Toronto toymaker Spin Master systematically seeks out fresh ideas for new products from around the world.
In the fiercely competitive global toy market, any company that hopes to survive, much less thrive, needs to develop systems that allows it to tap into new inventions and technologies. In fact, the same principle applies to a wide range of consumer products firms: the importance of keeping the product innovation pump primed is paramount.
At Spin Master, the 20-year-old firm, long known for bringing imaginative toys to market, has been meticulous about building an international R&D pipeline as a means of staying at the cutting edge of toy trends. Here are some tips for firms looking to bolster their capacity to innovate.
1. Build an international network.
Spin Master has cultivated relationships with hundreds of toy inventors around the world who will pitch ideas and prototypes. The underlying principle is that the company polls broadly, say chief marketing officer Krista DiBerardino. “The ideas come from everywhere.”
2. Establish a parallel structure to connect with inventors.
While Spin Master has radically decentralized and outsourced an aspect of its R&D process, the company nonetheless has a dedicated team that works closely with the inventors in its network, and sometimes involves them in the product development itself. The evaluation is a “disciplined process” intended not only to assess the merit of proposed toys, but also how it might fit with other future products and marketing initiatives.
3. Adapt great ideas to suit your company’s needs.
DiBerardino says Spin Master’s R&D/marketing teams use what she calls the “spinnovation” process to transform inventions and product proposals into unique products that reflect the company’s approach and style.
4. Scout for new business opportunities.
Spin Master has hired a new business development manager whose job is to find existing toys from other firms that fit with Spin Master’s current or future portfolio, and then establish distribution or licensing agreements to sell them in new markets. Says DiBerardino, “We’re taking ideas and modifying them and launching them in other parts of the world.”