Flaunting ‘rules,’ following trends and having fun
I just came back from the Chicago Toy Fair and wrote about some of the hottest new toys I saw in my last post. Aside from the fun for kids, there were many takeaways for inventors and entrepreneurs that I’ll share with you here. These perspectives are all worth considering, but they may not all work for you.
1. Go for the unexpected
Steven Fink from Bang Zoom Design delivered a fantastic keynote during the awards portion of the show. The key takeaway for us was his description of the most interesting toy he ever developed, the Amazing I-ballz™.
This hilarious toy is basically a farting eyeball in a small fish tank. Even more hilarious is the reason it was his favorite: he was shocked that it made it through Mattel’s bureaucracy to end up on store shelves! Would you buy this for your child? The box says “your interactive eyeball pal” is “full of rude surprises.”
2. Flaunt social ‘rules’
Reyn Guyer, the developer of Twister™ and Nerf™, was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award at the TAGIE awards. One of the paths to his success has been to explore ideas from activities that may not be socially acceptable. Twister, for example, was initially rejected as the game forced participants of the opposite sex to be closer than was socially acceptable at that time.
They managed an end-run around cultural values when they got the game on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Carson’s guest was Eva Gabor and they played the game on TV, spurring heavy demand starting the next day. Nerf was another success for Guyer. Of course, playing ball indoors was not appropriate but with Nerf, they bypassed this traditional limitation. Heads up!
3. Find opportunities in adjacent markets
In Guyer’s honor, the Play Chic fashion show at the end of the awards had many noteworthy game themes including my personal favorite, pictured. Look closely to see a black silhouette playing the game of Twister.
The lesson here is that adjacent markets offer opportunities. It can make sense to move your idea into a separate market or one that can synergize with your original selection. These ideas are often overlooked and not usually sought out. That’s unfortunate as I’ve found that many adjacent markets offer better opportunities than the original idea and may provide a way to get two or more streams of revenue from a single idea.
4. Replay the ‘good old days’
But wait, there’s one more lesson with Twister and Nerf: Nostalgia! Twister is a game I remember from my youth. While I might need to see a doctor after playing it today, I still have fond memories of the game and would be reliving my youth should I buy or recommend this to someone else.
5. Defining success beyond $$$
Andy Forrest, Forrest-Pruzan Creative, played guitar and sang a song during the awards dinner. What made the song memorable was its theme about small inventors who would consider themselves successful when they were listed as the inventor on the side of the product box.
His refrain “put my name on the box” spoke deeply to how inventors treasure publicity and acknowledgment of their hard work and creativity. This helps us claw back the definition of success from “making lots of money” to one of a more humble “I want to be publicly credited with inventing a product.”
This is a terrific lesson for companies practicing open innovation as the “cost” of outside ideas might need to be redefined from one based solely on money and to one that should include an acknowledgment.
6. Nostalgia + customization
An oldie, but goodie, that basically looks like my room when I was growing up: Legos ™. Legos hit both the nostalgia and the customization angles as it allows kids, and curious parents, to build their own creations.
7. Don’t forget packaging!
Another good reminder from my childhood was this play space where you could customize your own cardboard box. I was reminded of how fun the packaging could be when my son was only 2 years old and he opened all of his Christmas toys only to play with the boxes!
BTW- I never actually lived in a cardboard box, although I did spend many hours inside my fort made from a discarded refrigerator box.
8. Collaborate when it makes sense
Being an inventor/entrepreneur is difficult in so many regards. So why not look for some leverage where possible? One way to do this is to collaborate with an existing company/brand, especially if they’re well-known.
For example, if you desire to make space-related costumes or toys, you should consider whether there’s an opportunity to license the ever-popular Star Wars™ theme.
Playing no favorites with neither side, I had my picture taken with both sides of the galactic forces since I don’t know which one will reign victorious in the upcoming Star Wars sequel Rogue One.
9. Make sure you have proper licensing
While you’re inventing, building and designing, don’t forget to license the Intellectual Property belonging to others! This is important as many inventors don’t realize that their novel idea is often built upon those of others. Should those ideas be protected by copyrights, patents, or other forms of intellectual property, your idea could land you in court as the recipient of a lawsuit. Plan ahead and be safe.
10. Dial up the fun
Finally, and most importantly, have fun! Being an inventor should be enjoyable, especially if your future product is designed for fun times.
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