The Wish List Conundrum

by Nancy Zwiers | 29 Sep 2021

The Bloom Report

Question:  Which is more difficult—getting on a kid’s wish list or staying on it long enough to get purchased?


Answer:   Ahh…the wish list conundrum. This is not an easy question to answer unless I respond “both.”


I don’t have the answer per se, but I do have perspective. Let’s start with some perspective on kids and their wish lists.  Typically, kids aren’t constrained on their wish list size. So,  let's assume a kid’s wish list surpasses her parents’ budget.  Because parents are motivated  to “delight” their kids, they are going to go as deep into the list as they can.  Kids start developing their holiday wish list in earnest in early to mid-October…and yet parents make the bulk of holiday purchases in the 3-4 weeks leading up to Christmas.  So, surviving on a wish list for 8-10 weeks is somewhat of a herculean task.


Beyond that inconvenient reality, I sympathize with marketers today given the imperative to support their fall launches in response to August “chase-cancel” retailer decisions.  Clearly, retailers seek to push as much of the risk onto the manufacturers as possible.  Maintaining retailer support to get re-orders after initial launch quantities forces marketers away from the proven axiom of “spend behind the business.”  Relatively few toy sales occur in August, so in essence, we’re stuck “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”  Every dollar we spend in August is a dollar we can’t spend to drive demand when most consumer purchase decisions are made. 


Some thoughts about how to navigate this challenging path to victory:


  • First, seek to make a limited geography a proving ground for the trade, without trying to prove success nationally. Do a media test in late summer and consider spending at least +50% versus typical levels to ensure the test is readable over minimal time span.  These limited positive results can demonstrate that you  have what it takes to win in peak season.


  • If you are lucky enough to have a big winner in your portfolio—a product that has the ability to excite Sales, retailers, promotional partners, and consumers (in research or in market via early velocities), ensure that winning product is on the wish list early. Often these can be big ticket items.  It appears that the #1 item on a kid’s wish list is relatively stable, even as other products jockey for position on the list throughout the holiday season.  Conversely, if you are a smaller purchase option, and not clearly ahead of the pack…wait until you get closer to peak shopping period in December to invest.


  • Move marketing dollars closer to point-of-purchase in the final four weeks of shopping. Parents are not immune to impulse buying and capturing their attention when they are ready to plunk down their money can give a good return on investment.   This holds true in both brick & mortar and ecommerce.  Of note, parents often observe what their kids gravitate to in aisle, so retail presence can support demand creation and shopper conversion.  Finally, consider a key axiom of resource allocation:  when marketing resources are scarce, deploy them at point of purchase as much as possible.  I would argue the reality of scarce resources is true of most toys.  BTW, low-price, small-size impulse stocking stuffers benefit hugely from high visibility at retail.


  • In closing, the two weeks after Christmas, when media rates are low, can be a boon to late advertisers as kids swarm the toy department with their gift cards in their hot little hands. Prioritize this if you have a continuing brand that needs empty shelves for new items.

Christmas Wish List Toy Marketing

Tait & Lily, Inventors of Betcha Can't!