Toy companies realize that before youngsters are old enough to have an allowance or shop on their own, Mom and Dad (and Grandma and Grandpa) make most toy purchases. No surprise, then, that toy marketers are reaching out to adults, explaining the underlying appeal of their products and tweaking marketing to fit the decision-making considerations of both Moms and Dads.
Mattel is conducting consumer research with mothers in relation to its Big Wheels toy cars. "By talking to Mom, we are extending out the conversation to the actual purchaser," explains Mattel's vp for the North American boys' toys and games unit. Because most Moms didn't play with Hot Wheels when they were kids, they don't "get why cars, engines, and all the shapes and crashing and smashing are so cool," he adds.
So Mattel has hosted breakfasts for Moms, contacted Mommy bloggers, and used social media to spark dialogue, with the aim of turbo-charging Hot Wheels sales. Already, Hot Wheels has 1.1 million Facebook likes and 15,500 Twitter followers. An app is in the works to suggest which Hot Wheels purchases parents/grandparents can make to complement the cars and trucks already in the hands of their youngsters.
Meanwhile, understanding that Dads (and Grandpas) grew up with building block sets, while Moms (and Grandmas) grew up with Barbie, Mattel and Mega Blok have teamed up to create Barbie Mega Bloks (right). The idea is to leverage the venerable Barbie name and personality with building sets that play to the spatial thinking strengths of block sets.
Lego's extremely popular Lego Friends for girls (below) have helped pushed that Danish company's sales up 25% during the product line's first year on the market. Yes, the sets build on Lego's famous block reputation but also offer unique colors, characters, and story-telling possibilities that appeal to girls in particular.
Initial public reaction was mixed, with some Moms worried that pink blocks and cute characters bordered on gender stereotyping--but the unexpected sales success of Lego Friends suggests that girls like the product and parents like that their girls are building with blocks.