Willie Wilkov (WW): 2015 is a big year on the license front for Tomy. We are proud to have the opportunity to work with Disney on two new Disney•Pixar movie properties–Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur– as well as the new Disney Junior TV show Miles from Tomorrowland. While we expect these new licenses to be key drivers for us in 2015, we have a portfolio of licensed properties that perform for us year after year, and we are anticipating growth in those brands as well. John Deere is an evergreen brand with a loyal following that is perennially one of our strongest selling lines company-wide. Our partners at Sega and The Pokémon Company International continue to bring new fans into their incredibly popular franchises, Sonic Boom and Pokémon, with fresh, engaging content, giving us so much to work with in our toy development. In the classic play arena, we see both Chuggington Wooden Railway and Chuggington StackTrack continuing to provide that first train experience for kids and growing with them through their love of train and construction play, while Lamaze maintains its stronghold as a leader in the infant developmental toy aisle.
TTB: What categories were driving sales in 2014? What categories will flourish this year?
WW: Vehicles, plush, action figures, and role play were category leaders across all of Tomy’s lines—whether from licensed or proprietary brands. We expect 2015 to perform similarly, with an increase in the presence of role play as we dive deeper into that increasingly popular play pattern and spread a little Tomy magic in that category across many of our preschool lines.
TTB: In what new way are you using social media to correspond directly with consumers?
WW: Social media is completely integrated into the marketing for each of Tomy’s brands. Our communications are designed to drive true engagement, not just push out marketing messages. Tomy’s social media channel content for each of our brands–on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest–is written and posted by our own employees who are parents themselves, which makes the content honest, real, and approachable—and consequently highly engaging for our customers. We are less product-focused and more interest-driven. Our goal is to learn more about what motivates and excites our consumers, which informs not only our communications, but also product design and development.
TTB: How have consumer expectations changed over the past decade?
WW: Today’s consumers are savvy and expect and deserve a very high level of consistency and accountability from manufacturers. While parents have always expected quality, value, and safety from their children’s toys, now they have the tools to ensure what they are being sold and told is truly what they are buying. When a millennial mom sees a toy featured in a magazine, she’s checking her phone to see what other people have to say about it; she’s going to read reviews posted on retailer websites; she’s going to ask her friends about the toy on Facebook; and she’s going to let everyone know what she thinks about a toy if her child has a very positive or negative experience. For companies like Tomy, this is a positive change. It’s our mission to make the world smile, and we go the extra mile to earn the trust and repeat business from all our customers across the globe.