Toys was the challenge theme in Wichita at our national competition and participants were able to speak to a few industry experts throughout the weekend.
Dougal Grimes, Vice President of Innovation and Inventor Relations for Spin Master, was a mentor during the filming of Make48. Spin Master, a leading global children’s entertainment company, is best known for their popular toys and games such as PAW Patrol, Kinetic Sand, Bakugan, Hatchimals, Hedbanz and Rubik’s.
Spin Master was founded in 1994 by childhood friends and former classmates, Ronnen Harary, Anton Rabie and Ben Varadi. With their own $10,000 investment, they launched their first product. The Earth Buddy - a nylon stocking-covered head of sawdust topped with grass seeds which grew to emulate hair - generated $1.5 million in sales within the first six months of business launch, planting the seed that would springboard Spin Master into the toy industry. Their story
As a mentor, Dougal provided invaluable insight into the retail toy industry and gave the teams a lot to think about regarding their prototype ideas. He previously worked at Hasbro for eleven years, and has spent three years with Spin Master. “My role (at Spin Master) revolves around looking for new ideas from toy and game inventors globally, with the hope of bringing that idea to life with one of our brands or something completely new in the toy and game world.”
Matt Nuccio (Design Edge) was a mentor on the set as well, and has worked with Make48 in the past. He got in touch with Dougal about the event challenge. “I’ve worked with Matt a lot through Spin Master. He said I’m working with Make48, and I think you’d be great for it. I know the challenge is well-suited to our industry and it’d be perfect to come on and be a mentor. I got in touch with Tom Gray, and it all worked out.”
What was your first impression of the event?
Really great. This is a wonderful venue and everyone has been very friendly and collaborative. I love doing this because you go out and see the creatives at work, and from the very outset they get briefed and you see the dynamics of a team. You can see the differences on how they approach the competition and they've all been really open and going their own different ways. I can't wait to see what they do.
What do you look for in a new game at Spin Master?
That’s a great question. Spin Master covers everything from outdoor play through preschool toys, plush, activities and family games. We’re not only building out products we have, like PAW Patrol, which is a huge franchise, but we have opportunities to build something completely new. We look for everything, but there is a very much a strategic view of how we review things.
The challenge is to create a STEAM toy. Do you have a lot of experience in that or what do you look for?
Yes, however, it's not always overly STEAM. For example, at Spin Master we have Kinetic Sand. The fake sand compound has these kinds of building properties and it is very much a STEAM toy.
We focus first on the innovation, then the play value and experience and other underlying factors. Spin Master now owns the Rubik's Cube. It’s obviously a famous great puzzle, but it’s also a mathematical puzzle. It creates something of an algorithm, and there are many different curriculums that can be based around the Rubik's Cube. So again, when people see the Rubik’s they think pop culture toy icon, but it’s also a STEM-accredited puzzle that supports brain development and cognitive skills by allowing children and adults to use their creativity, while developing and encouraging intelligence. So we do focus on entertainment and play value first, but there are underlying principles that go into these steps.
Can toy inventors come to you or can they send in their ideas?
Yes, we do have a specific process set in place for inventors to come to us and I would be the point of contact for that. Before the pandemic we would go to many shows, like the New York Toy Fair and different trade shows around the world.
There are roughly 300 professional game inventors globally that we have relationships with and communicate regularly. They show us ideas and have a good sense of what we are looking for. We also crowd-source ideas. For example, if we see a new innovation on YouTube, we'll get in touch with that creator exploring how we may work with them to license their product or work with them to develop something new. We operate with a very open innovation mentality and strategy so people can come to us and show ideas.
Do you think you will use any of the team's ideas?
Potentially. After the challenge, we'll definitely review everything that we see. At Spin Master we look at close to 3000 concepts a year and speak to loads of inventors. A few things here I may have seen before, but you don’t want to dismiss an idea, especially in the brainstorming phase, because there could be something slightly different that hasn't been done before. The toy industry works on a lot of different cycles, and there's traditional play patterns that often get reinvented. So you want to let people develop and find that interesting niche, that could be a great take on something else. But definitely we'll look at all the ideas and see if there's something that's a fit because ideas can come from anywhere.
Watch Dougal Grimes this fall when Make48 airs on PBS(TBA).
Spin Master is a leading global children’s entertainment company, creating exceptional play experiences through its three creative centres: Toys, Entertainment and Digital Games. Best known for innovation in toys and games including award-winning brands like PAW Patrol, Bakugan, Kinetic Sand, Air Hogs, Hatchimals, Rubik’s Cube and GUND and as the global toy licensee for other popular properties, Spin Master has an unwavering commitment to excellence and innovation bringing meticulous detail to each item. https://www.spinmaster.com/en-US