While Snoopy and a life-sized Tamagotchi strolled the aisles at the Canadian Toy and Decoration Fair late last month, Canada’s toy marketers were touting their wares, ranging from extensions of existing lines to toys with tween appeal, as the next big craze in the estimated $1.4-billion industry.
Perhaps the biggest buzz at the Toronto show was about a strategic alliance between Hasbro Canada Inc. and YTV Canada Inc. to create a YTV-branded line of toys. The line, which primarily includes plush puppets, bath toys and puzzles, marks the first time Hasbro has created a line of products specifically for the Canadian market.
“Normally, we feed off of what the U.S. puts on our dance card, but this time we’re filling in our own partner,” says Hasbro president Sheldon Klein.
The marketing partnership isn’t finalized yet, but YTV president Paul Robertson says the strategy is to deepen the loyalty kids have for YTV: “We feel that by getting these kind of quality products into their bedrooms, we’ll lock in the relationship they have with us.”
Binney & Smith Canada is also stepping into new territory. The company, which in recent years has packaged its Crayola Crayons in retro packaging, has another blast from the past: a hemp jewelry kit. The Hip Hemp Creations kit — whose instructions state that “contrary to popular belief, industrial hemp has no hallucinogenic properties” — is designed to appeal to the tween children of baby boomers who remember playing with kits when they were kids.
“The driving force is nostalgia,” says Peter Sgromo, art and crafts activities category manager. “Our research with moms and girls shows they have more of a friendship than a traditional relationship, and the parents want to share their childhood memories.”
Nostalgia aside, another noticeable trend this year is the continuing popularity of plush and bean bag toys. Irwin Toy Ltd. is putting a big emphasis on its plush licensed products this year, extending its Snoopy and Franklin the turtle products to include new themed versions of the popular characters, including Giggle N’ Snorin’ Snoopy — which will be promoted through TV ads this fall — and Franklin and Friends Bean Bag Buddies. Irwin will also release a line of 10 National Geographic Society plush animals, complete with informational tags.
“The plush category has been boosted by other companies as well, with the Sesame Street characters and Tickle Me Elmo giving a resurgence to that category,” says David Irwin, director of marketing.
Irwin is also planning a multimedia campaign to launch its new Katch game, which uses an NHL theme for the first series. Irwin plans to sponsor Katch tournaments this summer.
In the books category, Golden Books Publishing Co. will publish 65 new “Fear Street” books by R.L. Stine. It has also come out with a book based on the saccharine hit song “Butterfly Kisses,” written by songwriter Bob Carlisle and his daughter Brooke.
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