Wonder what Santa’s elves are working on for this year’s holiday delivery? Or maybe next year?
Would you bet on dolls over remote control trucks? Noisemakers or flying robots?
I haven’t been hanging out with jolly old St. Nick, but I can fill in a lot of details about what new toys designers and manufacturers are envisioning for the next few gift-giving years.
With the help of some casual market research and my brand of Patent Analytics, I can paint a broad picture of patent activities around different toy families (dolls, trucks, music, and the like) that may show up on a Christmas list for Santa soon.
It’s no surprise that the global toy industry is hugely competitive. And everyone is betting on the next NEW toy. My research showed that there are more than 5 MILLION patents or applications every year worldwide. Plus, there is about 14 percent annual growth in the toy area – not counting similar areas such as sporting goods, games or playground equipment.
My findings and these charts are based on statistical analysis examining international toy patents and applications. The actual numbers are not as important as the overall comparisons and unless stated otherwise, this data is for 2005 -2015.
1. Dolls Rule
Dolls are the clear winner at the North Pole, followed by aircraft and flying toys. Toy developers have been super busy reimaging and reinventing everything about dolls and how they are manufactured. Innovations range from hair and torso to arms, legs, and how the dolls move, even the addition of electronics and music. These super-charged dolls remind me of the evolution of robots, a growing entertainment area I wrote about recently.
2. Mattel Builds on Old Favorites, New Ideas
Most of the new toys under your tree are likely to be from Mattel, by far the busiest developer of toy innovations in this 10-year data snapshot. Mattel has a solid lock on Christmas lists with Barbie, the Toy Story franchise, the Disney Princess line, and my favorite, Hot Wheels.
The closest competition when it comes to patent activity in the toy world is Tomy Co. Ltd. You may not recognize the name, but they are behind new toys based on the Disney movie, The Good Dinosaur. Other lines are Battroborg and the long-lived Pokémon franchise with a mind-boggling number of new action figures and plush toys immortalizing Pikachu and pals.
Interestingly, Sony and Yamaha show up as major players on this list. I feel safe in predicting musical and electronic innovations in Santa’s pack for years to come.
3. China Outpaces Everyone
There is a good chance that the Shiny, Plastic, Battery-Powered Whatsit under your tree was patented, developed, or manufactured in China. You may not be surprised by this but you may be startled to learn that only 15 percent of world toy patenting activity is occurring in the U.S. (note that how these numbers are established varies by country).
If Santa was one of my clients with a new toy idea, you can be sure I would be helping him check out global competitive intelligence, not just U.S. opportunities.
So, without going too far out on a limb, I feel pretty confident predicting that the busiest elves are working on a Mattel Teen Princess Doll Helicopter developed and manufactured in China. After all, the Musical Tandem Princess Bike is already here!
As long as the Cabbage Patch craze doesn’t come back, I’ll be happy.
Happy holidays to you and yours.
P.S. Wonder why I am toying around with Patent Analytics for Santa?
These statistics were inspired by a recent report I prepared about the toy industry over the last decade, but these same methods can be focused on more specific segments or technologies as the need fits.
I recommend these benefits of Patent Analytics during the innovation process:
• Affords early risk identification, giving you more time to react.
• Provides early opportunity identification, giving you more choice on what to pursue.
• Delivers faster and more appropriate IP and company strategies.
• Accelerates your R&D cycle and your time to market.
• Reduces your costs.
Images and captions:
Disney Frozen Anna and Elsa’s Musical Bicycle (for sale on the Mattel website) rolls together a lot of the trends I’m seeing.
Pokemon Action Figure Charizard Y (for sale on the Tomy website) doesn’t actually fly, but his wings beat and jaws snap.