2012 Australian Toy Hobby and Nursery Fair

After finding out about this event from a friend, who was a 2010 Industrial Design graduate, I knew it was something I had to see. The exhibition was for brands, such as Hasbro, Lego and Toyworld to promote their products to potential retailers, wholesalers, media, government, promoters, marketers, etc.

As the exhibition was geared towards sales rather than showcasing new and upcoming products, the experience was rather limited. My boyfriend and I just walked around the entire venue, trying to commit to memory everything that might be useful for my concepts, since no cameras were allowed unless you had a media pass.

At the entrance we had to use these special scanners to obtain our visitor badges. My boyfriend had the entrance codes on his phone, and all he had to do was place his phone’s screen onto the sensor, and within less than 5 seconds, out came the pass. Amused at this technology, I knew this fair was gonna be great. I was also greeted by a massive, unmanned Pikachu costume. We started at the far end and worked our way towards the other end of the exhibition space. Throughout our journey we encountered something different at every turn: kites, playgrounds, plush toys, hobby cars and aircraft, traditional wooden whirligigs, books, stationery, science kits, etc. Whilst walking into each stand, I noticed the exhibitors always take a glimpse at our passes which we had around our necks. We had ‘Visitor’ written on ours so it seems that the treatment was slightly… different. At the Hasbro stand we were denied access because they only wanted to assist ‘Buyers’. Perhaps the had some top secret product that has not yet been announced to the public…

At other stands we’ve introduced ourselves as uni students doing market research for our project, and some of them were happy to talk about their products with us. To name a few, the nanomagnet [?] exhibitor showed us the amazing things you can do with neodymium earth magnets, the Faber Castell stand displaying the telescoping brush [to protect the bristles while also letting the brush dry] and collapsible water cup, the wooden mechanical toy stand who let us have a go at winding up the toys [after seeing the preferential treatment, you’d feel rather grateful being granted permission to sample the products]. We even had the Hong Kong product quality control exhibitor approach us after seeing us looking at his stand, confused as to whether we were allowed access to such information. But the most informative and interesting experience came from the Lego stand.

We explained to the Lego man that we were just students wanting to have a look around, and surprisingly he was kind enough to give us a complete tour of the Lego exhibition. Lego kits have gone a long way, and I’ve noticed that even the complex kits are for kids around 6-14 years old [also my target age group]. The exhibitor explained that this was possible due to the simple modular step by step instructions, where for example if a child were to build a Lego house with 5 rooms, there will be separate instructions for each of those rooms, and individual instructions for the roof, garden, etc. Lego has released a new line of kits called Lego Friends, which is primarily aimed towards girls. The contents are basically the same as a normal Lego kit [which goes the same for most of their other kits, where only a few new pieces can create an entire new kit], the only new thing about it is the girl characters, who each have their own personality. The characters have a more slender build compared to the traditional blocky Lego men, and have a customisable feature such as adding bows to the hair, or even changing hairstyles. Another important factor in making the kits desirable by girls is the colour palette, which mainly composed of pastel pink, blue and purple. They wanted to make their kits appeal to all kids by creating independent kits with opposing colour palettes and characters, which the child may personally relate to. I found that this would be an important point to consider in developing my concepts, since I intended to appeal to both boys and girls of the 6-10 age group. The Lego Friends kit was a success, and very well received by girls. The exhibitor mentioned that the experience the child gains when using toys is important  – especially a sense of achievement where they can perhaps show off to their parents. They weren’t so much concerned with whether girls wouldn’t be so much into building blocks or not, but more about the physical, tactile, visual result that could be achieved from completing these kits. We thanked him for taking us around the exhibition and giving us in-depth information about each range of kits. He was about to give us some brochures to take a long but unfortunately they had run out :(…

Lego Friends City Park Cafe kit won the Australian Toy Association’s Toy of the Year 2012. http://www.smh.com.au/national/cafe-society-has-lego-sitting-pretty-in-pink-20120306-1ui76.html

Other Awards
http://www.newsmaker.com.au/news/15299

Judging criteria
http://www.toyfair.com.au/awards/product-of-the-year

We walked out of the exhibition with as many brochures as we could, disappointed that we weren’t allowed to take photos so I could include them into my CJ/thesis in market research. I’ve noticed that a lot of the toys are still simply soft toys, interactive, mechanical and not necessarily electronic, but also some of the toys mimics an actual adult product, such as computers, Mercedes car and a Ducati bike. Although toys have moved into more sophisticated designs due to developments in human [child]-computer interactions, traditional toys which the child’s parents may have grown up with are still favourable and not forgotten or neglected in current or future toy designs. A toy is is successful and loved by the child if  there is an element of wonder within it.

P.S – “dwink” hahaha.

*catherine

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