Although toys are the marquee product at the American International Toy Fair, they are really just the focal point of a much larger panorama of marketing strategies, entertainment programs and emerging cultural trends that are on display at the annual event in New York City. Toy manufacturers are now closely associated with a variety of other industries, from production studios to marketing companies to ad agencies and retailers. As a result, Toy Fair has become a kind of bellwether of upcoming trends and a place where a wide cross-section of people come to shop not just for toys, but also for insights into what’s new and hot.
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For mid-sized toy company Eden, the quality of its product is the key ingredient in its marketing strategy at Toy Fair.
‘You know the phrase `the proof is in the pudding’?’ says Jennifer Miller, sales promotion manager at Eden. ‘If you say you’re one thing but you manufacture something else, that’s not the best way of persuading the customer. We say we’re the highest quality and we manufacture and design that way.’
The 59-year-old privately owned company is attending its fourth consecutive Toy Fair. Eden’s products include soft toys, dolls, musical and rattle toys, interactive preschool toys, crib mobiles, nursery feeding sets, nursery wooden lamps and room decor. It creates licensed products for such properties as The Beatrix Potter Collection, Madeline, Paddington Bear, Arthur and Corduroy.
Although Eden has traditionally focused on creating toys for book-based properties, this year at Toy Fair it’s introducing a line of toys based on Nickelodeon’s preschool hit Blue’s Clues. Eden also recently acquired a license to create toys based on the BBC preschool show Teletubbies, which will be premiering on PBS in April.
‘We have a rich history of experience that guides us as to what the consumer is going to respond to,’ says Richard J. Miller, president and CEO of Eden. ‘From a particular Eden point of view, we know that quality of product, safety of product and differentiated design are the key ingredients.’
In addition to the Blue’s Clues products, Eden is introducing an Arthur Discovery Set, which includes a plush frog, a magnifying glass and a map in a carrying case, a Franklin puppet and an Anniversary Paddington bear.
Eden’s marketing objectives at Toy Fair include increasing awareness among retailers of the major three segments of the Eden product line: Eden-brand infant, nursery and toddler products; merchandise based on classic children’s books like Pat the Bunny and Spot; and merchandise based on television and movie properties, such as Madeline, Teletubbies, Blue’s Clues and Franklin.
‘Our marketing objective is to convince better and upper moderate retailers that Eden is the leading marketer of quality children’s toys,’ says Richard Miller.
The focus on quality is driven by both retailers and consumers. Richard Miller says retailers at Toy Fair have become more demanding over the years.
‘The retailers reflect their customers’ insistence on high-quality toys that are more beneficial to their children,’ he says.
Educational and developmental toys are becoming more significant for Eden. The company is introducing a new toy in its Little Lessons line for infants at Toy Fair.
‘Consumers are driven more and more by developmental learning features on their toys because they want to give products to their kids that are good for them,’ says Jennifer Miller.
‘Often, the consumer is from a dual-income family, which creates greater disposable income and the desire to have toys be more developmental,’ according to Richard Miller. ‘Accordingly, the consumer wants greater value created by more features in their toy purchases.’
Toy Fair has become more significant for Eden over the years, in part because of the independent retailers who attend the event.
‘We’ve seen a resurgence in the independent toy store. And we believe that they are going to be more significant players in future years,’ says Richard Miller.
As retailers become more cautious in selecting properties to pursue, Richard Miller is banking Eden’s success on ‘selecting those properties that have long-term staying power and a long-term commitment from the licensor.