Toys for Kids and Kiddults Alike

Filed Under: Best Practices, Market Research, Youth & Family


Mary McIlrath

Senior Vice President, C+R Alum

Toy Fair 2016 was Feb 13-14 in New York, followed by the Digital Kids conference Feb 15-16. The trade show and conference are where toy makers reveal their latest innovations for kids (and adults) and do business with retailers, marketers, and media buyers. Here are a few high-level takeaways from the trade show floor and the conference:

  • This marketplace is usually a year or two behind the Consumer Electronics Show (takes place in January) where the latest and greatest (and most expensive and fragile) products for adult early adopters are revealed. Compared to adult products, kid products have to be less expensive, more durable, and pass rigorous safety regulations. Case in point: Mattel revealed a 3D printer for kids called the “Thingmaker.” A toy gets designed on an app, then gets made into a physical toy using the printer. Retail price? $299.00.
  • The head of one prominent robotics company admitted that kids’ smart devices with engines (think drones, remote control cars, robot dogs/dinosaurs) are only made to run for a couple hundred hours. They aim to be so cool that they create a “transformative entertainment experience” in the initial play occasions, then they’re OK with not being played with forever.
  • Marketers have a challenge because kids are watching less traditional TV, so manufacturers can’t just run commercials to advertise their products. While overall programming consumption is not down, our YouthBeat data shows that it is migrating a bit. The percentage of kids who have watched TV online in the past week is growing steadily, from 17% in 2012, to 30% in 2013, to 40% in 2014, and 47% in 2015. Never fear, media strategists are helping manufacturers place ads in other spaces (e.g., ads on YouTube; Radio Disney) to still reach the desired audience.

A few trends we saw “on the floor” that will make their way into YouthBeat’s Trendspotters, our quarterly newsletter on the latest trends in the youth space this year are:


  • The Ocean is all the rage. It’s the final frontier of the earth that has yet to be explored in all its depths, and toy manufacturers are ready to engage youth’s imaginations. Razor has an exciting new “RipSurf” skateboard with two in-line wheels, so it feels like a mini surfboard to ride. Also, there were at least three different manufacturers offering mermaid tails for swimming, or plush mermaid/shark fins/blankets for snuggling. The appeal of the water is not a surprise, as 65% of kids report to YouthBeat that they enjoy swimming for fun or competitively.
  • Emojis are running the toy store. They are in every form, from plush to puzzles. Crayola unveiled its Emoji Maker that lets kids design their own. And, there is even a toy that uses emojis to teach coding–a kid can codes a robot to move using the cartoon images.
  • Adults are no longer giving up toys when they become parents–they just have bigger, more expensive ones. Like the racetrack that can turn plain analog racecars into smart cars (on a huge track that costs several thousand dollars, with the Red Bull co-sponsor logo prominently displayed). The same brand’s kid’s version of the track was about 10% of the size (and the fun). Other “kid-dult” items included some gross-out novelties like the “Fishing for Floaters” game (i.e., poo in the pool) and the large plush poo emoji.

It’s not surprising that toymakers are creating for kids of all ages and reaching them wherever they now hang out the most. YouthBeat subscribers can find more about the latest trends and the implications for marketers in our latest YouthBeat Trendspotter. Click on the button below to access a sample prior edition of the Trendspotter.

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