The worst of toy product research

I was recently hired by a toy company to examine a particular aspect of play and it got me thinking about product research...
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At Hasbro, the team whet their innovative whistle with ‘martini’ meetings, named after the Martini glass, whereby researchers start at the rim looking for emerging technologies and inventions, thrash out the ideas that look promising until they reach the metaphorical stem. This process spawned FurReal Friends no less.

Research can be less than meticulous though, and things can slip through the net. Take these ludicrous examples:
Introduced in 1976 as "a family game that's loads of fun," by Mego Toy, the object of Ballbuster was to "use your balls to bust your opponents.” Mego thought it could get away with the name but the first preview of the TV commercial shown to buyers shattered that illusion. The ad showed a family in which the husband said to his wife: "Honey, you're a real ball buster!" Stunned silence followed.

Hasbro’s Flubber was tied to Walt Disney's 1962 film. Similar to Silly Putty, it was billed as non-toxic and non-staining. Unfortunately, more than 1,600 kids and their parents came down with sore throats, body rashes and other reactions and Hasbro had to recall it and get rid of several tons. They couldn't dump it in the ocean and they couldn't incinerate it because it gave off noxious black smoke, so they buried it behind a warehouse under a car park. According to legend, on hot summer days, Flubber oozed through the cracks in the pavement - a primordial reminder of the vagaries of the toy business.

Angel Babies from Ideal in the 1970s were tiny dolls with mechanical fluttering wings. They lived on clouds and played harps. Buyers at the New York Toy Fair said, “They're dead babies right? Babies that died and now they're in heaven.”

Never likely to succeed ...



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