Toy Treatment: Bilingual Playthings Mean Big Business for Industry Bent on Marketing to Latinos

By Frenck, Moses | ADWEEK, February 19, 2007 | Go to article overview

Toy Treatment: Bilingual Playthings Mean Big Business for Industry Bent on Marketing to Latinos


Frenck, Moses, ADWEEK


Before the 2006 holiday season began, Toys "R" Us President Ron Boire announced the five hottest trends that would influence shoppers' toy-buying decisions. Among Star Wars Legos and Blue Man Group Percussion Tubes appeared an assortment of bilingual toys such as electronic language activity center Pink Nitro Notebook.

Products that promote dual-language skills are in growing demand, said the retailer, after researching and evaluating thousands of new toys in preparation for the Christmas shopping period.

"Without a doubt, bilingual toys have grown tremendously, especially over the past three years. Consumers want these items," says Jim Silver, editor in chief and co-publisher of Toy Wishes magazine. "It really originated with Dora, and it's a trend that's certainly increasing."

Toys that boast English- and Spanish-language capabilities have made strong gains in the past year, reflecting the large number of young Latinos in the United States whose families speak Spanish--and English-speaking non-Latino children whose parents want them to learn Spanish. The fact that the most popular toy-giving season gave weight to this booming area underlines a growing trend year-round.

Research points to Hispanics spending more money on toys than their general-market counterparts. With a surging population comes growing affluence, and Latinos have larger households in which the child is the focal point--and in need of playthings. Plus, Latinos are a younger demographic with grandparents still in the workforce. According to Simmons Fall 2006 National Consumer Survey, 53 percent of Hispanic adults, or 14.8 million, purchased toys or games in the past 12 months, with 9.5 million having purchased toys or games for children under 12.

Hispanic adults also shop at the same stores for toys as the general market, though in higher numbers at The Disney Store and KB Toys, according to Simmons National Consumer Survey. (See chart, page 4)

With so many children, and more people with money to spend on toys, marketing to Hispanics has not been ignored by the $22 billion toy industry. Toymakers are taking a multipronged approach to reach this market, including creating multicultural products that resemble Latinos, products that speak Spanish, products based on successful properties popular with Latinos and, of course, developing dedicated Hispanic marketing campaigns.

From Barbie to Elmo--even venerable board games Monopoly and Candy Land--toys increasingly are being made and marketed with Latinos in mind. Still, despite some hefty competition, semi-new kid on the block Dora the Explorer has been the definitive "Hispanic" merchandising property in the past few years.

DORA INFLUENCE INESCAPABLE

Nickelodeon's children's program Dora the Explorer, which features the 7-year-old Spanglish-speaking Latina, has had a less specious marketing plan by virtue of the popularity of the TV show. It has been a favorite of the preschool set since debuting in 2000, and the Dora character has been canonized a darling by toy manufacturers after gaining unstoppable traction in the years that followed the show's launch.

Now in its fifth year of licensed products and with more than $5.3 billion in retail sales, Dora has made the transition from top seller to global mega brand. There are hundreds of Dora products, and they go way beyond toys, including Dora the Explorer Campbell's Soup, Dora the Explorer Yoplait yogurt and even Dora the

Explorer navel oranges. Sales from this past holiday season launched Dora into the No.1 spot as the top toy license, according to Port Washington, N.Y.-based industry market research firm The NPD Group. That's in addition to Dora the Explorer named Property of the Year by the Toy Industry Association (TIA) for the second straight year. The property led 2006 sales for Fisher-Price, with Dora's Talking Cash Register and Fairy Wishes Dora chosen as two of the most-popular toys of the season. …

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