For a toy company like California-based Jakks Pacific that has been weathering stormy sales numbers throughout the year, there’s hope on the other side. Jakks is crossing over into the new year with an interactive toy strategy in place, which it says is in line with changing consumer play patterns, as the company tries to pick itself up from a 27% drop in sales and a company-wide restructure that occurred in 2013.
This week marked the launch of the miWorld Mall App, which uses augmented reality and iD recognition tech to sync with physical miWorld playsets. miWorld offers branded play environments where girls can build and collect models of real-world stores that can then be transported into the coinciding app. The concept has already been proven successful by Skylanders and Disney Infinity, and even by Jakks itself with its Dreamplay line, but with miWorld, the company is banking on the power of tween girls and recognizable brands like Claire’s, Dairy Queen, OPI, Sprinkles Cupcakes and Sweet Factory to boost the bottom line.
“We know girls of this age are really interested in customization, so the experience is on trend,” says Jakks SVP of marketing Jill Nordquist. “What we’ve done here is taken an action that makes sense for this consumer.”
On it own, the free app offers mini games, avatars and the ability to browse through brand partners and customize their stores. When a playset, which runs from US$15 to US$20, is thrown into the mix and held up in camera mode, the avatar will appear within the environment and proceed to get its nails done or go to Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone, for example. The three-sided playsets are packed with their own miniature physical branded items.
With more than half of its portfolio comprised of licensed partnerships, Jakks is viewing miWorld as a unique marketing ploy for third parties.
“These brands are really excited about girls having a deeper experience with their products. We’ve captured specific details like the way the a cupcake is frosted. It’s a lot of fun for them,” says Nordquist.
“This is a key initiative for us, as the future of the industry lies in this kind of convergence of tech and toys. More five-year-olds know how to master a smart device than tie a shoe. We know they are on smart devices and we also know they still love to play with physical toys. And parents don’t want kids on smart devices all the time, so this is good medium.”
Nordquist adds that miWorld is opening the flood gates for more toy-integrated virtual products, and as the company moves forward into 2014 more offerings like this are expected to be in store.