When it comes to sourcing examples of product innovation and management, most people tend to look towards the automotive sector. After all, the levels of engineering and aesthetic design quality that define this market are truly staggering, while brands such as Ford have also mastered the delicate and lucrative art of lean manufacturing (without compromising on their output).
BMW is another seminal product innovation brand, with all of the current BMW 3 series for sale capable of delivering exceptional design features and performance within a cost-effective and profitable package.
Despite this, however, those who are willing to look beyond the automotive sector will also discover other industries that can inform their product innovation and management drives.
Take the toy sector, for example, which has established itself as a growth market that continues to set new trends in design, innovation and the use of consumer behaviour to refine product ranges.
3 Product Management Lessons That We Can Take From the Toy Market
While the focus of brands in the global toy sector may be directed towards the development of fun and interactive products, this remains a serious marketplace that is continuing to grow at an incredible rate. The total value in the U.S. market alone reached an impressive $21.8 billion back in 2011, for example, while this number has continued to grow incrementally since this time.
The growth of this market has not only empowered the U.S. manufacturing sector, which currently accounts for 19.2% of the nation’s total GDP, but it has also blazed new trails in product innovation for other markets to follow.
1. Successful innovation demands that you build on existing patterns and technology
If there is one thing that drives innovation in the toy market, it is the ability of brands to build successfully on existing patterns of gameplay to create new experiences.
After all, it can be extremely difficult to pursue concepts that are entirely original, particularly when you also need to ensure that they are commercially viable and capable of engaging an existing consumer base.
One of the best examples of this has been provided by the Monopoly range of board games, which have been developed from a single, interactive concept and enabled the developers to thrive in an age of digital entertainment.
From the classic iteration of the game to modern, regional versions and character-based alternatives, consumers can now access a range of increasingly innovative and targeted games that offer unique but familiar experiences.
This is a lesson that all businesses and industries can learn from, particularly as they aspire to introduce viable, cost-effective products that can drive a desirable ROI. The ability to evolve proven and popular concepts (or technology) is central to this, while this also minimises risk and helps in quest to drive brand awareness.
2. Consumer behaviour should dictate your product range
The willingness of toy brands to build on existing concepts requires them to retain in-depth knowledge of their consumer base. After all, a concept can only be proven by driving sustained consumer demand and consistently high sales volumes, and companies must remain touch with this data if they are develop their ranges and time their launches successfully.
This is a defining feature of the modern toy market, and one that is embodied by the recent proliferation of toys associated with blockbuster film franchises.
The recent, cinematic launch of the much-anticipated Rogue One: A Star Wars Story encouraged developers to create a range of related action figures and toys, for example, each of which was targeted at the franchises cult, loyal following.
The timing of these product releases not only targeted consumers when they most engaged with the brand, but it also enabled developers to reduce costs through integrated and synergistic marketing drives related to the franchise.
The key takeaway here is that toy brands have an in-depth understanding of what their consumers demand in real-time, as they leverage behavioural data that delves beyond traditional demographics to explore direct actions.
While some may argue that it is only natural for toy brands to rely heavily on behavioural data given that the majority of products are aimed at restricted age ranges, this is a trend that is becoming increasingly influential and one that brands across multiple sectors can now learn from.
3. Over-innovation is more detrimental to your brand than not Innovating at all
We have already touched on how many toy companies have built their brand by evolving established concepts and patterns of play, and this is an ethos that delivers obvious cost benefits. It has other advantages too, as it prevents outlets from over-innovating their products at the expense of focus, quality and brand identity.
Even the toy companies that have invested in over-innovation have quickly realised the error of their ways and altered their value proposition, with market leaders LEGO providing a relevant case in point.
After becoming obsessed with the idea of open innovation and disrupting the toy market, they lost sight of their core product range and suffered financially as a result.
This was before the company adjusted its course and adopted the type of back-to-basics approach that works effectively in the toy market, refining its core product range and optimising quality control in the process.
This is a lesson that all companies should heed, particularly in an age where constant innovation is preached as the only way to sustain a viable market share.
If you remain unsure, try to remember that the definition of innovation in business is to pursue new ideas that add value to your venture. You should therefore consider your own product range in this context at all times, rather than pursuing innovation merely for its own sake.