Growing Your Brand Successfully: A Look at Two Toy Companies

For the past six years I have researched and purchased high-quality, award-winning, educational toys for my children and as I have prepared to launch sweet & charming, I have attended several tradeshows and have researched child-related brands for the past two years. I consider myself well-educated in the various brands available and have followed the growth of many companies over the years, including two leading toy companies, Melissa and Doug and Alex Toys. Both toy companies are carried in highend specialty toy stores, however, Melissa and Doug toys are also carried in Toys R Us.

1133.jpgMelissa and Doug was first developed as a wooden toy and puzzle company and that is how they focused their brand for many years. In fact, I was so impressed with their quality, durability, and creative products that I became a wholesaler so I could sell their toys to my friends and neighbors as a fundraiser for One Heart Bulgaria and have sold these products for 3 years during the Fall, in time for Christmas. This year I was so overloaded with my business launch and Start Up Princess I decided I wouldn’t do it, however, my neighbors begged and persisted and finally I’ve relented and have allowed them to purchase these products. And it will be a blessing to the orphans One Heart Bulgaria supports as a fundraiser. However, when the 2006 Melissa and Doug catalog came, it was extremely disappointing! They have a few of their mainstay, classic products, but have chosen to retire some of my favorites. They’ve also gone gang busters with product development this year. Now their brand is so diverse and inconsistent that I would not be able to recognize it as I once was.

Previously, the brand was so strong you could display the brand on a shelf or an aisle and it would all compliment one another, now it is all mix-matched, designed with every pantone color and they must have a dozen or more designers all doing their own thing, it no longer reflects strong art direction like it once had. Yes, their products are probably still winning awards and probably still considered one of the best quality, however, I predict that the specialty toy retailers will only carry a few of their lines, while Toys R Us will carry all of it. Maybe that is what they want, however, to me, it has lost that unique appeal. By the way, today the orders are due and my neighbors are only spending an average of $40 on their orders whereas before they were spending an average of $75, some up to $500 (for their entire Christmas)! Those who haven’t ordered before think their products are great, but those who have ordered in previous years are disappointed that their styles are changing and their orders reflect that opinion. When I talked with my rep about it she said that they have diversified so much because their style was being copied by a lot of companies. That is true, it was being copied, but even the knock-off brands weren’t as high of quality.

s363-77350.jpgAlex Toys, on the otherhand, remains strong, they are also an award-winning, creative, educationally-based company and also has significantly added product lines over the years, however, their products are still the same style, with strong art direction in a cohesive manner.

To me, there is a difference of growing your company and growing your brand. Melissa and Doug has grown their company, but not their brand. They have outstanding customer service, quality, allow new businesses to do terms easily, and other great things…I just wonder if they could have done all of those things and created a more cohesive style and brand. Alex has done both. I would be interested to know what each of their revenues for 2006 will be.
images.jpgToday’s Magic Wand:

Growth is great, but direction is VITAL. Be consistent and keep your brand strong, or your growth won’t be so great.


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