What is your new endeavor and why should anybody care?
Well, HUGE! Play is a newly formed play company. We call it a play company instead of toy company because the word toys just doesn’t wrap its arms all the way around how play itself has changed and how it’s a vibrant and embedded part of the millennial family from kids to teens to parents. Going back to 40 years ago, play was largely considered a fun activity for kids to enjoy. Today, everyone has “permission to play” and each demographic literally uses play to satisfy different needs. ‘Play is deeply useful now along with being fun and there are some very new ways we are working to create it, produce it, market it and get it into the hands of the audience/consumers’.
For IP holders, our model means that there’s a strong alternative for your toy partners across IP that has built a significant audience but aren’t getting any love or placement from the mass market toy companies and retailers.
What is the unique focus of your company?
HUGE! Play is 100% Direct-to-Consumer premium toys that are driven by story!
What exactly do you mean by premium?
For HUGE! Play the shackles are off. Because we’re a true direct-to-consumer company in every way, we aren’t squeezed by the same mass-market constraints of price, size, advertising needs, facings, seasonality, audience size, etc. Due to our business model we’re able to invest the money that would have gone to retail margins into the development of the toy and to better fund the features, depth of play, materials, decoration, and all the elements that make a toy extraordinary. When we create toys for an IP, we bring the “premium glow” to that IP…the toys and play people want to share and talk about. Toys largely aren’t an island anymore either. Most are part of amazing experiences that are driven by a story; something you’d want to pass along to other kids or even your own kids when you grow up.
What do you think is controversial about your new company?
We’re moving past all the middlemen and retailers in the system now and putting the audience/consumer back at the helm. When you have others whom you have to sell to, before you sell to your audience that means all of their particular business needs enter the decision-making room. It’s a natural part of any retail business, to manage the incoming product to maximize your profits and success. Those voices have grown very loud over the years and at the end of the day, there are so few lines that get chosen that it shapes the behaviors of the creators and producers of the IP to try and push the IP to get on shelf. It’s not anything the system intentionally inflicts on the world of IP but it has evolved to that constricted place. We strongly believe that this approach is now only part of the equation going forward. There’s other emerging alternatives and we’re one of them launching soon. This changes how the play product of an IP can get access to an audience and we believe, over time, this will change how IP creators and studios are incentivized to think about creating highly commercial IP. More options plain and simple. In fact, today, there are more worthy IP that have audiences but no love from the present toy system, then there are successful IP that have made it on shelf, a lot more.
What is your team’s claim to fame in the industry?
This management triad of co-founders have over 100 years of combined experience in the toy industry. We’re also all entrepreneurs who have pushed boundaries our whole careers.
Kevin Mowrer – Founded Hasbro’s original entertainment division “The Fantasy Factory,” and Ran Hasbro’s R&D. Kevin Also created the Meta-Story research and IP development system and founded Mowrer Meta-Story. Kevin has Emmy and Gemini awards for his work in creating original IP as well.
Adrian Roche – Started his life in the Toy business in the UK with Kiddicraft Toys. Set up European business for The First Years infant products before moving to the US to head up marketing ‘for 2 years’. Now been here 26! Headed up Preschool, Boys and Licensing for Mega Brands in Montreal before starting the North American business for Alpha, China’s biggest toy company.
Dave Ciganko – With over 40 years in the toy business designing product and play experiences for children 0-7 years across all categories including infant, preschool, boys and girls he infused innovation, technology and new licensed properties for Fisher Price/Mattel, Kiddicraft (UK), Ideal toys and Little Tikes. building new and innovative brands and products.
What’s the guiding star in how you are doing this new endeavor?
The audience/consumer’s stories and toys have become their communication verbs and nouns, parts of their identity, tools of cultural and personal exploration. That is powerful and transformative and our job at HUGE! Play is to listen and use our knowledge and creativity and how they are changing their lives with stories and play and continue to inspire them forward. Sounds lofty, I know, but to us, it’s very real!
Also, meet with us. We laugh! A lot! It’s toys…duh, if you’re not fun people having fun and thinking fun then maybe it’s just a business to you.
How are you setting up to deliver on that focus?