Saturday, April 11, 2015

Cat Paw! Toy on Letterman Goes Viral

Some of you may not have seen Anna Kendrick's reaction to the Cat Paw toy on the David Letterman late night show. Her rather risqué' comments in this video clip went viral resulting in great PR for this  new toy! If you missed it, check it out here.

Guess who invented it? None other than Richard C. Levy, my co-author of The Toy and Game Inventor's Handbook. In past NYC Toy Fairs, Richard and I gave numerous anecdotal presentations on the TIA's Creative Factor programs about toy and game invention and licensing new product ideas. At Javits 2015, Richard went solo in an interview with host, Michael Artsis of Be Terrific, offering fascinating snippets to chronicle his long and successful career in the toy and game industry. Artsis seemed mesmerized, yet playful, as Richard described his career in the professional inventing community punctuated with demonstrations of not only Cat Paw, but his other latest creations, Dirty Words Game, and The Electronic Waving Flag.

Richard's Be Terrific interview shares his thoughts on the creative process used by the author/inventor respectfully dubbed Mr. Outside in the introduction to the Handbook. Throughout his long and fascinating career, Richard has been an inventor creating outside the corporate walls while thinking outside the box as well! See his amazing story here.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Kickstarting Fitness

Michael Volkin appears to be more of an inventrepreneur than a "professional" game inventor (though he admits to having read, The Toy and Game Inventor's Handbook). He has had successes on Kickstarter to fund his unique games. His specialty games harken to the adage, "necessity is the mother of invention".

Volkin's games grew out of  his real-life needs to "gamify" what he confronted while fulfilling his patriotic duties in the U.S. Army as a "company fitness trainer". By his own admission, he "accidentally invented" his line of games as he tried to make the grueling work of military fitness more fun.

Today, Michael Volkin has retired from the military, and is a best-selling author and entrepreneur with over 20 years of fitness experience.  He is considered the foremost authority on basic training, the subject extensively covered in his various books and described on his website, Ultimate Basic Training.  Volkin was awarded an Army Commendation Medal for the fitness programs he developed for the troops while stationed overseas. The core training approaches he designed are found in Strength Stack 52 and HIIT the Game, both products embraced by fitness conscious backers in their successful Kickstarter launches.

Volkin chose to use the Kickstarter model to get to market and forego traditional paths common to many toy and game inventors who license ideas to marketers or who personally exhibit at New York Toy Fair, just as 287 first-timers did this past February. Michael Volkin connected with enough fitness backers to reach funding goals and launch his products. However, a key question remains to be answered. Can a product reach more consumers through placement at thousands of retail outlets after successful sales pitches to 10,000 buyers at Jacob Javits Center or by using digital pitches to "backers" on Kickstarter?

The success of any product depends on reaching the maximum number of users! I asked Michael about his reasons for using Kickstarter to launch his products. He stated, "For me, it's an easy way to announce to the world not only the features of your product, but your intent on how you plan to roll out the product. People who back your product become evangelists for you, they root for you, they post reviews of your product, and they help build an early customer base."

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Very Sparkly Idea

In writing The Toy and Game Inventor's Handbook about the business of creating new playthings, Richard C. Levy and I used the words of  nearly one hundred professional inventors to describe their approaches when creating their next new product. In fact, in our inventor profiles published in the book, we asked the question, "What sparks original ideas?" Answers were quite varied. Among the replies: following trends, studying objects, watching children, daydreaming, fitful sleep, a refreshing shower,  and perhaps most unique, sunbathing au natural on an isolated tropical beach!

Some inventors use a more pragmatic and traditional approach to "spark" new ideas. They envision an unmet need/try to fill a void. That certainly was the spark for new games by Donna Christian and Leslie Lawrence who had a vision  to create games that respect and celebrate the Hispanic culture. The first two entries in a new product line marketed by Cass Group, LLC focuses on the celebration of young Latina girls' Quinceañera, a very important coming-of-age event in the lives of Hispanic girls. These “first of a kind” games hope to enhance the lives of young Hispanic girls as they dream about and prepare for their all-important 15th birthday.

My Quinceañera™ Countdown Game

My Quinceañera™ Angry Old Godmother Game

Both Donna and Leslie were volunteer mentors in Springfield, MA schools for years. During this time, these two former Milton Bradley Company creatives developed many relationships with young Latina girls which ignited a spark to fill a market void. They have since licensed My Quinceañera™ Countdown Game and My Quinceañera™ Angry Old Godmother Game to Cass Group, LLC, a start-up marketing group made up of three former Hasbro Game executives: Phil Jackson, Mark Sullivan and George Reich.

The link below shows these first products in what is foreseen as a line of games and activities targeted for a growing audience.

My Quinceañera™ Website

Monday, May 20, 2013

Have you hugged a toy inventor yet?

You should. It's National Inventors' Month! Inventors are the creative men and women, who toil mostly in anonymity, but through their inventiveness bring us new playthings year in and year out. We acknowledge in the The Toy and Game Inventor's Handbook that in the toy industry, product is king and inventors are king makers.

Here is how some inventors profiled in our eBook see their special talents.

An inventor is …

“someone that loves life and curiously explores it, dreams out loud so that others may participate, and strikes a great balance between persistence and practicality.”
Garry Donner, Random Toys & Games, Ann Arbor, MI
Most successful products include: Scrabble Scramble (Hasbro & Mattel); and Uno Roboto (Mattel).

“someone who thinks out of the box, doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, persists despite repeated rejection, and can see things the average person doesn’t see.”
Clemens V. Hadeen, Jr., Fun City USA, Sturgeon Bay, WI
Most successful products include: MicroMachines (Galoob/Hasbro) and Nerf Sharp Shooter (Hasbro)

“someone who creates something out of nothing.”
Reuben Klamer, ToyLab, San Diego, CA
Most successful products include: The Game of Life (Milton Bradley/Hasbro)

“someone who is a bit crazy and has at least one foot in the twilight zone. Inventors are true magicians who can make something come from nothing; from a thought to 3-D reality is a very nice trick.”
Steve Rehkemper, Rehkemper Invention & Design, Chicago, IL
Most successful products include: Air Hogs (Spin Master)

“someone with the drive and audacity to think he or she can come up with something new and unique, even after so many rocks have already been turned over to discover so many great inventions. A relentlessly creative nut who, against all odds, continue to dream and build.”
Elliot Rudell, Rudell Design, LLC, Torrance, CA
Most successful products include: Geo Trax (Fisher-Price); Upwords (Hasbro Games)

“someone who gives the world something brand new or something that is a play on an old concept or theme that, in the end, makes it very different and unique. An inventor sees things in a very special way but can also see the practical aspects of the invention (it is marketable, particularly in our business).”
Howard Wexler, Howard Wexler, LLC, NYC, NY
Most successful products include: Connect Four (Milton Bradley/Hasbro)

Chances are you have played with some of their creations. So, go ahead, show a toy inventor some love this month dedicated to all they have done and will in all likelihood continue to do.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Funding a Fun Idea

Internet "crowdfunding" is replacing the age old method of "family and friend funding" to finance production of an idea. No more asking Grandma Maude or Uncle Charlie for their cash savings to turn an idea into reality. Kickstarter is one of several websites where an inventor can use a slick pitch video and incremental incentives to get "backers" to not only pledge dollars but get them to spread their "like" to their personal network of friends.
Acknowledged as "America's Wordsmith", David Hoyt has his word puzzles syndicated to hundreds of daily newspapers. JUMBLE puzzle books are everywhere. Hoyt's latest game creation, Word Winder, is already on the market in traditional board as well as digital forms.
So why is a pro inventor like Hoyt on Kickstarter? Inspired by numerous teacher interests in Word Winder, Hoyt has designed a special classroom version that is intended to be played where no word game has gone before; on the floor! His hope is to meet his funding goal and produce quantities of this school edition of Word Winder and get kids everywhere out of their seats and on the floor playing his game. https://Nightly Business Report

Checkout Hoyt's Kickstarter pitch. Perhaps you will become a backer, and oh yes, don't forget to pass on the Word Winder message to all your friends!