Marketing for the toy industry isn’t all fun and games

The rapid ascent of the toy and entertainment IP company Toikido within its industry has certainly been impressive. Founded during lockdown in 2020, the company is now an eight figure business and is partnered with companies such as Netflix, Skydance, Apple and RoBlox. In 2022 it sold over 20 million toys across 100 markets worldwide and intends to build on its success even further this year with the launch of its own computer game Piñata Smashlings which will be accompanied by a range of animated content as well as toys and books.

We sat down with Andy Matjaszek, the company’s resident marketing guru to discuss the company’s growth, the challenges that startups face in the highly saturated toy market, and his own advice to leverage marketing for business success.

What’s your background?

15 years in entertainment, video games and consumer products. First started working within the online video game space in 2007, launching Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG). 

As online games developed and their appeal widened, I worked for Mind Candy and Moshi Monsters. I was an early-stage employee who helped to conceive the global marketing strategy for the game which grew to over 80m registered users worldwide between 2010-2015. 

Post Mind Candy, I ran my own consultancy, working with major entertainment brands across video games, film, and sport by building marketing campaigns that delighted fan bases while growing commercial value. 

Today, I work as the Head of Marketing for Toikido, a fun and fast paced entertainment business. I’m proud to work with a team of great people who pride themselves on being kind, while developing new IPs which push the boundaries of both digital and physical play. Check out our first in-house IP, Piñata Smashlings, launching on Roblox from June this year!

Why did you decide a career in toys and entertainment was for you?

It's a fun and rewarding industry. Creating toys and games that bring joy and happiness to people, especially children like my six-year-old son, Zac, is incredibly fulfilling. 

Additionally, the entertainment industry offers a wide range of creative opportunities whereas a marketing professional you get to remain at the cutting edge of your field.

Tell us about Toikido?

Toikido was founded in 2020 by Darran Garnham, with a mission to build remarkable brands. These can be creative brands we develop in-house or by helping external brands to grow their audiences and execute globally.

Our focus to date has been taking successful gaming IPs into toys, merchandise, and promotions for their fan bases to enjoy.

We also have partnerships with Hollywood and media platforms. Last year we sold close to 20 million products across 75 countries in over 100,000 stores.

How has the toy industry changed over the past decade?

Increase in technology-driven toys: With the rapid advancement of technology, there has been a surge in demand for tech-driven toys such as drones, virtual reality games, and interactive robots. The toys not only entertain but also educate and engage children in new and exciting ways.

Greater focus on diversity and inclusion: The toy industry has become more inclusive, with a greater emphasis on diversity and representation. Manufacturers are creating toys that reflect different races, ethnicities, genders, and abilities, giving children a more realistic and diverse view of the world.

Rise of e-commerce: The rise of online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay have disrupted traditional retail channels, providing consumers with more options and easier access to a wider variety of toys.

Growth of environmentally friendly toys: With the increasing concern for the environment, more companies are producing eco-friendly and sustainable toys. These toys are made from recycled materials and are designed to have a minimal impact on the environment.

Increasing emphasis on STEM education: The toy industry has placed a greater emphasis on STEM education with toys that are designed to teach children about science, technology, engineering, and math. STEM toys not only teach children valuable skills but also promote creativity and problem-solving abilities.

Overall, the toy industry has seen significant changes in recent years, driven by advances in technology, changing consumer preferences, and a greater emphasis on social responsibility.

What is the secret source behind the company’s success?

We are fortunate to have a very good standing in gaming, sport, the creator economy and family entertainment, something we nurture and never take for granted.

We are also blessed as a team to be surrounded by our kids – they bolster our trend spotting - they are the most honest members of the team, telling us what’s hot and most importantly not. We get to see daily what’s grabbing their attention (online and in the playground).

It’s not just about spotting trends though, it’s about cutting through the noise and jumping in fully when rights have been acquired. It’s important to identify opportunities that fit our Toikido DNA and will be “fun” to work on and where we can offer true value and speed to market. Each brand is given our full attention and has an owner in the business the ‘Vision Keeper’. 

What’s the biggest challenge marketing for the toy industry?

Short selling season: The toy industry typically experiences a short selling season, with most sales occurring during the holiday periods. This means that manufacturers and retailers must make a significant portion of their annual revenue in a short period of time, making effective marketing campaigns critical.

Competition: The toy industry is highly competitive, with numerous manufacturers vying for consumer attention. This makes it challenging to create marketing campaigns that stand out and differentiate products from competitors.

Age-specific target audiences: Unlike many other consumer products, toys have a very specific target audience - children of a certain age group. This requires toy marketers to create marketing campaigns that are age-appropriate and engaging for children, while also appealing to parents who are the ultimate purchasers.

Safety concerns: Toy marketers must address concerns over the safety of toys, particularly those targeted at young children. This can include ensuring that products are free from harmful chemicals, meet safety standards, and include appropriate warning labels.

Evolving consumer preferences: Consumer preferences and trends can change quickly, making it challenging for toy marketers to stay on top of the latest trends and adapt their marketing strategies accordingly.

To overcome these challenges, toy marketers need to be creative, flexible, and responsive to consumer needs and preferences. They must also be mindful of safety concerns and stay up to date with the latest trends in the industry.

Do you have any industry marketing secrets you can share?

There are no secrets…

Focus on creating an emotional connection: Toys are often associated with happy childhood memories, so it's essential to create a strong emotional connection with consumers. Use storytelling and relatable characters to create a bond with the target audience.

Leverage influencers (content creators): Influencer marketing is proving to be an effective way to promote toys, particularly via YouTube and TikTok. Build relationships with influencers who have a strong following within your target demographic to create authentic and engaging content.

Use data to inform marketing strategies: Collect and analyse data to gain insights into consumer behaviour and preferences. Use this information to create targeted marketing campaigns that reach the right audience with the right message.

Create engaging content: Use video and interactive content to showcase the features and benefits of your toys. Create compelling product demonstrations and unboxing videos to generate excitement and interest.

Build relationships with retailers: Toy manufacturers need to work closely with retailers to ensure their products are prominently displayed and marketed effectively. Build relationships with key retail partners and work collaboratively to create marketing campaigns that drive sales.

Create memorable experiences: Use experiential marketing to create memorable experiences for consumers. Host events, create pop-up shops, and create interactive displays that allow consumers to engage with your products in fun and unique ways.

It's important to tailor marketing strategies to the specific needs and preferences of your target audience and stay up to date with the latest trends and technologies in the industry.

How is technology changing the face of toy marketing?

Technology is having a significant impact on toy marketing, both in terms of how products are marketed and how they are designed. 

Digital advertising: Technology has made it possible to reach a wider audience through digital advertising, including social media, influencer marketing, and online video platforms. Toy marketers can use these platforms to create targeted campaigns that reach specific demographics and showcase products in engaging and interactive ways.

Interactive and augmented reality toys: Technology is enabling the creation of more interactive and immersive toys, including those that incorporate augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. These toys allow children to engage with the toy in new and exciting ways, and toy marketers can use these features to create unique marketing campaigns that showcase the toy's features.

Online shopping: The rise of e-commerce has changed how consumers shop for toys. Online marketplaces and toy retailers are leveraging technology to create more personalised shopping experiences, including product recommendations, user-generated reviews, and customised promotions.

Social media engagement: Toy marketers are increasingly using social media to engage with consumers and build brand awareness. Social media platforms provide a direct line of communication between marketers and consumers, allowing them to respond quickly to feedback and create a more personalised experience.

Big data analysis: Advances in technology have made it possible to collect and analyse large amounts of data, including consumer behaviour and preferences. Toy marketers can use this data to create more targeted and effective marketing campaigns that reach the right audience with the right message.

Overall, technology is changing the face of toy marketing, creating new opportunities for marketers to engage with consumers and showcase their products in unique and innovative ways.