By Peggy Brown,
Peggy Brown Creative Consulting, LLC
If you’re a member of the Toy and Game Industry, I urge you not to get married. I don’t mean not to marry your sweetheart… family support is crucial in this white-knuckle ride, and whether you’re inside Conglom-O trying not to get crunched in the cogs, or whether you’re working out of your pantry in your pajamas trying to compete with Conglom-O, or buy from Conglom-O, or supply Conglom-O, you’re going to need a Conglom-O-sized dose of moral support at home.
Don’t get married. To one idea. Or any ideas. Don’t get married to a product. Don’t get married to a particular way of doing business. Don’t marry a platform or a method. Don’t marry a vision. In a twenty-plusyear Toy and Game Industry career of being inside a big company, starting a small company, being an exec at a mid-size company, collaborating with other companies, and flying solo, I can attest that getting married to any of these things makes your journey really tough, not to mention, a whole lot less fun. The way a thin-air figment of a product idea runs the gauntlet and winds up under a Christmas tree is not smooth, it’s not pretty, and it’s not in your hands alone, nor in the hands of any one person along the way (excepting, of course, Santa). There’s an enormous measure of negotiation and letting go in the process, and to weather it well, you’ve got to divorce yourself from the way you thought it was going to be. Better, and much less messy, not to have married it in the first place.
On ideas and products: Your idea for a product may be great. Your vision may be precise. Your funding abundant (yeah, right). But there’s a good chance your idea may be naïve, and during the stages of bringing it to market, it will change before your eyes, or it –brace yourself- could get killed. Aaaarrrgh!! I know. It’s harsh. While it’s hard to let your baby go, you pretty much have to allow it to grow, and while those iridescent sparkly puffballs on the corners of your widget make it look totally double-foofoo awesome, you may find out that puffballs are choking hazards. Or they easily break off during shipping, leaving puffballs on stockroom floors, and you with useless inventory and charge-backs from ToyRetail-O. Or the buyer at Retail-O hates sparkly things because they remind him of clowns. Or these puffballs might raise the production cost and make the whole product unfeasible. Or that shimmery coating that looks so sparkle-tacular is made from components of skunk urine, and when little girls touch it, it makes them (both the toys and the girls) reek like Pepé LePew (yes, this actually happened).
On ways of doing business, platforms and methods: There used to be thousands of toy shops to sell to. Not anymore. There used to be only a few TV channels to get your message out. Not anymore. Retailers used to need manufacturers, now they manufacture their own lines. 12-year-olds used to play with Barbie – now 3-year-olds do. Parents used to know more about current technology than kids. Nope. Licensees used to pay a lot more in the old days. Ahhhh, the old days. Gone (sniffsniff). X-acto blades used to stay sharp for more than two lousy cuts--okay, I digress. We live in a very fluid world, and we work in a hyper-fluid industry within that very fluid world. The waves and whirlpools have merely begun to swirl. As a creative person in the toy biz, you probably like puzzles, right? Well, you’re in one. Work to solve it as it changes and you’ll stay afloat, and you’ll get someplace, whether or not you end up where you set out to go. But whatever you do, don’t get married to any of it. You’d have an easier time nailing Nickelodeon® Slime® Recommended Age: 6 years and up, CHOKING HAZARD - Small parts. Not for children under 3 yrs. (manufactured by NSI International Educational Products, Inc., available from Amazon® with Free Super Saver® Shipping) to a tree.
Peggy Brown www.peggybrown.net