Just over a year ago, consumers were up in arms because of the lack of representation of "Star Wars" heroine Rey in the franchise's toys and games. The suspected dissing of the crucial character led to the hashtag #WheresRey and numerous excuses from fumbling marketers who missed the mark over equal gender representation. Now, in 2017, it seems toy brands are wising up.
More than 1,100 toy companies displayed their wares this weekend at the annual North American International Toy Fair, now in its 114th year, and many pushed messages of female empowerment and gender fluidity. The Manhattan-based trade show, which concluded Tuesday, attracted an estimated 30,000 attendees. Toy sales in the U.S. alone top $26 billion, up 5% between 2015 and 2016, according to market research firm NPD Group, and giant brands like Mattel and Hasbro command millions in measured media, but they are only now beginning to take risks with social norms.
"The toy industry has gotten more savvy than most marketers," said Steve Pasierb, president and chief executive of the Toy Industry Association, noting that brands are now dispersing of labels like boy toys or girl toys. Indeed, last year the TIA did away with its "Boy Toy of the Year" and "Girl Toy of the Year" awards in an effort to be more inclusive and modern with its strategy.