Magazine article Marketing

ANALYSIS: Are Retro Toys Stifling Innovation?

Magazine article Marketing

ANALYSIS: Are Retro Toys Stifling Innovation?

Article excerpt

As a host of toy relaunches appear, Ravi Chandiramani asks whether toy makers are simply playing it safe by appealing to nostalgia.

Adults are in for one roller coaster of a childhood nostalgia trip for the rest of this year. The world's leading toy manufacturers have been digging into the archives to reintroduce a glut of bygone properties to a new generation of children.

Hasbro with My Little Pony and Mattel with He-Man are heading the influx of retro toys into the market alongside Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Hulk, both being resurrected by Vivid Imaginations.

But is the toy industry tuning into a wider cultural trend with this obsession with the past, or is it more symptomatic of a reluctance to take risks in a sluggish economy?

For the manufacturers, retro toys have an in-built brand awareness that requires less marketing investment than completely fresh concepts Parental endorsement plays a big part in the purchasing decision. As Vivid Imaginations chief executive Nick Austin says: 'You get a multi-generational groundswell of affection when you relaunch the properties.'

John Salisbury, chairman of the UK Toy & Game Council, adds: 'Retro is a powerful thing. Anything we remember from a bygone era has already achieved half the marketing objective. People remember it with fondness.'

Salisbury estimates that relaunching a classic property automatically cuts the manufacturer's marketing spend by one-third compared with creating something afresh.

Hasbro has relaunched My Little Pony 20 years after it first arrived on the scene with 14 different pastel-shaded dolls. My Little Pony was the best-selling mini-doll from 1984 to 1990 and Hasbro says the brand has 97% awareness among UK females.

Changing expectations

According to senior brand manager Alpana Virani, this time it is aimed at a younger age group of three- to six-year-olds in recognition that girls above this age now demand more 'glitzy, glamorous fashion-led dolls'. A pounds 1m ad campaign for the ponies by BMP DDB breaks on August 25 and runs through to Christmas.

Arch-rival Mattel is appealing to the qualities of strength, courage and heroism in its resurrection of the Masters of the Universe action figures. …

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