…but you’re gonna have to face it you’re addicted to toy information.
I recently answered a forum post to explain to a faithful reader why our trusty Mattel rep, ToyGuru, hadn’t posted lately to spill the beans on the upcoming JLU announcement in February’s Toyfare magazine. Click here to read that exchange. Go ahead, I’ll wait for you.
Back already? OK, good. Basically, my explanation was that companies sometimes do things that don’t always seem logical to the public, but they usually have some internal reasoning that justifies the decisions. The decision in question here is "why did Mattel give Toyfare magazine a big scoop and even so why won’t the let the fans know the gist of that upcoming article so they can be happy or mad ahead of time?". So I though I’d follow that post up with the argument that it actually isn’t in their best interests to cater to fans at all!
As someone who works in the marketing industry, I read a lot of marketing blogs every day. And two entries on prolific author Seth Godin’s blog caught my eye last week, particularly how they relate to today’s topic.
The first one talks about the Iowa Caucuses and how few people traditionally attend them and those that do are the ones who are devoted and motivated to be there. The relevance here is that fans/collectors/forum members are the same as the Iowa Caucuses: they WANT to be here. They want to stand up and tell everyone who they support, and try and convince you to support them too. Which is precisely why it isn’t worth the time spent for Mattel (or Hasbro, etc.) to talk to this group. They are already convinced. And in fact are insatiable for info; they are never satisfied to know what is coming next, they want to know what’s coming after that, and after that, and after that. To feed this hunger is a thankless job.
Talking to the fans doesn’t increase sales (the fan will buy the product regardless), and many times doesn’t even give accurate feedback because the fan’s passion skews the impression too far in one direction. Cost wise, the interaction and time spent is much more valuable by reaching out to those that aren’t already seeking the information. Which means ads & exclusives in Toyfare. And ads in comic books. And flyers in comic shops. And promotions in toy stores. But not interaction online. The execs probably get this, and is one reason this type of thing is frowned upon. And a huge reason the ToyGuru and Jesse Falcons of the world should be even more appreciated than they are.
The second relevant post by Seth talks about how overpromising to the consumer never ends well. And honestly, most employees at the toy companies don’t know what is going to happen in the future, they only know what is being planned to happen. But as we’ve seen over and over again, things change. A lot. And when a rep says one thing, but something else happens they tend to get attacked. And even worse, called a liar. Most of the time they’re not at liberty to discuss what went wrong, so they defend themselves with silence, which leads to the demand for information again and we’re back to square one. And at the end of the day, the lesson learned is that it’s better to give no information, than inadvertantly give wrong information.
Starting to get the picture why so few designers talk to the fans?