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4 Manufacturing Problems all Toymakers Face (and How to Conquer Them)

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Part 3 of the Stuffies Story: Filling a Pocket in the Plush Toy Market

As the creators of Stuffies—huggable plush animals each with seven top-secret pockets—Marketing Architects found that the role of toymaker comes with its own unique set of marketing characteristics that can affect the manufacturing process.

  1. Toys are for parents (and grandparents). Well, most toys will be played with by kids, but it’s the people who are purchasing your toys that need to find them appealing if you want to make a sale.

    Fortunately, Stuffies has science backing up their appeal to customers. Ethologist Konrad Lorenz found that a certain set of physical features (called baby schema) is perceived as cute by humans. Those features—big eyes, large head, chubby cheeks—just happen to be some of the most significant qualities making up Stuffies’ signature look.

    So while parents and grandparents find the Stuffies “schema” alluring, kids are drawn to their other fun features, like the secret pockets, zippered mouths and fuzzy, soft bodies. The bottom line is if your toy appeals to every target audience (both the buyers and the players), then you’ll be in the best position to sell.
  1. Toys are seasonal. Unlike anti-aging beauty creams and walking canes that are popular year-round (only seeing a marginal lift in sales during the holiday season), toys are on the extreme end of the seasonality spectrum. The majority of toy sales are made during the fourth quarter during the holiday buying season. You’ve got to make sure all your ducks are in a row or you’re not going to be ready.

    If you’re creating a new plush toy that means the design work should be finished 12-18 months out from the holiday season you plan on selling during. Production should be complete in the first quarter while shipment of your product from the manufacturing factories should be happening the second quarter. If you aren’t in the final steps of boxing and warehousing your toys during the third quarter, the holiday sales spike just might get the better of you.

    One of our post-manufacturing vendors wasn’t ready for the explosive growth of Stuffies sales during the holiday period of 2012, which is why Marketing Architects took control of warehouse operations management. Our team pulled together and ultimately created more efficient operation processes for pre-packaging, corrugated box assembly automation, taping, pallet-wrapping and label application.
  1. Toys are entertainment. The hot toys of the season are a lot like blockbuster hit movies. If a movie can survive a second weekend in the theaters, people will keep on going to it. If a toy becomes the “IT” toy of the holiday season, demand is not going to stop. Why? Because there are no substitutes. Remember Tickle Me Elmo? No other Sesame Street character compared. Having a wildly popular toy is a good thing as long as you are able to manage the backside inventory accordingly (during the high and low periods).
  1. Toys that are harder to make are harder to scale. Typically, consumers like well-made, quality products. That’s not to say cheap, two-step manufactured products don’t sell well, but it is definitely something to consider as you plan for future scalability. Labor-intensive toys are hard to scale. Often, manufacturing companies will offer cost reductions when a business requests a higher quantity of product. However, volume won’t get you a price cut when you’re product includes human labor.

    For instance, Stuffies are considered a high-quality product—they are each hand-sewn by individuals during the manufacturing process. This makes it more difficult to run two shifts on the same line because every individual has their own manufacturing settings for their stations. Other products that are strictly machine-made can be manufactured with less human labor involved.

    As long as you are conscious of the manufacturing process and how it relates to cost then you can make adjustments in order to best reach your business goals.

Don’t make the No. 1 toymaker’s worst mistake: poor marketing. Instead, call Marketing Architects and tells us about your product. We have nearly two decades of experience in direct response marketing that we’ll use to help you market the next Tickle Me Elmo.

Read more in our series about how Marketing Architects created one of Amazon's best-selling plush toys:

Part 1 – 3 Unexpected Realities About Developing a Product

Part 2 – Product Developers: Did You Start With "Why"

Part 4 – How Do You Make People Love Your Product?

Part 5 – How Do You Know If You're Ready for Mass Retail?

Brent Longval

By Brent Longval

Chief Financial Officer

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