The Worst Toys this Holiday Season

We all know that many new products will fail in the marketplace for one reason or another. Sometimes the quality is poor, or the packaging is wrong, or the price is too high. And sometimes a product fails because it can be dangerous.

Each year the non-profit organization World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) compiles a list of the 10 “worst toys” of the year. Toys make the list when they present a hazard to children such as choking, cutting, or with one of this year’s toys, slashing.

Before crying out that “kids will be kids and anything can be dangerous,” consider that unsafe toys are a serious health issue. The numbers are scary. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission there were roughly 240,000 toy-related injuries in the U.S. in 2016. This translates to one child treated for a toy-related injury in a U.S. emergency room every three minutes. And, between January 2017 and October 2018 there were an estimated 3.5 million units of toys recalled in the U.S. and Canada.

Some of the toys on this year’s list include:

  • Black Panther Slash Claw (slashing injuries)
  • Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel Superstar Blade (blunt force and eye injuries)
  • Stomp Rocket Ultra Rocket (eye, face, and other impact injuries)
  • Cabbage Patch Kids Dance Time Doll (choking injuries)

Detailed warning labels on packaging aren’t always enough. Young, small children in particular are vulnerable, plus not all warning labels are read and followed. View the list and read the concerns.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the topic of responsibility of a company to consumers.
  2. View the toys on the list: https://toysafety.org/
  3. Divide the students into teams. Have each team review one of the products on the list.
  4. For the product, how should the company address the issue that it is on the “worst toys” list? What should retailers do?
  5. Have students research how toys are tested.

Source: Marcelo, P. (13 November 2018). The “worst toys” for the holidays, according to safety group. Associated Press.

 

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The Power of Play – Innovation in Toys

Innovation comes in many forms. It can range from very complex high technology products such as robots and self-driving cars, to relatively simple toys and dolls. Nonetheless, even when simple, innovation and imagination are powerful forces. They help to fuel learning and expand thinking.

Consider a somewhat humble product – the Barbie doll. Barbie is getting up there in years and is approaching 60 years on the toy market. Yet, instead of being seen as old-fashioned, the doll has changed greatly over the years. Barbie has changed in shape, size, color, and profession. In past years, Barbie has had careers including nurse, teacher, fashion model, and princess. But now she is much more. Barbie is now an engineer, an Olympic athlete, a legendary pilot, mathematician, chef, and artist.

In its latest incarnation, Barbie follows the lead of other female trailblazers and has a new personas as the first female actor to portray Doctor Who, the time-traveler lead of the popular BBC TV series, and the alien-hunting FBI Agent Dana Scully of the X-Files. This takes her far beyond her fashion and beach days and brings her into the current era of strong female leaders.

Who should Barbie become next?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the stages in the product life cycle. What are the marketing objectives in each stage?
  2. Divide students into teams. Have each team draw a product life cycle and place various products and services into each stage. Make sure to include various toys and Barbie dolls.
  3. Discuss Mattel’s new additions to the Barbie product line. How does Mattel maintain its position on the PLC using Barbie products?
  4. Show the Web site: https://barbie.mattel.com/shop/en-us/ba/new-barbies
  5. Show the Dr. Who doll: https://barbie.mattel.com/shop/en-us/ba/doctor-who-barbie-doll-fxc83?sf93512412=1
  6. Next, have students brainstorm on how to reposition or revise products/services to move into an earlier stage of the life cycle.

Source: Miller, S. (9 October 2018). Barbie adds Doctor Who, Dana Scully and more to its growing roster of modern icons. Advertising Age.

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Microchips Under My Skin

Have you ever misplaced a key card that is needed to enter work? Or maybe can’t find your rail pass? Or as an employer, can you truly track access and secure a facility in this age of technology? But, what are you willing to trade for that security and access?

Some companies and people are now taking the step of embedding access into bodies through technology. They insert a microchip under the skin; with an embedded chip, there is no risk of losing access passes, or of being robbed of an important access pass.

It might sound a little like fiction (think, ‘James Bond’), but it is now a reality for thousands of people in Sweden. The microchips are designed by the Swedish company Biohax to make life easier and more secure. Those in favor of the microchips say they are safe, but others raise concerns about privacy, health, and hacking.

The chips are the size of a grain of rice and cost an estimated $180 per chip. Using a syringe, the chips are placed into the skin between the thumb and forefinger and have the capability of transmitters. For example, the chip can enable users to open doors, start cars, contain critical medical data, transfer personal data, and more. In Sweden, the largest train company has started allowing commuters to replace tickets with the chips. There is also talk that the chips could be used to make payments in stores and restaurants.

What do you think? Want a chip under your skin?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the buying process for organizations. Who would influence the decision-making?
  2. Show the Biohax site: https://www.biohax.tech/
  3. Show video of the product: https://youtu.be/eX1KNlI40V8
  4. What are the characteristics of the target market for this product?
  5. For Biohax microchips, have students work on the actions taken in each of the five steps.
    1. Problem recognition?
    2. Information search?
    3. Evaluative criteria?
    4. Purchase decision?
    5. Post-purchase behavior?
  6. What are key considerations in each step?
  7. Debrief the exercise.

Source: Savage, M. (22 October 2018). Thousands of Swedes are inserting microchips under their skin. All Things Considered – National Public Radio

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