Wanna sell a toy? Talk to a child!

Most people don't get it. To get consumers to buy, either you need to know what is it that they want, or you need to pre-empt what they may want and then give it to them. Its about being either 'market driven' or about 'driving markets'. What some people 'don't get' is that consumers don't want to buy what these people want them to buy. I mean, its not about what I want to sell; its about what the consumer wants to buy. I can try and sell him whatever I want to, just that, he will not bite. He will, only if he NEEDS whatever I am selling.

Now that's a lesson the IITs have to learn. It seems that as a part a tripartite agreement between the Toy Association of India (TAI), the IITs in Delhi and Mumbai and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), students at the IITs are conceptualising and designing a whole range of playthings, traditional and contemporary.

Well, nothing wrong about that except, that, their 'toy ideas' include recasting the traditional 'Snake & Ladders' as as a game that tracks the migratory habits of birds around the world. In this new game, a wrong number means a spiral down the snake but the right number takes you up the step ladder towards migration. The idea is to try and ensure the kids who play the game not just play but learn while they play.

I laud the desire among the IITians to try and teach kids while at play, but the only problem is, do they want to? I mean the kids. Do they want to learn while at play. Oh, there's an added question too. Should they in fact be taught while at play? Lets leave the latter question for the moment, as it it is veiled in 'philosophy', and I am no good at it. How many kids are out there, who play, and want to learn while keeping at it. OK, I see it. Maybe the learning wouldn't be made apparent to them, so they would play on scarcely realising that they are in fact learning something?

Well, underestimate kids at your peril. The truth is, kids just wanna have fun at play. Isn't that easy to figure out? To laugh, to scream, to just have a good time.

The lesson IITians need to learn is simple. Products and services must always built around and from customers. Surely, they can be innovative, born out of imagination, and not consumer research, yet in the end they must respond to needs. And again, products and services can respond to needs that are expressed or latent. But they must never be designed in isolation where the consumer has no place. Err on that and product is doomed, ab initio.

Comments

Karthik Murali said…
Sir,
I might way to say , that this "Sell what i need and not what u have" situation has been prevalent in several other markets too .Listening to the customer and identifying his requirements ,developing a product has never been a case sometimes even with big FMCG majors

One thing ,they can do ,ask a few "typical" kids to sit as a test panel ,give them a variety of toys among these educational toys and silently observe how they play
One thing i have also noticed , and seen in many toy stores
the prob of they picking up this toy can determine the chance of success too

One more thing , i noticed is that
there's been a recent infuse of a large no of these "indianised" traditional games like Snake and Ladder , Pallanguzhi etc in special packaging,prced at around Rs.300-400 and targeted specially among the NRI people, who "wishes" to teach their US born kids ,about India through these games

I have written an article on Men's fairness creams in my blog
(Title : Do Men Have Skin ?) http://karthikmurali.blogspot.com
I kindly request u to review it
Prof.Ray Titus said…
Karthik,

Thank you for your comment.

Being a tad fair to FMCG companies, at times, though consumers know what their need is, can't articulate it into a product...

About your article, 'Do men have skin'...

I am not sure whther I agree. The problem is steeped in Market Research. As to whether men care about how fair they are, would depend on whether they want to articulate it when asked about the same. My guess is, they won't. But does that mean they don't wish for fairer skin. I doubt it.

Maybe it makes ever greater sense to observe 'behaviour' to figure whether or not they care about fair skin. For example, why do Matrimonial ads ask for fair complexion in women. For someone who does not care about his own skin colour, why should he care about his spouse's?

So I would recommend caution before drawing a conclusion on the desire for fair skin.
Tiger said…
Sir,

It reminds me of the proverb: "You can take the horse to the puddle but can't make it drink". As you said if trick lies in finding out the innate or sublime need and transform it into a product. The best example is a mother who understands the need of a baby who cant even talk! By doing so she ensures the baby's love and loyalty.

I am also reminded of the movie 'Big' where the building turning in to a robot idea(by an adult) is converted to a dinosaur.

About learning and playing to some extent its good but once the child realises the fact that he is being taught he may be averse to it. But on the contrary Panchatantra proved teaching can be mixed with fun and so did TZP.

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