Posts tagged #toys

Marketing Tips From Tenacious Toys CEO Benny Kline

In a previous article I wrote regarding "marketing the now," I found great insight in one of the most peculiar places – the toy industry. Benny Kline, CEO for Tenacious Toys, has been a virtual friend of mine for some time now. His scrappy entrepreneurial wisdom always gives me a lot to think about. I hope the following interview with him benefits you as well.

What fuels new products in such as sub-niche (designer toys in vinyl, resin and plush) within the toy industry?

I'm not sure exactly what it is that fuels the changing interests in the toy industry. I think the toy, more than any other item, is presented specifically as a disposable item. Not because you're supposed to throw it out, but because it's meant to entertain. And entertainment is fleeting these days.

Computers. Kids have a shorter attention span and thus need a greater number of different toys to make it through the day without boredom. Multiply that by 1 million, and factor in the fact that toys aren't just for children anymore, but are often marketed to and sold to adults (young adults today are the first adults ever who grew up surrounded by computers), and the result is an entire industry whose product life cycle is growing shorter by the year.

Interest in toys seem to change all the time. What drives that? And how do you forecast that evolution?

I deal with a fickle toy market on a monthly basis. An artist, designer, or company is hot one month – and all of a sudden the sales dry up.

I deal with this in two ways: Firstly, I am extremely active on social media and on my blog, sharing new and upcoming products and gauging the responses of my network. Soliciting feedback by entering, and in many cases, starting the conversation about a toy is my most effective strategy in making purchasing decisions. Instead of trying to predict the response of the ever-changing collector market, I just listen a lot. So much easier.

My second tactic is to have a backup plan for each item I end up purchasing. When will I discount it, what can I do online to increase interest in that item? Do I offer it to my core group of customers at an exclusive discount in order to move the remaining stock? And finally, if all else fails, can I use that stock as something of a barter to get myself something else of value, like exposure, building my email list, adding blog subscribers, or maybe I send to an artist to customize into a OOAK piece so that the item is more desirable once again?

Why does the Toy market move so fast?

My assertion is that the speed of technology – texts and Twitter and instant messaging - lead kids to have a shorter attention span, and this carries over to non-electronic entertainment as well.

Anything culturally/generationally?

If we're talking plastic toys, I have a feeling an average 6-year-old today will play with an action figure for like 20 minutes tops, whereas 30 years ago, a 6-year-old might ONLY have a couple action figures and would be FORCED to play with them for hours.

Now, people amass collections of the figures - disposable entertainment with shorter play value. Most adult collectors don't even take their $10 Funko figures out of the boxes. I own several FunkPOP figures, and I've never touched the surface of any of them. They're in the box still. A testament to my own fleeting interest ...


Now that I think about it, there's an interesting point to be made here: The issue at hand is the fleeting nature of consumer interest in any given product or genre of products. My assertion is that it is the existence of technology in our lives which generates this faster product cycle by limiting the attention span of the average consumer.

Yet, as I described earlier, my solution to this problem is also technology-based: I utilize social media (the source of the truncated attention span) to assess the economic feasibility and marketability of any given product. Computers / social media / technology is both the cause of, and solution to, the fickle toy industry. Weird.

How do you create interest or desire around new products?

I don't create desire, the desire already exists. Fortunately in the toy industry, the companies themselves do a ton of marketing. So all you're really dealing with is merchandising properly and making sure the interested customer knows he can get the product from your shop. That's all SEO and communication.

Talk to me about “Urban Vinyl” or “designer toys” as they are also known.

In my niche, which is a subset of the overall toy industry, there is a bit more opportunity to set trends, because an art toy shop is basically half toy shop, half gallery. The gallery aspect involves curation, which is a trend-setting endeavor. Galleries must pick and choose hot (or, even better, soon-to-be-hot) artists and brands to represent within a very limited set of curated art products. Art toy shops definitely get to set trends and influence the market a bit. Toys R Us doesn't, it basically just stocks everything, and they let the consumer decide what they want.

This is almost a “what is the meaning of life” question for marketers: What makes something cool?

A lot of the cool factor of the art toy involves a surprise - the customer has never seen the item before they walk into the shop. It's so limited they've never heard of it or laid eyes on it. That uniqueness is desirable, as far as art toys are concerned, so just displaying and selling a unique art toy can serve to set trends moving forward. Better yet, it establishes the shop as the nexus of trends, so that people keep coming back to see what's in stock. This essentially dictates the shop owners' assertion of what's cool right now. And as we discussed before, what's cool right now will most likely NOT be cool next month (according to the consumer AND according to the shop owner/curator). Thus the churn, turnover, and shift in attention and purchasing habits on a monthly basis.

How do industry sub-niches such as yours affect the larger whole of the industry vertical?

I AM seeing a bit of the art toy industry rubbing off on the big-box toy stores. This only started within the past few years. I noticed that Kidrobot and Toy2R started popping up in smaller chains like Urban Outfitters a few years ago. Now you can find The Loyal Subjects items in much larger chain stores. That transition was not surprising, as those items are mostly licensed products. Licensed products are supported by mass appeal. However, the interesting thing for me to see over the past year is The Loyal Subjects rolling out "exclusives" to these chain stores, such that a particular chain would be the only set of stores stocking a particular item. This is the same concept that indie art toy shops have been enjoying for decades, magnified x 1,000 to support the production numbers required to supply a chain of hundreds of stores.

What makes your marketing/approach unique?

That is a challenge. My No. 1 goal is to create an excellent buying experience that the customer wants more of. I write to customers myself, and deal with issues myself. And I employ blunt, self-effacing honesty when I discuss issues with people. I refund customers when there's an issue, I try to remain calm and detached when dealing with negative situations.

Basically, I want to make shopping at my shop a pleasing experience.

That's the primary way to win customers. Slowly, by word of mouth.

I wish my clients understood that! (laughs)

As far as my own marketing goes online, I have a social media motto: "Be everywhere, all the time." I employ tools to deliver my content to as many platforms as possible. I have an iPhone which allows me to check incoming messages across 5+ social platforms all day long.

Finally, I don't operate in a vacuum. If I do not have a product, I will steer a customer to a shop that does. Often I can reach out personally to an artist or company and get something for a customer that might not normally be available. I am happy to pass off a sale to another member of my community. By doing this, I ensure the possibility of them doing the same for me. In short, I am operating not as Team Tenacious but rather as Team Art Toys. Whether the other shops and personalities in the industry are on board, I don't care. That's how I operate. Supporting everyone.

It’s a very helpful and authentic way of being — I dig that. I dig you.

It's a total concept of my place inside the community. I am always aware of where I fit in and whether I am helping move the industry forward.

It probably makes me a shitty businessman as well. But I long ago abandoned the idea of getting rich off of art toys, in a financial sense. I'd rather just build this thing up as high as it'll get to benefit us all.

Thanks Benny — You rock!

Here's a link to Benny's efforts with a Toy Designer on Kickstarter too! 
The "Four Horsies of the 'Pocalypse collectible art toy figures!"

For more on Benny & team see:

Tenacious Toys
Our Blog
Voicemail: (347) 223-5869
Skype: tenacioustoys 
Twitter - Blog - eBay - Facebook - Flickr - Tumblr - Instagram

Posted on February 3, 2015 and filed under Advertising, Business, Social Media, Strategy.

Just In Time For Xmas – THE Man-Mas List Is Here!

A Leatherman – The Leatherman is the greatest and coolest tool you can possible own. Mildly more expensive then your regular Swiss Army Knife and 10x more cool looking. But without a doubt, once you own one you'll wonder how you ever lived without it. Oh and last thing on this, the "Skeletool" version of the knife is the most pimp, hands down – look it up.

A MagLite – The thing about a MagLite that you will come to believe once you hold one, you could bludgeon a grizzly to death with it. Additionally, there's the extra benefit of inflated 'cop-like' confidence that comes from scorching the retinas out of anyone that you point it at. You will actually feel the necessity of patrolling your yard, at 2AM naked at least once after you've turned it on.

Ninja Foot Spikes, Hand Claws and a Grappling Hook – Regardless, every man once to know that if he had to he could grab a bag full of these items and ascend any structure for reasons that will remain his, and his alone.

A Laser Pointer – Yes, this little beauty can do it all, spoil a movie, turn a cat into a raving lunatic and of course "point." With that said there's nothing quite as pompous as pulling from your blazer with the elbow patches this trusty little annoyance simply to call detail to something you feel you cannot point at.

The Largest Outdoor Stainless Gas Grill Money Can Buy – While no you're not going to cook for more than 100 people over the weekend, that fact is you could. Plus, given then need to you could use one of these metal clad beauties as a battering ram (also on the list see below) should you need to storm a castle.

A Case Of Patrón Gold – For those of you who drink tequila with any frequencey you can just jump to the next item. Patron Tequila's while not the most expensive buy a long shot are not slouch either. The taste is smooth and even, made entirely from Blue Agave, Patrón comes in five varieties: Silver, Añejo, Reposado Gran Patrón Platinum and Gran Patrón Burdeos.

A Smoking Jacket, A Black And White Photo of A Bomber Pilot And Musket – These three items have created more bullshit stories about "back when things where not as they are now" with the recanting of legendary people, places and events that don't require a shred of proof to be believable.

A Chainsaw – Yes, but I live in an apartment. Be that as it may wuss, you NEED a chainsaw! Zombies, saving babies from burning buildings and of course the monthly shaping of the local topiary. The key to the chainsaw is it must be bigger than your neighbors and it must have orange on it somewhere – universal truth, look it up!

Universal Remote – All men and women should fight over simply one thing. They that controls the remote controls the entertainment destiny of the household. Therefore, if you're really going to master it you must do so with a Universal remote leaving no chance that you will have to loose your seat sifting for another controller.

A Bobcat – Let me remind you that you should have this. What are the chances that the zombies come? Slim, yes. Moat No? We we can remedy that and just about every convieable gardening project known to man with the versitle and über cool Bobcat. Why not a full-sized Caterpillar you say? I like the way you think.

A Kegarator – Let it not be said that safety must indeed come first. That being said what could be safer than bringing the spirit of your local watering hole to your living room? DUI – problem sovled. Liver damage? – mmmm, pass next question.

A Billiards/foosball/dart board & Air-hockey table – Yes, I group these, get over it! Every cave should have the proper entertainment. That being said this 'base' platform of pre-digital gaming units should keep you and yours knee deep in the competitive spirit.

A Wrist-rocket – OF COURSE YOUR COULD SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT! And while this laser version is indeed over the top, so is this list. But you all indeed need a wrist-rocket for those many times you will come out of your bunker in a post-apocalyptic atmosphere and be forced to hunt and feed yourself on oversize radioactive squirrels.

A-Team 1983 GMC G-Series (G-15) Van – Ah, you thought you would never need a van did you? That's because you've never had a van. Of course with that understood toss the laymen's ideal of a Honda Odyssey, or something equally as girlie away. You want the A-TEAM van, because "you ain't flying on no plane!"

Anything Made Soley from Carbon Fiber – We all know that carbon fiber is one of the lightest and strongest materials used for making really expensive things. Therefore, it makes the list in spades not only because it makes you think of sports cars immediately but the fact that it looks like Satan's KFC tablecloth doesn't hurt either.

A Super-Fast Motorcycle –  No one really needs a Super-Fast anything, but the fact is since we can remember we've thought whatever we where doing right now we could be doing it faster. So knowing that, as a spiritual fact, we should all be tearing ass around doing just shy of the speed of light.

Mini-Spy Camera(s) – Everyone's a voyeur in some capacity. ESPECIALLY, if it comes to something/one that they think is there own. This is why mini-spy camera's are so important to the paranoid psyche of everyone that thinks the baby sitter has shifty eyes and just might steal my kid and run to the Mexican black market. Just saying.

A Jeep (Pre 1986 and their stupid square headlights) – You know that one car you regret getting rid of? Mine was a 1981 CJ7, and it pains me to say it but I wish I still had that Jeep. For those of you who've never own and or driven a Jeep in the landscape for that which it was built, you couldn't possibly understand why these Jeeps are as great as they are. As they say, "It's a Jeep thing, you wouldn't understand." Own one before you die.

Exploding Bullets – These bullets are of course illegal but "expanding" bullets are not. Therefore, keep the rustic paranoid home fires burning with some of these little beauties!

A Battering Ram – While admittedly I'd love to say that I'm speaking of the Orc crushing rolling juggernauts made famous in Peter Jackson's Ring's trilogy – I'm not. More the SWAT like fun of blowing most doors apart with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee!

A Grizzly Bear Taxidermy Statue – This is that object at party's that will clear out the weak.

A Machete – This angry chunk of steel is the quintessential tool in any zombie killers and landscapers arsenal. Nothing lops the heads off of the undead better and with more style.

A Sawed-off Shotgun – Whether your a fan of Mad Max or just illegally shortened weapons this little beauty is for you! Hide it in your coat, or just whip it out to show a group of angry methed out losers loitering around a bus stop. Ah, good times.

A Recliner – It really need not be described how great this piece of furniture is. Let's just say should we be forced into a Monarchy I'm sure the thrown will kick back in style.

A Jacuzzi – There's some part in all of us that wants to have a giant Tom Selleck mustache, or Chuck Norris "complete package" respectfully. And one must then sit in a giant Jacuzzi after a long day of shooting at people or getting shot at. This is how every episode of 'The Fall Guy' ended, and if it didn't it was miscripted.

Two Doberman Pinschers Named "Zeus" & "Apollo" – For those who love and adore the serial television show Magnum P.I. you'll remember these two dogs roamed the grounds of Robin Masters and tried to bite everything in their site. So that's pretty cool, had I been Robin Masters.

A Hovercraft – You can't tell me that every-time you see an Orbitz ad that has the hovercraft guy you don't want one. Well maybe you don't, but if you had one I bet you'd think it was pimp.

A Jet-Pack – I know that I can safely end on this item. Unless you're a total milktoast noo-noo pants you want to own your own Jet Pack. I mean could there be anything cooler than quitting a job and saying "peace out bitches!" and flying due North while leaving a wake of calamity, dust and paperwork behind? I think not.

Posted on December 23, 2009 and filed under Entertainment, LOL, Soapbox.

"Tag" You're It!

Having ample eLearning in my portfolio I'm always intrigued with how the modern day education companies are taking their products to the next level. Recently, my wife Shannon read and purchased a product from Leap Frog called the "Tag Junior". This amazing little batch of technology was not only reasonably priced but had my 21 month old daughter Sydney playing in less than a day.

For you tech geeks you'll be amazed with the toy 'reader' that it comes with. It is a small laser/infrared (#AREA 51) scanner that references differentiation in the printing on each book. Then when you roll over and depress on a particular section of the page, say for instance an animal, noises and associated story elements come to life in audio. Mind you, you will need a computer (and internet connection) to download the book into the hand-held reading toy. It's no wonder it's been winning toy awards left and right. The key to learning toys is usability, and with the Tag Junior being aimed at the 2 - 4 year market and it passed my test – Sydney loves it!

God, this sounds like I got paid for this article – I wish.

Article Addendum:

Upon telling my wife that I posted this article she brought to my attention that the product also allows you to track your child's progress. It provides metrics based on activity, including but not limited to: favorite pages, and specific locations on pages most engaged with. You can even program the device to say your childs name – creepy.

For the price (approximately $35, plus additional books are about $10) these are a great tool for learning and tracking the progress of your child.

Posted on July 20, 2009 and filed under Parenting.