Spielwarenmesse: Toy design: From the idea to the finished toy

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  Movers & shakers

Movers & shakers

Toy design: From the idea to the finished toy

from Eva Stemmer und Jörg Meister

Countless new products are unveiled in the toy segment each year. However, they generally have to pass through many hoops before they can be introduced to the wider public. This is usually an iterative process, bringing the manufacturer closer and closer to the final product each time. In a four-part series, we take as an example a product moving along this path - from target group analysis through to initial presentation.

It all begins with the customer

It goes without saying that new products have to be well received by retailers and popular with manufacturers. However, the consumer is initially the main focus when developing a new toy. But who is the actual consumer?

The toy industry really has a key challenge to face compared with other sectors - the end consum-er is not necessarily the purchasing decision-maker, who is not always the buyer. Bought by par-ents, often with grandparents lending a financial hand in the background (when it comes to larger purchases), products have to impress children in the first place. Besides this, the product must also stand up to the critical scrutiny of the retailer, purchasing departments and sales staff on the ground.

Therefore, the consumer who will ultimately decide whether a purchase is made is the starting point when considering which products might capture the market.

Understanding customers

So we have to define who this consumer is.

  • What does he like to have around himself?
  • What is he prepared to pay?
  • What does he want of a product – and which values must it live up to?
  • Does the child himself decide, or do parents, grandparents and gifters make the purchase decision?
  • Should the sales pitch focus on what the children want or equally on what the adults want?

To understand children and their desires, manufacturers and retailers have to know the reality of their lives. Therefore, it’s worth spending time where children can be found. Increasingly, this is not only the material world but also the virtual one – in the form of blogs, social media and online stores.

Understanding customer interest is about reading the signs: observing where customers spend time, analysing why they do that – and the direction they go off in after that. Ultimately, valuable clues can be gained from the tracks they leave.

These are clues about social issues but also about trends and the reality of the customers’ lives – which flow in turn into a current and future product world. These findings can be strikingly represented using mood boards. You can get a general outline of a user group in the form of a “look and feel”, giving you the basis for new ideas and products.

We want to take a closer look at the baby/infant target group in this example of a mood board. We base it on a medium price structure, a high value placed on quality and sustainability and a “spe-cialist retail/boutique” sales channel with corresponding buyers. For better understanding, the goal of sounding out this target group for a new product line in this segment is visualised. The product range covers “early childhood sensory perceptions”, i.e. baby toys with sensory learn-ing value.

Armed with these findings, we will move to the creative process in the next issue: initial product ideas taking account of the fun factor and learning value, children’s needs, sustainability, produci-bility and standards.

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