestures just like a real baby. With her natural movements and different play modes, Luvabella is ideal for children from around four plus. She comes with four different interactive accessories (bottle, spoon, soother and Lamby toy) to which she reacts differently during play. Luvabella's eyes, mouth, arms and legs can all move on their own so that she comes to life with amazingly real facial expressions and gestures. She has sensors in her tummy, back, eyes and feet so that she giggles or gurgles when you stroke or tickle her. Luvabella also has a heartbeat.

Spin Master | Luvabella

Brands are still a tower of strength

One sure way of positioning yourself successfully in the doll segment is to establish a strong brand. Mattel's Barbie is an outstanding example of this. Especially since they continually adapt the brand message in line with the times. For some time now Mattel has been trying to position her as a protagonist for gender-neutral role models. At the moment she is acting as a robotics engineer. This is Mattel's way of trying to motivate more girls to show interest in the STEM subjects (Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). In this connection Mattel has announced a partnership with the games platform Tynker. Tynker has already taught 60 million children how to programme through play. Mattel is publishing six free programming experiments on tynker.com/Barbie YCBA, which are accompanied by Barbie.

Lisa McKnight, General Manager and Senior Vice President for Barbie: "For nearly 60 years, Barbie has been a role model for areas in which women are under-represented and she shows girls that they can be anything they like. When they are playing with Barbie as a robotics engineer, either online or offline, girls are given a whole new platform where they can play creatively and learn important survival skills for their own lives."

Learn to Code with Barbie + Tynker | Barbie

Fantastic world in Centopia

From hard facts to fantastic worlds: The television series Mia and me is based on a combination of real film and animation. In the animated magical world called Centopia, Mia turns into an elf and together with her friends she has lots of exciting adventures. The series is broadcast in over 80 countries and is an international hit. The principal character Mia and her two best elf friends Yuko and Mo accompany girls on their imaginary journey to Centopia as dress-up dolls from Simba Toys. The three dolls have moving legs and wings and their glass eyes make them seem really life-like. Along with various accessories for the dolls, the play set also comes with a matching friendship ring with a butterfly for children.

Heartbeats help at bedtime

Dolls can also help children go to sleep. The mere presence of their favourite dolls acts as a comforter for babies and toddlers. The baby doll Annabell Newborn Heartbeat from Zapf Creation offers an entirely new bedtime aid: A gentle breathing noise and the regular heartbeat of the doll are very soothing. You just have to press the heart on the chest of the 30 cm doll. The volume of the heartbeat and breathing noises can be adjusted. Just one more example of how dolls can help children in all areas of life.

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Author of this article:

Harald Hemmerlein

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