Spielwarenmesse: Toy companies, positively impacting humanity: Social Welfare

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Toy companies, positively impacting humanity: Social Welfare

from Maria Costa

As people are becoming more socially and environmentally aware, companies are presented with both a great challenge and an amazing opportunity. In the next years, it will be more relevant than ever to embrace these trends in order to be successful. This article will introduce the main ideas behind some products and campaigns that are taking social issues into consideration.

Be more inclusive

This specific trend seems to have finally gotten enough importance to actually impact the market in a relevant way. While the industry has launched products that intended to help children with “some differences” before, those products have never really become mainstream until now. This new phenomenon is mainly due to the impact of word of mouth created on social media.

Toy packing by Playmobil

The good news is that children with different realities or even impairments are starting to have toys they can really relate to. For instance, a few years ago, Makies presented dolls with glasses and a cane, hearing aids, and a customizable facial birthmark. In 2017, Disney acquired the company thanks to their popularity. Following the request obtained with the campaign “Toy Like Me”, Playmobil started considering the development of more inclusive and specific figures and accessories.

Toy stroller/ DeCuevas

Toy distributors and toy companies are also showing inclusion in their communications, for example, Toy Planet added a new cause to its commitment to corporate social responsibility by raising awareness about the inclusion of children with Down syndrome. In their Christmas catalog this year, children with this intellectual disability are the protagonists once more. A doll company like DeCuevas Toys, with the claim “together we play”, included children with disabilities on their packaging and in their catalogs showing both girls and boys playing with their mom, dad and even grandfather.

Another brilliant project and campaign is Fittle, a 3D-printed braille puzzle developed as an educational tool for the visually impaired. With each model the player can put together physical 3D pieces, each one with a braille letter on them. When the puzzle is finished the player can “read” the whole word. They are still in development but soon there will be models to cover the whole alphabet. Created by the LV Prasad Eye Institute in India in collaboration with Ravensburger, Fittle models and its pieces are free to download and print for everybody (they are open source!).  

Beyond children with disabilities, it is important to understand that this trend is about “The new normal” about making sure all children have toys that represent their concrete physical features, their unique attitudes, beliefs and so on. This trend is very broad and it is behind dolls that represent transgender kids (For instance; Jazz Jennings by Tonner Doll Company), or even dolls with the concrete cultural characteristics of Muslim girls (For example; Salam Sisters). The opportunity lies in thinking about minorities, about children that have never been approached.

Help the less fortunate. Collaborate with real organizations or create your own projects.

Human-friendly projects are on the rise! I specifically love how some companies are developing products and marketing campaigns to help specific communities and even particular people in need. One great example is by the company The Wanderer London. They are not only supporting the organization Afrikids in Ghana, their Moses baskets are created by women (they show their names and photos in their website) who benefit greatly with this job, allowing them to take their kids to school and pay for their medical insurance.

Astrojax is a toy with 3 weaved balls that the player has to orbit in a fun-skilled way. Their textiles are hand-made by artisans in Guatemala. As the company says; “Guatemala is an economically poor country but incredibly rich in its culture of artisanship. We pay our artisans above-market wages and are economically transparent with our workers and business partners”. No doubt, this company is a great example of how to implement a socially responsible business model.

Astrojax’s general business is based on helping others with their products, but there are other ways to create a positive impact. Some companies are developing campaigns in collaboration with non-profit organizations. The good news is that the opposite is also happening; non-profits are looking for partnership with the toy industry to improve the awareness of certain issues.

In 2016, Amnesty International created a campaign to help put an end to child abuse. The campaign was launched due to the high rate of girls becoming pregnant as a result of abuse in Paraguay. That year, the organization distributed 500 pairs of the Arami & Aramu dolls among children in schools and hospitals in that country. The dolls were designed with sensors that played audio messages when pressed explaining where it is appropriate or not to be touched by others.

[Translate to English:] Kenianische Kinder mit Plüschtieren

Nowadays, there are cases of companies that are developing their own campaigns. The toy distributor Imaginarium has a program called “Eres como yo” (“You are like me”) focused on helping children in Kenia to have opportunities to play. With the project they are also raising awareness in children in the Western world about how lucky they are to have so much leisure time and so many toys to play with.

Another interesting case I would like to mention is the company Bears for humanity. With its name they say a lot! These organic, hand stuffed and finished in USA bears are definitely cute, but the best part is that the company donates a bear to a child in need with every purchase.

Improve both, your business and the welfare of humanity

Helping childhood and society as a whole has never been so interesting for the industry. Currently, this is even part of a big trend that is influencing the market greatly thanks in part to the impact of social media. Think about projects, products, practices or campaigns focused on improving and supporting whatever issues that could make a kid suffer in any way; from being poor, being part of a minority, having an impairment, having physical or even emotional differences from the norm, and a long et cetera. Improve your business while improving the welfare of humanity. What a wonderful trend to embrace!

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spielwarenmesse eG.

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Author of this article:

Maria Costa, AIJU

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