The Curtain is Falling...or is it?
Well, it's what you hear bubbling up in conversations in children's product companies. Perhaps it's a bit of an overreaction to the writer and actors' strike but a concerning one just as well. There are many consumer product companies that depend on sales driven by licensed properties, especially toy-related products. Those characters' likenesses take over many of the products we once knew as just great toys!
Sure, who doesn't like to play with the latest superhero?
While most of these licensed properties help drive sales, we know that companies have to pay dearly for those rights, and this is where the rub always has been. Those royalties (add sales guarantees) paid to the licensors make it that much harder to add fun back into the product. I call them feature void toys.
I am not anti-license. I have been part of products developed especially for many different licensed characters/movies/shows over the years. However, it does seem we have become more addicted to having the latest hot movie on everything that's manufactured. I suppose we could debate that forever, depending on where you are in the consumer/manufacturer/marketing chain. Companies are often at risk if the property bombs in the media, leaving inventory on the shelf (a big no-no), whereas if it was a good play product with features that are more than one dimensional, chances are, it lives on.
Contracts aside, it might be time for companies to actually put play back into their product and not depend on a license to propel sales. Because of all the high royalty rates, it is often hard to add elements to the product that allows the child to tell their stories with the product. The story: that which makes play…play!
"Just give me something fun to play with!", I once heard a kid tell me.
Of course, most kids create made-up stories from a film or streaming character, and if the licensed product doesn't provide the feature rich experience to make up the story, what is the point? I hesitate to use the words "label slapping," but… well…sometimes it's obvious. Let's make sure that the license works for you. There is a segment of parents that would like to see something fresh and not dependent on an overused property. There are some evergreen propertites that are homegrown snd thst refreshing.
There is certainly nothing wrong with having popular licensed characters as part of the product, but in many cases, they are nothing more than window dressing, not adding to the play value. Sure, the nag factor over a movie or streaming property plays, in part, to marketing efforts. Perhaps an easier sale.
I applaud those companies that keep the hottest movie characters at bay. Most likely, it's because they can't afford the royalties or are outbid in acquiring the rights. After all, the licensing world is big business. According to The London Toy Report licensing represents 31% of the market. Licensing Global in their recent report state retail sales of licensed product is $278 Billion. Most of that from companies creating movies/streaming characters.
But there are some companies that really value story and try to put that play into their product. We know internal design staff have that ability if they are positioned to do so. Take the big step! Without the chains of a license, great product can emerge. Or bite the bullet and make the licensed property really a fun story creating machine!
Well, we don't know how long this multi-level strike will last, but we do know that we are more than capable of creating story-led products without needing all the flash. I think we have some time to get it right because the curtain may be down for a while.