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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Classroom Activities

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Classroom Activities

Singles Day 2018 – “11/11 Global Shopping Festival” Hits $30 Billion

Once again the world’s biggest shopping event has occurred. And, no, it’s not Black Friday and Cyber Monday. By far, the biggest shopping day of the year is on November 11, Singles Day, in China. The holiday originally began in 1993 by college students as a celebration for people who are single, chosen because of the connection between singles and the number ‘1’. November 11 now serves as an occasion for single people to party – and shop!

This year, sales (stated as Gross Merchandise Value – GMV) hit $1 billion in only 1 minute and 25 seconds! At the end of the first hour, the sales reached $10 billion! By the end of 24 hours, the sales were an astounding $30.8 billion!

There were more than 100 million items sold in 17 countries, with 180,000 brands participating. More than one billion packages are estimated to be shipping. Even more impressive is that a whopping 90% of sales were completed from mobile devices. Wow.

Singles’ Day is by far the largest shopping and entertainment festival in the world. Compare it to Amazon’s Prime Day at $4 billion, and Black Friday at $14 billion online to see the difference.

Singles’ Day has become an event on its own, including celebrities, fashion shows, TV galas, virtual reality, and augmented reality shopping. It started with a November 10 evening event with a live-streamed, star-studded gala show that drew in 240 million viewers (that’s the equivalent of one in five people in China). There was also interactive entertainment and sport via Alibaba’s app to increase audience and shopper participation.

Why is it so important for global brands to enter this shopping day? Consider that there are roughly 300 million middle-class shoppers in China, rising to an estimated 500 million in the next 10-15 years. While Singles Day may have originally started for lonely Chinese consumers, the shopping day now is seen as critical to driving China’s – and the world – economy.

If you are not familiar with Singles Day, there are many sources with information about the event and Alibaba, including the following:

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Most students will not have previously heard of China’s Single Day. Discuss the shopping holiday and its importance in China.
  2. This is likely the first time students have heard about Singles Day. There are a number of videos that can help explain the event:
    1. What is 11/11?  https://youtu.be/bRv9qG75x2c
    2. Evolution of Singles Day: https://www.alizila.com/video/the-evolution-of-11-11/
    3. Highlights of 2018 event: https://youtu.be/W9JNfS0dAL0
  1. Discuss how this holiday compares to Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S.
  2. How should U.S.-based companies participate in Singles Day?

Source: Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, CNBC, The Verge, other news sources

Leave a comment

Filed under Classroom Activities