Monday, March 05, 2012

OP/ED: Hey, marketing/PR/design toy people, just a thought -

After another Toy Fair, it got me thinking.  I've listened/read to many a pitch about this or that product, and it always boils down to a few target markets in the toy business, parents and kids.  Either the advertising/initiatives/campaigns are geared to the fantasy roleplay of a child's imagination that gets them to bug their parents for a toy, or the parent thinks their child might be interested in said toy.

Well, what about us?  For years I've heard that the NIC and other communities just do not make up enough of a population to necessitate any marketing.



 I wonder just how true that is.  Worldwide, I'd like to say that interest in blaster-based games has increased exponentially.  Sure, there are mainstays like airsoft and paintball (where applicable) but the fact that Nerf/related product blogs has grown exponentially in years says a lot.  There's interest, there's people paying attention, and I think it's time some of the quoted talking heads I've seen doing news pieces or whatever on toy blasters need to be on notice.

Like some cartoons, not all toys are "Just For Kids." 

I saw this piece a months ago (thanks to the Aussie Canberra crew for linking this on their FB) - http://www.timetoplaymag.com/toys/2814/the-maya-group/xploderz-xranger-2000/ - and while I respect the Time to Play team (seen them, never had a chance to actually speak with them) for their work, this little quote regarding Xploderz made my eyebrow raise a little,

Xground Pounder


"Who It’s For
The Xploderz XRanger 2000 is for ages 8 and up. We think that this will have a special appeal to older boys, even college-age kids."

I'm sorry, what?  College age?  I tried the Xranger (and the Xploderz stuff in general), and... well, if I got this in school chances are it would have been donated to some needy family or theater kid for costuming.  In fact, the blasters look like space ships more than anything designed with ergonomics in mind so it could probably fill in for a student sci-fi film.  Between the 4 hour wait-time (Sea Monkeys, anyone) for extra ammo and the overall unreliability of the blaster (it shoots when it wants to, even moreso with the Xground Pounder) and the lack of accuracy (due to the pull-release mechanism) to simple issues like BLOCKING YOUR SIGHTS WITH A HIGH-CAPACITY MAGAZINE (again, Xground Pounder)... I wasn't a fan.  My mother taught me, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" but in a case like this, it's buyer misinformation. 

And I don't think this was in bad form.  For almost $40 the Xranger and Xground Pounder are not worth the experience, and on a college kid's non-budget there's a lot better stuff out there.  The Time to Play team (or many other bloggers out there) play with blasters like I do, such as with the Tacticool Tag and Gaming Society of Chicagoland (http://ttagschicago.blogspot.com).

I exchanged some emails with a company about samples they sent, and told them that the blaster they sent me was not functioning well, and the company wanted to go over what was happening.  One thing they mentioned was feedback like mine was good because they get an idea of how users actually deal with their blasters outside of shooting targets in their room

So... what do they imagine kids are even doing once they take these out?  Sure, shooting targets is fun but we all know the first thing we did when we got the new toy home was aim it at a sibling or our buddy (NOT RECOMMENDED winkwinknudgenudge).

Which brings me to the point.  Between all these communities like Mall Wars, HvZ, and the already existent aftermarket community, it's not worth a company's time to market to us a little bit?  Nerf's done a pretty decent job of outreach to bloggers, Zing Toys, and Vapor, but they're the only ones.  At places like Toy Fair, people ask about my readership.  When I mention all the places that show up on my analytics (and that one hit from Uzbekistan) their eyes grow huge.  We're out there.  We want to spend money.  LET US BUY YOUR BLASTERS.  TELL US ABOUT THEM.  MAKE THEM AWESOME.  If there's one thing I've learned these past few months is that the Internet becomes a fantastic bargaining chip.  Think of all the recent internet events where with one keystroke, items go viral, facebook and twitter blow up, and then a company either admits fault or disappears.  Oh, hey Ocean Marketing and Papa John's.  Rush Limbaugh, how's that apology for the Fluke going?  Miss your sponsors, right?

Our words have power.  Our web presence has power.  We want to have toys for all ages, that play awesomely, and keep us coming back for more.  We're not just a niche market anymore.  We are a viable share of the market.

And I'm currently working on a way to prove it quantitatively.  Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Berkut99 said...

I would argue that this is what N-Strike Elite is. It's the company understanding that the demographic that they must cater to has changed significantly. If there's one thing that Xploders can have to their credit, its convincing the Nerf design and marketing teams that long-range, high-velocity projectiles don't immediately produce a lawsuit. Now that the market's been proven the team can allow themselves, with a little creative construction, to create a blaster that is directly marketed to people in the 18-24 age bracket; its just not saying so outright. Look at the commercials, look at the boxes, look at the attitude--its all pointing towards that shift in marketing demographic.

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