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Dear Tim... What’s It Take to Sell An Idea to Your Boss? tBR Columnist Tim Kilpin Comments

Did you realize that last Sunday was the culmination of one of our most storied and legendary annual professional sporting events? Yes it was.

Of course I’m talking about Wrestlemania 37.

Oh, you were thinking the Masters? Silly. What’s this column usually about, anyway?

Roman Reigns prevailed, no doubt against a cavalcade of worthy opponents, chairs, ladders, and whatever else the crowd in the Tampa stadium might have been throwing. (Fact check: I’ve been to Wrestlemania before. It was awesome. And I never need to go again.)

But the wonderful, spectacular circus that is the WWE is, as most of you know, a pretty magical magnet for kids, and a mighty marketing machine in its own right. Kids – and collectors – have been following the travails of their favorite Faces and Heels – and snapping up the toys for fully a generation now.

So what’s all this got to do with how to sell your boss on an idea? Well, in any business, of course, you need to be ready with your data on the marketplace opportunity, competitive intelligence, consumer insights, strategic rationale, cost, schedule, and packaging information…

But if it’s a toy, you also need to be able to explain the play pattern and the consumer benefit. And so it was that, as a callow Brand Manager at Tonka Toys back in 1990, my Assistant Brand Manager and I were faced with the towering task of convincing our President and SVP of Marketing that the wonderful new inventor item we’d been working on, WWF (yes, F not E) Wrestling Buddies was not only a viable commercial proposition, but a hell of a lot of fun.

So we beat each other up.

Relax, these were essentially character pillows. Big, soft, cuddly, cute versions of Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, and other champions of the day. Retailing for $20, mind you, but pillows all the same. And we were sure this was a big idea. Kids love to bop their brothers and roughhouse with their parents – and this was literally permission in the form of a product. And the execs were expressly not buying it. If I may quote the SVP (because, of course, I remember it distinctly), ‘this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.’

So we wailed on each other. And the crowd went wild. Meaning the rest of the sales, marketing, and design team. We eventually collapsed in laughter, straightened our ties (yes, it was the ‘90s), and waited for the verdict.

“Well, I don’t get it at all,” the SVP shrugged. “But if you all feel that strongly about it, keep going. Let’s show the buyers.”

One year, and a few million Buddies later, we had a genuine hit. And if you wanted one today, Hulk Hogan will cost you a cool $400 on eBay.

I’m not saying you have to smack around a coworker to get an idea across. (Really. Truly. I am not saying that.)

But if you are working hard to get someone, anyone, to better understand what makes your toy a fun and fulfilling experience, don’t be afraid to get on the floor to launch that car, or comb that doll’s hair, or snap those construction pieces together. Play with it like a kid. You were one once, you know.

Meanwhile, my story about Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase will wait for another day…


In additional to penning his thoughts here, Tim Kilpin is enjoying his role as President of PlayMonster. To read more about Tim's career in the toy industry, check out our interview with Tim last year! Tim Kilpin - I’m a very proud elf. Every Christmas morning...


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