Q. I’m worried about the declining birthrate—what strategies can I employ to grow my business if the toy category declines in the face of low birthrates?
A. While each business can obviously deploy strategies to increase its market share in a declining category, it is also true that a rising tide lifts all boats. In other words, we all have a better chance of success when we are in a category that is growing. What options do we have to grow our toy and game category so we can all thrive?
I’d like to point out a very pertinent fact here that is both cause for optimism and gives us some direction on how we can innovate to grow our business and the toy and game category at large: we never outgrow our urge to play!
Play is a biological drive that ensures we are learning what we need to survive and thrive. One of the most exciting concepts I’ve come across in my research on evolution and play is “Neoteny.” Neoteny is an evolutionary concept that posits we are designed by nature to retain our childlike traits…and to the extent that we do, we can remain youthful and vital into old age.
Childlike traits include playfulness—and all the attributes that make someone playful: openness, curiosity, imagination, aspiration, flexibility, resilience, love, wonder, exploration, etc. I’ve made it my focus to actively nurture and promote my childlike traits because, like everyone, I want to remain youthful and vital into old age. Who wouldn’t want that???
Traditionally, most of our category’s volume comes from children 0-8 years old, with a bit more coming from kids 9-12, and a bit more coming from adult-targeted games--both traditional and digital. Imagine if we focused on encouraging play among the population that is older than 12 years old. What would it take to tap into that latent market opportunity?
We never outgrow our core play patterns:
· Exploration and Discovery
· Challenge and Mastery
· Imitation Role Play
· Fantastical Empowerment Play
o Physical (strength, speed, size, agility)
Imagine if we focused on innovating such that we help the huge population of teens and adults tap into their inner child and harness the power of play—what kind of incremental growth could we achieve—as an industry and as individual companies? Never Stop Playing and Let's Grow our Industry!
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