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The Business of Fun.

Peter Cartlidge

Director Fuse London Ltd. We are a powerhouse London based design and development group specialising in creating, developing and licensing 'sticky stuff' for big and little kids everywhere. Our team includes some of the world's leading innovators in the toy, brand creation, and kid's entertainment industries, and has a wealth of experience, global success and satisfied licensees and clients. But it's not all about us. We believe partnerships are core to success and place huge value on our long standing relationships with some of the world's leading youth brands, companies, co­developers and creative talents. Toy Knowhow and Licensing Fuse is a product­led design and development facility, with a rich heritage in creating, building and licensing innovation to the toy industry and it's leading brands. Our talented and passionate team have a basic remit to innovate original and proprietary solutions into everything we develop, regardless of the category. We apply this 'knowhow' to the top toy and youth brands and consider how we can help continue to make consumers’ engagement with those brands and products, magical. Our licensees need a ‘wow factor’ to boost sales plus, the confidence that that special ingredient is protectable in the global marketplace. Fuse and other professional inventing groups can deliver this to a brief, but more often than not we invent based on our experience and understanding of consumers and brands and importantly, kids and how they play. At Fuse we have not put a name to our working method. Invention is, in its nature, a tricky process to define after all. Also, the ‘customer’ for our products (licensees, end user and purchaser) all represent an ever­changing set of important variables that are almost impossible to satisfy. Add to that that the youth market is a fashion industry and you can begin to understand why its hard to describe our methods as typical. We have though, learned some valuable lessons over the years and the below case study can be used as an illustration of our process and how we approach each new assignment. ‘Pop Up Adventures’ Brief from Matchbox brand, Mattel, Inc. Faced with the annual challenge of creating a new way to play with die­cast replica cars, the Fuse team sought inspiration outside of the toy market and conventional product design, to deliver the final solution. It has proved to be one of our most commercially successful ideas. Furthermore, the invention is now protected by a granted worldwide patent. Brand insights The Matchbox design and marketing team told us that a ‘Matchbox kid’ has a lot of cars and he wants to take them with him wherever he goes. They were also able to tell us how many cars he had and that when he played with them he wanted to be immersed in a car adventure or story with a beginning, and heroic end. Whilst current Matchbox products largely did this, they had become large and expensive to make. Finally, Mattel felt this classic brand needed innovation to rejuvenate its story and help bring it into the modern day. Parental Insights As parents ourselves, we knew moms and grandparents would buy this type of toy and that those same parents would probably remember the original Matchbox brand and still relate to it (especially in the UK, it is still strong in popular culture with fans nostalgic for the little car lovingly packaged in a closed cardboard box). Research We began by looking at other products popular with the same age group and which delivered something similar to the surprise, secret and story­telling of the Matchbox brand. We found it in children’s books, about diggers and tipper trucks, with their tough card pages and simple toyetic play features. Each page had a fun feature and adventure. When we looked at other children’s books we saw that some of these had very intricate fold out playscenes and real working mechanical features. But, these were flimsy and broke a lot with extensive play (the pages tore out, got lost and the book was never the same again). They were really cool, but not durable and expensive for the parent to fix/replace. So, we had uncovered a creative opportunity but some problems at the same time. Solution We challenged ourselves to develop a durable plastic pop­up book that a child could store a Matchbox car in but also be able to play with it when the ‘book’ was fully open. Primarily the opening needed to be simple but fun, cool and surprising for boys. 2D to 3D was the marketing hook, or wow factor, for the brand to build on. The secondary element was the utilitarian aspect. As it folded up, it would be easy to carry, fit in a bag or store under a bed – a huge plus for parent’s with little space at home and so a strong selling feature for them too. We therefore had our development criteria. Development Additionally we wanted to do a girls version, which would hold a doll and which popped up to be a miniature dolls house. We felt it would have similar appeal and play value and that Mattel could also consider this for their strong mini doll portfolio of inhouse and 3​rd party brands. The engineering brief to deliver on all of these criteria was pretty challenging but our solution became the basis for a worldwide patent and hinged, quite literally, on a unique arrangement of hinged components which allowed the toy to pop up and down using the simple action of opening and closing a book. Such engineering knowhow we are lucky to have among our staff but one of the few rules about our process is that ‘you only prove it, by building it’ and this is instilled into all of our team. ‘Pop Up Playsets’ were born. Success! We pitched the prototypes to Mattel and they secured the concept for use with their Matchbox and Disney Princess branded toy lines. Fuse licensed to Mattel the invention and knowhow and their design teams developed the product line. They did a great job delivering on the promise of the concept shown in our prototypes. Our role evolved into that of a consultant on how the pop up feature could be re­themed, expanded and built upon. Ultimately this collaborative R&D effort with Mattel laid the foundations for long term success as ‘Pop Up Adventures’ became an established branded, trademarked segment at retail. Both boys and girls lines went on to be very strong­selling segments with multiple products being launched. They were hugely popular with children around the world and helped re­engage boys with the Matchbox brand. Parents and retailers liked the practicality and the user friendliness of the products and the design solution won many awards for its novelty and uniqueness. November, 2014

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