It’s one thing trying to design point-of-purchase material that
will grab a shopper’s attention in store. But when it has to appeal to
different consumers from two completely different age groups and with
few common interests, it makes the job that little bit harder.
Such is the challenge facing POP specialists in the toy sector, which
have to consider the child, who ultimately benefits from the purchase,
and the parent, who pays for it.
So how do they meet it?
’Certainly, compared with other sectors in which we operate, the toy
market can be a little more complicated,’ admits Patrick Bell, chief
executive of POP solutions company, Coutts Retail Communications. ’You
have to understand where the balance of power lies and the different
things that motivate parents and children.’
Perhaps not surprisingly, Bell finds that children gravitate toward
communications and mechanics which appeal to their sense of cool.
Parents, however, look for value-for-money, educational and/or skill
development capabilities, repeat use value and the ability to keep the
Bell admits that reconciling the two is not always easy: ’Some of the
issues which motivate parents are not easy to communicate via POP
material,’ he says, ’other than via the brand name, which parents
already feel comfortable with, so it’s important to make sure that this
is highly visible on the displays.’
Nigel Petty, chairman of Evans Petty Associates, concludes that the toy
sector clearly exposes the obvious conflict between the needs and
desires of children and those of their parents. But he still does not
believes that the sector differs greatly from any others in which the
’The issues are exactly the same,’ he says. ’The most important elements
are position, position and position, because no matter how good the
merchandising material you produce, if it’s stuck behind a pillar, no
one is going to see it.’
Petty claims he is surprised that more toy brands have not become
involved in category management and space planning exercises in store to
help retailers sell more products.
’Although it’s nice producing the creative work, it has to be
practical,’ he says. ’The walkways have to be correct so that people are
pulled through the store. Ultimately what you come up with must show a
return on the investment.’
As toys become ever more sophisticated, it in turn makes it harder for
the more conventional toys to grab the consumer’s attention.
Classic with a twist
’The problem for conventional toys is that they are not as exciting as
interactive toys,’ says Petty. ’How do you compete with something which
This was the problem Petty had to resolve when asked to help his client,
Lego, come up with a POP solution for a window display in Hamley’s toy
shop in London’s Regent Street last autumn.
The focus of the display was Lego’s UFO kit, part of the company’s
’Space’ range and the client wanted a solution which would create a
sense of excitement.
The answer Evans Petty came up with was a unit which projected an image
of the finished UFO model four feet into space, through the window, in
such a way that the image hovered above the heads of the crowds passing
by outside to their great bemusement, ’particularly those who had had a
drink,’ says Petty.
The image was projected day and night throughout the six weeks of the
promotion, and was considered a tremendous success in terms of getting
across the message that Lego still offered fun and excitement for
At POP and retail merchandising agency RTC, marketing executive
Juan-Carlos Jeffrey is also conscious of the increasing complexity of
toys and believes it is having an impact on the design of merchandising
’The more complicated toys become, the harder POP material has to work
in explaining what’s going on,’ he says.
’I think if you look at the POP material for some of the more
sophisticated toys you can buy, particularly video games, there’s a lot
more information explaining how it works and how to set it up than there
ever used to be.’
According to Jeffrey, there’s something else at work too. ’There’s
always going to be the nag factor,’ he says, ’and a certain amount of
advertising and POP material is obviously aimed at creating it.’
RTC’s US headquarters has been involved in a number of award-winning
projects with Toys ’R’ Us in America. One project involved designing a
Monopoly Wall for Hasbro with the aim of strengthening the games section
in the store.
Between the retailer and the manufacturer, RTC project-managed and
co-ordinated the POP display design.
Its other project with the games retailer was on a temporary display
called the Batman feature shop. It was selling merchandise for the
feature film. Toys ’R’ Us has introduced a new store concept in the US
which includes an area specifically designed to cater for short-term
Jeffrey says Toys ’R’ Us - both in the US and in the UK - is
particularly good at POP because of its total focus on the games
One set of products that generally have a head start on other toys are
those consisting of merchandising linked with a blockbuster film.
Coutts has recently been involved in a promotion for Tesco centred on
the release of the film Godzilla.
The company was commissioned to create a promotional hot-spot which
would pull together a range of licensed Godzilla toys supplied by a
number of different manufacturers. Not only did the unit need to appeal
to the target age group and meet the functional demands created by
differing pack sizes and types, Coutts also had to conform to the strict
pre-release restrictions on the use of film imagery.
While this minimised the scope for creativity, Bell says that the highly
branded presentation of the product in an off-shelf, high-traffic
position, will help to ensure that both the toy manufacturers and the
retailer maximise the opportunities that the investment in the licence
So while designers may target the parents who control the purse strings,
there’s no doubt that pester power can have a significant influence on
the final purchases made.
And whether by nagging, or by more subtle means, Jeffrey believes
children do have a great influence on buying decisions, even at an early
’Kids are more sophisticated, more brand aware and more open to peer
pressure than ever before,’ he says, ’and it’s happening earlier and
This article was first published on Marketing