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5 Storytelling Takeaways From Toy Fair 2020

After weeks of planning, prepping and pitching, the 2020 edition of Toy Fair New York, the toy industry’s biggest annual global showcase for retailers and media, has officially wrapped. 360 was out in force in the halls of the Javits and beyond, meeting with our media friendlies and influencers and trendspotting. Here we share our Toy Fair top five takeaways for storytelling in and around playtime for 2020.

Family Matters – More Than Ever

Adrienne Appell of The Toy Association, the show’s producer, said it well in this recap of the top toy trends from Toy Fair: “Toymakers [are introducing] more products that invite the whole family to play and create together.”

We see a few factors driving this trend – not least, a growing digital detox backlash, noted by influential outlets like The New York Times, that is motivating parents to take stock and recalibrate how family time is spent. Brands can capitalize on consumers’ appetite for more togetherness by developing family-centric campaigns and story angles and aligning with family-skewing partners.

No More Tech for Its Own Sake

As recently as five years ago, screens were popping up on every other toy, game and other plaything. This year, the tech that earned the most attention at Toy Fair was on the inside, deployed to enhance play value, educational benefits, or creativity. Case in point was 360 client Rollplay, a leading maker of ride-on toys, which even the likes of Digital Trends embraced for its return-to-basics ethos, focusing on the joy Rollplay’s products deliver instead of the tech under the hood (cool as it may be).

360PR+ client Rollplay’s booth at Toy Fair New York

Digital Gets Physical

The power of licensing is always on full display at Toy Fair, and it is no longer limited to traditional movie studios and broadcast properties. Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are building mighty, family-centric entertainment franchises, and their growing power emerged at the Javits this year. For one, Stranger Things was visible across multiple categories. You Tubers like JoJo Siwa and Ryan’s World were also on toys and games up and down the aisles.

To earn media and consumer attention, brands need to stay on the pulse of pop culture and the personalities that resonate. More and more, we’re looking and listening to Gen Z for an early read on what’s emerging – often, at lightspeed.

Nostalgia Everywhere 

You could hardly walk a Toy Fair aisle without going down memory lane. The iconic Slinky was celebrating its 75th anniversary, while right across the way, the Etch-a-Sketch booth was buzzing all show long. Nostalgia is always a powerful pull, and with Millennials now in their prime parenting years, a new generation of ‘80s and ‘90s era brands are poised for their second coming.

Even if a product or brand isn’t inherently nostalgic, consider whether there is a nostalgia play to be made to resonate with consumers and boost storytelling efforts. 

Bigger Picture Benefits Take Center Stage

At the end of the day, parents want to feel good about what their kids are playing with, whether for educational value, creative exploration, quality time spent outdoors or other fundamental reasons. That message came through loud and clear at Toy Fair, where stimulating products that deliver developmental benefits saw a renaissance this year.

It pays to think this way in devising plans, pitches, and even social posts, moving beyond a pure product focus to tell a story about the ultimate value that product delivers. 

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