The Marketing of Toys, Toys, Toys

Walking through Toys R Us with my wife and one-year-old daughter made me realize how the toy business continues to evolve and how the toy biz marketers continue to find ways to not only grab our attention but also tug at the impulsive center of our brains. 

The aisles of the toy mega-store are a child's paradise, and being an overgrown child myself, it is like being in a wonderland.  Other retail stores have developed techniques to make shopping not just a chore, but an entertaining experience (which can be very dangerous on the wallet).  Disney, Warner Bros., Nike, and many other brands have their own retail outlets that sometimes have carousels, Ferris Wheels, or other amusements, to attract visitors even if they have no initial intention of buying anthing.  The first goal is to get customers inside the store and have them enjoy being there.

Walking through the shop, the toys on the shelves practically beg to be touched -- signs beckon "Touch Me!"  Just like the elixir that commanded Alice in Wonderland to "Drink Me," you know no good can come of this.  Pushing the colorful buttons, squeezing the plush toys, shaking the boxes all elicit sounds and lights and motion that make your child giggle, effectively entwining them (and you) in their spell.

Children aren't the only ones in danger of manipulation.  There are toys for all ages, you see.  My eye fell on action figures of my favorite superheroes from my youth, on games like Hollywood Dominos, that I suddenly felt the urge to try.  I saw party games that made me want to call all my friends together for an evening of fun. 

But most sinister, what made me fear that these game-makers knew the secret to my weak soul, was the trend of taking simple games that I loved from days gone by and offering new versions of them.  Trivial Pursuit now has a version called "Digital Choice" and a "Team" edition, not to mention mobile versions for cellphones and a video game edition.  I knew that Monopoly had branded versions (the Yankees Edition was a great gift that sadly I still haven't had the chance to play), but I didn't know about the countless spinoffs -- Monopoly City, in which you can build, buy, and sell skyscrapers and stadiums; Monopoly Revolution that uses plastic credit/debit/ATM cards instead of cash; and so on.  My head was spinning at all the choices.

I was proud of my wife's willpower, buying only the items she had wanted to buy for our daughter in the first place.  If she had left it up to me, I probably would have bought half the store.