Simple Lessons from the Toy Shelves

It’s the holiday season and we are being inundated by ads and news stories proclaiming the hottest toys of the season. We decided to take a step back and see what we could learn from successful stocking stuffers.

Once you strip out all the literal bells and whistles there is always an incredibly simple concept behind the most popular toys. The venerable Furby, which is making an almost unthinkable comeback this year, is about as simple as it gets. The technology and voice recognition behind it are amazing and complex but the conceit is clear: it’s a cute stuffed animal that reacts to the owner. The Angry Birds stuffed plush toys are even simpler with no limbs or electronic guts, but thousands will be under the tree this year.

The dead simple trend isn’t limited to toys. Card Against Humanity is a card game that has spent the last 207 days in the top 100 best sellers on Amazon. As of the writing of this article, the core card game is number 1 and its expansion pack is number 3. The game, right on down to the design, is as simple as it gets. The cards are plain white and black with Helvetica type. You can even print them out for free from their website. That hasn’t stopped thousands of people dropping $25 on Amazon.com for the game.

Cards Against Humanity is not a game for kids, as the tagline “A Party Game for Horrible People” implies. Hyper-targeting is the second quality that is evident in successful toys and games. The Furby is for children older than 6. Does this mean that kids younger than 6 won’t like it or children older than 6 will find it too childish? Of course not. I’m sure as many adults are buying them for themselves as they are for children. It means that when making decisions about the toy design and features, they had a 6 year old in mind.

Your marketing tactic may not be a toy or game but you can incorporate the qualities that make a good toy into whatever you are doing. Keep your message clear and simple and don’t be afraid to narrow your target.