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March 28, 2015

How do 'analog' toy companies compete in the tech boom?

Kids Toys
In an age of unparalleled creativity in gaming and other forms of tech-driven entertainment, how do the businesses that defined previous generations of toys stay afloat? 

While movies and TV shows have invigorated big brands like LEGO and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it's tough to pry a tablet full of apps away from a kid once he or she understands how to use it (especially when there are LEGO or Ninja Turtles games on it). If children are exposed to digital toys at younger ages, Business Cheatsheet asks, will their desire to play with old toys fade and crush companies like LEGO?

The answer seems to be that a balance of the new and old remains the most successful approach to winning imaginations. Despite following advice to go headlong into digital innovation in the early 2000's, LEGO was on the brink of bankruptcy in 2003. Theme parks and niche products fell flat and drove the company, founded by Danish owners in 1926, to re-evaluate what their best approach should be. 

“Kids see no difference between the digital and physical world,” said Michael McNally, LEGO's senior director of brand relations. “It could be content on YouTube that inspires them to go back and play. Our goal is to surround kids with experiences that drive them back to building.”

Many toys have evolved to operate in tandem with cloud-based applications and games that offer a context for kids to learn practical skills while exercising their imaginations. It's probable that children will demonstrate more and more that this nostalgic distinction perceived by older generations only enhances the value of play across platforms. LEGO seems to recognize this better than most.