The Future of Play: Build Your Customer Base with Enriching “How It’s Made” Experiences

April 9, 2019 | Ever wonder how Universal Studios draws millions of families a year to visit its studio theme parks? It’s all about the power of experiences and recognizing how consumers relate to a brand, according to an in-depth report by The Toy Association and ProdigyWorks. The report, “Toy Manufacturing and Retail Solutions – the Future,” provides ideas on how the industry can capitalize on the changing marketplace, and appeal to new customers and retain (or increase sales with) existing ones.

In The Toy Association’s report, ProdigyWorks futurists identify 12 key opportunities for toy manufacturers and retailers, centered around five themes: “A Toy Diaspora,” “Everybody Plays,” “Experiences,” “Speaking to Consumer Values,” and “Looking Beyond the Thing: Service Opportunities.” As part of a regular series, Toy News Tuesday (TNT) takes a deep-dive into each of these themes.

Within the “Experiences” theme, the report suggests that by creating interactive factory experiences, toymakers can show new and loyal customers where and how a toy is made to gain a deeper connection to the plaything and brand. These would be places where visitors can tour the manufacturing process and robotics operations involved, and end in a play area and retail shop. Examples of successful “how it’s made” experiences include Crayola and Hershey.

“By opening the lid so-to-speak on their operations, toymakers can build interest in their brands and playthings,” said Ken Seiter, executive vice president of marketing communications at The Toy Association. “Consumers want products they can relate to and have fun with – toymakers are in a perfect position to deepen the connection they have with their audience by offering enriching experiences to interest and delight customers.”

In addition, toy retailers have opportunity to create “makerspaces” for a child to design, customize, and make his or her own toy, the report said. These store formats would give consumers tools, resources, and on-site expert help to create playthings from a wide range of materials. The toys could range from simple to complex depending on a child’s age and skill set. Toys could also be virtually created at the retail makerspace or remotely for production via a 3D printer.

Previously, TNT highlighted opportunities within Toy Diaspora and Everybody Plays. Later this month, TNT will feature an article exploring the fourth theme in the series, “Speaking to Consumer Values” and its correlating examples. The full ProdigyWorks report is available free to Toy Association members at