Rules to Play By
Fun is subjective. Making money off of fun? Somewhat less so. It's no exact science, but if you want to be successful selling toys and otherwise using the idea of play in your promotions, there are a handful of objective rules and guidelines to follow in order to answer some important sales questions.
What makes a good promotional toy? How can you convince a buyer of their value versus competing products, like TV ads or cash incentives? And what about all those safety laws you keep hearing about? Aren't they absolutely the strictest on toys?
Worry not, dear reader. As always, Promo Marketing has the educated answers to your pressing sales questions. Read on to see what makes a good toy, how and where to sell them, and the ins and out of product safety law.
What Makes Them Good?
Picking a good toy depends on its purpose. For toys meant for children, aim for items that offer deep entertainment, or as Maria LaFichi, executive vice president of Zenith Promotions, Lawrence, N.Y. said, "genuine play value." She explained that part of this depth comes from a toy's durability (obviously if it breaks quickly it won't be entertaining for too long), but more than that a toy has to be not just fun, but engaging over the long-term. "Look for items that will keep kids occupied," she said. "Something they're not going to look at and toss aside. Pick something they really want to play and get involved with." What items qualify as genuinely engaging depends on many variables, such as the end-users' age group and setting of the promotion, but in general items that have strong creative, athletic/group play or puzzle-solving elements are going to offer a strong depth of play.
For adults, the overall guideline of "genuine play value" remains the same, just advanced and adjusted for grown-up tastes. Items with puzzle-solving or solid creative elements are still appropriate, especially for desk toys where users will enjoy something to fiddle with as they think and work. Jeff Lederer, president of Prime Line, Bridgeport, Conn., pointed out also that adults appreciate toys on an aesthetic level, so something that looks cool on a desk or shelf may be a good choice as well.
Along those lines, remember too that messaging space on toys is important, especially on adult toys. Lederer stressed the value of choosing toys that can display a message clearly and attractively.
A Sales Angle
A good way to approach selling toys is to think of them not just as playthings, but as tools to move a client toward a specific goal. Need to get an educational message to children? Try coloring books. Need to get employees thinking about creativity? Try something like silly putty or a puzzle. Toys can even be used to provide comfort for children in stressful situations. Dominic S. Spinelli, vice president of sales for Better Life Industries LLC, New Britain, Conn., explained that the company's coloring books are sometimes used at hospitals. LaFichi stated that Zenith has occasionally sold toys to funeral homes.
Markets to Consider
Like any other promotional product, toys and games can be sold to any buyer provided they have a want or need. There are some markets, however, that tend to have greater demand for toys than others. It may be because, like restaurants, they deal with children in high volumes, or like fire departments, they have educational messages that constantly need to be expressed, understood and absorbed.
LaFichi mentioned schools, the health care industry and restaurants as big buyers of Zenith's products. Spinelli pointed to police and fire departments, as well as insurance companies since they are interested in promoting various safety causes for obvious reasons. For Prime Line's desk toys, Lederer suggested buyers in the education, engineering, and architecture and other design fields. He explained that the company's desk toys connect easily to themes of problem-solving, creativity and storytelling.