Trends from Toyland: Barbie Talk To Me Doll

barbie-talk-to-me-doll-t-shirt-summer-doll.jpgI always count on Barbie being at the edge. You could see her wearing this “Think Pink Live Green” t-shirt when she goes to see Al Gore speak. I love it. Comes with a t-shirt for a child–unfortunately none in adult sizes, yet.

Also in keeping with Barbie’s commitment to the environment, a new line of accessories for girls call Barbie Bcause. These are small bags and notebooks that are made from re-purposed (the catch phrase of the season) scraps from Barbie’s extensive wardrobe. I thought originally that the Barbie was going to be wearing “re-purposed” clothing, but that’s going too far. The accessories are for girls to wear — they are attractive–very much like Coach bags in styling and use of piece worked materials.

We also look to see what new occupations Barbie is into each year. This year she’s Celebrity Chef (complete with her own TV camera and studio work top) and Zoo Doctor Barbie.

Webkinz: A real mistake in marketing

Last holiday season all of my tween testers kept asking for Webkinz. It was clearly the “hot” toy/play environment of the season. Even parents sent us emails saying that they too loved the site and used it as a way to play on-line with their kids. Webkinz brillantly blended all of the trends of the last decade: virtual pets meets Beanie Babies meets on-line shopping. What’s not to love?

Last week I was puzzled that the spin on the site was that it taught kids how to be “responsible” (the site was featured on iVillage In the Loop). True, you do have to feed your webkinz — I don’t believe it rises to the level of social responsibility. It’s a fun site, and as one of our kid testers explained “there’s always something new to buy!”

With the hottest children’s site on the web, it was predictable that the folks at Ganz would look for ways to build on their amazing success (especially when success in the toy industry is usually a fleeting phenomena). So the site, that had been ad-free, now posted ads and tie-ins to the Bee movie (where wasn’t the Bee movie tied in?)….Here’s where the company angered their base. Parents expected the site to be ad-free.

Of course these sites are really not ad-free. The sites are a perpetual ad for their own product but at least parents know what they have bought into. It’s another issue to have kids bombarded with ads for other products that parents may not even be aware of. When looking at these sites this summer, we were particularly taken aback by the Barbie site where kids can only access certain hair and nail designs by paying an additional fee.

Back in the 80s, my mother wrote a book called Buy Me! Buy Me!–which looked at the never ending buy ins of such hot properties of the time (can you say ninja turtle?)….Webkinz and it’s followers have just found a way to move the buy me, buy me possibilities into our family rooms–just an easy click of the mouse and you’re in.

Our advice remains the same– look at the sites with your kids from time to time. See what’s being posted. Webkinz promotes “academic questions” as a way to make more money on the site. Our testers tell us that they’ll do the questions sometimes, but they are really much more interested in the on-line shopping and the more arcade-like games offered on the site.