Fashion, Toys and Canines

Toy FairIn the wake of blizzard “Nemo” earlier this month, I headed to New York for the perfect storm of fashion, toys and canines – Fashion Week, Toy Fair and the Westminster Dog Show. I’ve always found it curious that these three big events – drawing very different audiences – collide annually. Imagine being the producer at the Today Show or the editor on the photo desk at the Times who has to sort through the myriad of story pitches.

Over at Toy Fair, mobile play and digital integration – bringing technology to traditional toy brands or extending traditional toy brands to digital platforms – was a driving theme. The new Barbie Digital Makeover that uses augmented reality and an array of toy robots with iPhone faces got a lot of attention. Mashable’s Andrea Smith shares a great 60-second tour of these and other tech toys that dominated this year’s Toy Fair.

Whatever the toy, tech or not, digital touch points should absolutely play a role in communicating with parents – and grandparents and aunts and uncles. More people now use smart phones than brush their teeth every day (4.8 vs. 4.2 billion globally), as Hasbro Digital VP Victor Lee pointed out in his keynote at the Digital Kids conference. Where are all those gift-givers looking for toys? Try Google for starters, which logs more than 200 million “toy” related searches every month, according to Lee, who also talked about “the power of the mommy blogger” in influencing play purchases.

Bending gender stereotypes, some of the toy industry’s biggest players are morphing so-called ‘boy toys’ to girls’ play, which poses some messaging challenges, but I, for one, view as a positive. LEGO paved the way with its hugely successful LEGO Friends line last year (image below), and Hasbro unveiled a new NERF line for girls at this year’s Toy Fair. Call it girl power.

There were some toys being marketed as ‘green,’ but more being touted for educational value. And, a parent-appealing message I heard more than once was, how games, digital and traditional, foster parent-child interaction. That’s an opportunity for a lot of brands to endear themselves to moms and dads alike, not to mention grandparents.

Toy Fair was bustling at the Javits and on Twitter – where hundreds of bloggers, journalists, buyers and other industry-watchers shared their “best toy” finds and trends. Check out the stream on these hashtags for more on Toy Fair: #toyfair, #tf13, #tfny and #digitalkids.