The power of experiential for toy brands

Duncan McCaslin, managing director of agency Kreate, takes a look at the toy and games sector and how experiential is becoming increasingly fundamental to its success.

Hot Wheels' 'Epic Race' brand activation
Hot Wheels' 'Epic Race' brand activation

Countless pieces of research have been conducted to outline the connection between play, and the positive effects it has on early childhood development and learning. Studies consistently show strong links between toys and games that encourage creativity and problem-solving in children, and their ability to excel in social, cognitive, physical, and language-based tasks.

Today, influential brands are introducing new ways for children to learn and grow through play, with toys designed to expand their minds, engage their senses, and enhance their understanding of the world around them.

Toy brand leaders

Recently, Fisher Price unveiled an incredible video as part of a new marketing scheme that offers an insight into its study that explores the link between playtime and learning – a process that it claims begins from the moment of birth. The mini retrospective film "Film by You" features footage from 25 families across six different countries, and "celebrates" parents' abilities to unlock their child's potential through play. 

Other toy brands are also taking measures to introduce educational play to the lives of children. Hasbro has also shown its commitment to creating a comprehensive experience for children by allowing youngsters to get involved testing and creating toys at its Funlab. Not only is this a unique and intelligent way to get audiences involved with a brand but it's also a fantastic way to leverage first-hand experiences from children so as to create better, more effective products.

Toy trends

While toys for educational purposes have been around for some time, such as dolls that help children to learn the alphabet, or wooden blocks that assist babies with special recognition – the designs available today are on a whole new level. Take Braille bricks, Lego-style bricks that have been designed as a way to help blind children learn how to read in a way that's both fun and engaging. Though the toys are currently part of a limited run, they're brimming with potential for other manufacturers to pick them up in the future.

Cubetto by Primo Toys are simple coloured blocks that teach children how to programme toys and learn the basics of coding while they're still young – meaning that we can begin to teach the computer masterminds of the future from an incredibly early age. And Fabulous Beasts is a toys-to-life game experience that blends digital strategy with table-top dexterity to create an incredible option for gameplay unlike anything the world has seen before. Small figurines are placed on a platform, and those figurines magically appear in the game.

The importance of brand awareness 

Of course, simply developing these innovative solutions for learning through play isn't enough, brands need to generate the awareness and engagement required to capture the attention of parents and children alike. That's part of the reason why companies are utilising experiential marketing techniques to support the launch of new toy ideas.

For instance, Thomas and Friends used the shell of double-decker bus to create a unique retail experience where people from across the country could take part in content and activities designed to remind them of everything they'd loved about the Thomas Character for the last 70 years.

Hot Wheels, created an "Epic Race" campaign where children could race their favourite toys on incredible tracks as a way of getting involved with a hands-on brand experience. The result was an interaction with more than 17,000 consumers in nine days, as well as 100% positive brand feedback.

After all, while love may be the most important factor in supporting development, according to a Fisher Price international study, the tools that parents and caretakers use to inspire and motivate children also have a role to play, and if brands can use experiential marketing to prompt emotion and loyalty in their customers, they're far more likely to make a lasting impression. 

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