By Jon Meyers and Dean Tzembelikos,
formerly of Basic Concept Toys
As 2nd and 3rd generation toy people, the industry has played an integral part in our childhoods, adult lives, and professional careers. Over the years, we have grown from bright-eyed onlookers (and occasional photo shoot, cost-saving “talent”), to operations specialists in the Far East (Jon with Bandai in the early 90s), then International sales reps (Jonando HK Ltd, most notably working with SpinMaster, WowWee, Irwin Toy, and a long list of smaller toy companies), to building and manufacturing our own brand of toy products, under Basic Concept Toys.
The path leading up to the present day has been wrought with successes, failures, near misses, disasters, and some solid hits. Most importantly, we have acquired a wealth of knowledge, by growing through all of these experiences with no safety net. While not the highest profile company in this growing fraternity of ChiTAG members (Mary, you’ve done a great job – am sure this is not the first nor last time you’ll read and hear this), we do have 1st hand experience when it comes to building a company completely from scratch. Attending grassroots inventor fairs, licensing concepts from inventors, some known, most unknown, and using our abilities to try and turn these ideas into commercial successes. These are a few things we have learned along the way:
“Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication “- Leonardo De Vinci
Over the years, we’ve seen far too many fantastic concepts and items fail simply because they were too complicated to understand by both the trade and ultimately, the consumer. In an industry where product is king, the king’s message must be easy to understand. If a concept can’t be explained simply & easily in less than 10 seconds, it’s too complicated.
“Technology is Transparent”
Toy graveyards are littered with bones of the “next big thing” items, and ours are no exception. Too often, failure is due to the emphasis on technology and electronics, rather than actual play value. Consumers do not find value in the technology itself, just the item.
“Gratification vs. Frustration”
One of the earliest lessons we learned when developing a new game, whether it was an action, board or strategy, was the need for instant gratification. The consumer needs to be instantly good, right out of the package. Then, with a little practice, allow them the opportunity to become an “expert”.
“Value vs. Cost”
The days of “plastic by the pound” are over. Combined with the ever increasing cost of labor, the challenge of developing new items is squeezing the maximum value out of the minimum cost. Inventors are the illusion artists, creating what seems like more, from less. Every component on every item must be calculated, and the question needs to be constantly asked, “Does this bring more value than cost?”
These highlight are just a few of the numerous lessons our personal history has taught us, but looking through our tinted spectacles, these are some of the most important issues facing both inventors and manufacturing companies today. We wish the best of luck and skill to you all in your endeavors.