I feel bad for the small crew that's stayed on at Toys "R" Us (though not as bad as I do for the folks who weren't as fortunate) through the course of their spectacular collapse and extraordinarily unusual bankruptcy proceedings this past year. While the last of their stores closed on June 29th in the U.S., on June 20th the company registered a new trademark for Geoffrey's Toy Box - news that I broke right here on The Rock Father™ Magazine last week. All this time, there has been a crew working on what would emerge as Geoffrey, LLC, and before I go any further, I think it should be made clear that no one should be made to feel at fault for holding onto a job during times of crisis. Though the former Global Resource Center for Toys "R" Us in Wayne, NJ has been stripped-down and largely liquidated itself, there's been a small crew at work, and those folks were placed into a really hard spot - supporting their families while friends and colleagues were let go, and also tasked with trying to reimagine and perhaps revive a brand that they loved. That said, the news of Geoffrey, LLC living on as Geoffrey's Toy Box (branded merch, licensing, perhaps new stores... eventually) has been met with polarizing reaction from those within the toy industry, but tonight it became apparent that whoever decided to pull the trigger on re-activating the Toys "R" Us social networks wasn't counting on public backlash.
Behind-the-Curtain: Some words about the business...
In the summer of 2016, I made a rare appearance at a conference in New York City - Blogger Bash. The event was a presentation of the team behind The Toy Insider, and at the time I'd just become a member of their Parent Advisory Board and a regular contributor to their publication (read my January 2018 column here!). Paired with Sweet Suite (a must-attend gathering for the toy industry) the event brought together a wide array of media from traditional press to social media influencers and everyone in between. Following breakfast, I was having a conversation with a group who was at first surprised that I was actually able to exist in the physical realm rather than as a voice that lives only within their digital devices (I'd become known as a conference-avoider). Where I'd raised a few eyebrows and turned a few neighboring heads was when I stood there, drink in-hand, and casually made the comment that "you should never use the term 'influencer' in a front-facing manner." When asked why, I said it was "because it can be construed as being condescending to your audience." Two years later, I stand behind that statement, because "influencer" is a behind-the-scenes title that should never be pointed at an audience, and right now that's more important than ever.
As I've noted before, we still have LEGO STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES OUT on our DVR from when it originally aired on Cartoon Network last year. With the DVD release happening this Tuesday (pre-order it here), the folks at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment sent over some self-created marketing "Memes" to help spread the word. While I don't know if there's a copy of the DVD headed to Rock Father HQ or not, we actually picked up the previous release, LEGO STAR WARS: THE PADAWAN MENACE on Blu-ray this past Friday since the little ones younglings hadn't seen it yet. Check out the ad-memes below...
Times may change, but over the past sixty years, one constant has been the presence of MATCHBOX cars and toys, both on store shelves (and pegs), and in the homes of families everywhere. While the line has seen some ups-and-downs since it's launch in 1953, six decades of MATCHBOX memories have been created for parents and kids alike.
Originally posted on February 10, 2013... interestingly enough, a year later (2/16/2014) and Crayola has a different company handling PR for Toy Fair 2014 (it's Edelman now) and it's all back to "Mom." Pretty safe to assume that Crayola is steering the ship on this and not the PR folks.
UPDATED: On 2/19/2013, a rep from Coyne PR on behalf of Crayola sent me a nice message that included the following:
"Your post was very poignant and makes some great points. Dads do play an important role in raising their kids and our products are the tools to help Moms and Dads, along with Grandparents, care givers, etc. foster creativity and inspire imagination in children. As we move forward, we will look at how we present our information to be sure we are inclusive of all individuals who care about kids and support raising creatively inspired children."
ORIGINAL POST: It's Sunday night, and as most folks are watching the GRAMMYS (my wife included), I'm sitting here skimming through hundreds of press releases and product sheets rolling into Rock Father HQ from the American International Toy Fair in New York City. While I wish I'd gone this year, getting the news via email and the wires is the next best thing, though I have to be a little picky about what I cover here on The Rock Father as time is something I could use more of. One thing striking me as I check out the media materials from a lot of toy makers is how archaic their views of playtime, parenting, and family structure still are. Yes, despite all the strides made in the last year about "gender neutrality" (a huge media push, too) and the change in family structure, the old stereotypes are back this weekend in New York, and the charge is being led by some disappointing offenders.
I'd never really considered the fact that most LEGO products were geared towards boys, probably because we're in DUPLO mode here at The Rock Father™ house. Thinking back to my own childhood, my sister and I both played with LEGOs, so my thoughts were always that children of boths sexes loved to build things. Sadly, that hasn't really been the train of thought in the retail sector, and the folks at LEGO are trying to change that with the releases of LEGO Friends, which hit Europe last week, and hit stores here in the U.S. yesterday.