Mining a rather unusual source of inspiration, Mattel has turned to reality TV for its latest new concept. The El Segundo, California-based toy manufacturer was recently featured on Donald Trump’s TV vehicle The Apprentice (Mark Burnett Productions), and the design team came away from the experience with a brand-new R/C line called Morph Machines that was dreamed up and developed by a competing team of entrepreneurs.
The range is comprised of four cars and trucks that have customizable, interchangeable parts. They’re designed to be smashed up and put back together again with new features like big-blown engines and pick-up beds. The Morph Machines line hits shelves in February 2005, with each SKU retailing for about US$30. Packaging will be co-branded with both the Tyco and The Apprentice logos.
The winning toy design was spawned in the first episode of the popular NBC reality show’s second season. Two teams of wannabe execs competing for a shot at running one of Trump’s companies for a year were paired up with Mattel’s design team to invent a toy for boys ages six to 12. The concepts were evaluated by Mattel experts including senior VP of marketing Mark Sullivan, VP of design Evelyn Viohl and senior VP of inventor relations Richie Wentraub.
After floating a couple of dud ideas, the winning team came up with the Morph Machines concept, which a test group of boys glommed on to immediately, creating what Wentraub called a clear winner.
The toyco wasn’t expecting to get a new toy out of the deal, just some excellent publicity for its design team. But since the winning team’s idea was such a good fit for the Tyco brand, the company tested the line with another kid focus group after the show’s taping and found it was still a hit with boys.