7 Steps to Creating Winning Products for Today's Kids, Tweens and Teens



Winners and Losers

This handbook is about winning. It’s about finishing ahead of the competition in whatever category you pursue for whichever youth audience you choose. It’s about what it takes to create and maximize a winning product or program for kids, tweens and teens.

What is the magic of evergreen properties and brands like Barbie or Barney or Nike or Nick? What are the ingredients that add up to grossing a billion dollars or more a year?

Or on a smaller scale, how can you create a logo design, a package, a website, a game, an advertisement, a healthy and appealing snack item, a new type of social program – any offering to young people that maximizes their attraction and involvement?

More than 80% of new products targeting young people and their families either fail or fall below expectations. With change happening so fast the explosion of this expensive statistic is exponential. In the Grocery industry, for example, there are approximately 5,000 new product introductions every year. About 1 million dollars per store is spent to introduce and promote these products. And about 80% of them fail or fall below expectations. They don’t survive on the shelf.

What about the innumerable programs designed to enrich young people’s lives – scouting and related programs, summer activities, youth sports, church-sponsored programs and many others? And now with the tech revolution, kids, tweens and teens are participating in droves in web-based “programs” that involve social interaction. What are the ingredients that need to go into these programs to maximize young people’s involvement and ensure success? In order to distinguish these types of programs from TV, film, and computer-gaming programs, we’ll refer to youth activities and organizations and some web-based social interaction programs/sites as “Social Programs”.

Indications are that while today’s young people are increasingly opting for tech-time, (videogames, computers, hand-held tech and communication devices, etc.), this involvement can be at the cost of time spent with certain, some would argue, more healthy, face-to-face and group activities such as scouting, boy’s and girl’s clubs, 4-H, and parent-child participatory groups such as Indian Guides.

Are our young people migrating headlong into a future dominated by tech activities at the expense of face-to-face and group interaction? What is the cost of this potentially harmful direction in individual human and family terms, and to our culture itself? Many are those who believe the cost may be significant.

No matter what medium, the objective is the same: Create products and programs that are attractive and involving and that sustain young people’s interest.

What’s needed is a plan, a strategy. What’s really needed is a system.

After more than 25 years working directly with more than 50 kid and youth-targeting corporations such as Mattel, Hasbro, Disney, Warner Bros., ABC TV, Nickelodeon, Kraft, Kellogg’s, the USDA, the Pony Club of Norway, Discovery Kids and National Geographic Society, Youth Market Systems Consulting (YMS) has evolved its systematic, step-by-step approach into a “winning formula”.

While there are no guarantees in the new product and program development game, intelligent and consistent utilization of the YMS system will result in paring that 80% statistic down to size, even reversing it. Even a 10% increase in a company’s or organization’s success rate translates to millions of dollars or to the greater enhancement of the young people different organizations serve.

After using the YMS system for a period of 8 years, a major child-targeting consumer product company conducted an internal study of more than 50 products to determine the YMS system’s effectiveness in predicting success or failure in the marketplace. The YMS system worked. Amazingly, the YMS system had an 80% success rate; it actually reversed the failure statistic in favor of success.

In 1997, in partnership with Robert Reiher, Ph.D., we published What Kids Buy and Why–The Psychology of Marketing to Kids. Readers of that book will, in this Handbook, especially recognize references to age segmentation that were greatly expanded upon in What Kids Buy and Why. With that information as a platform, and some of it included herein in brief, this Youth Product and Program Developer’s Handbook focuses on the product and program development process itself–presenting a 7-step approach.

In addition, this handbook expands the scope of “programs” beyond entertainment offerings such as toys, games and TV shows to include all kinds of kid, tween and teen programs and activities such as youth organizations and sports. The net desired result is the same whether for a videogame or an after school event it’s to ATTRACT and INVOLVE.



      Many are the tried and tired approaches of the past that have contributed to the 80% failure rate of new product and program introductions. The future is rocketing in change faster than most people can keep up with. A major component of any successful system today will necessarily be a strong awareness of what the future is bringing in, especially technology.

To this end the final chapter of this handbook is devoted to the future and its implications for kid/youth/all-family new product and program development and marketing.


Responsible Product Development


Moral Imperative: It’s absolutely critical to be able to distinguish between popular, “winning” products and programs and those that, while successful, at the same time may be less than positive for kids developmentally speaking, perhaps even harmful to them. Videogames are a prime example. While our young people love to play them, too much time devoted to playing these kinds of games can be deleterious to their well-being. In addition many games have content that is violent, sexually explicit and age inappropriate and/or abusive, or in other ways negative in impact. Responsible product and program developers avoid being a party to anything that may harm children.

After having worked as consultants with so many companies over the years on all categories of product and programs, we were sufficiently concerned about the negative impact of violence in video games, too much tech-time for kids and other negative forces that we wrote a book for parents titled: KIDNAPPED–How Irresponsible Marketers are Stealing the Minds of Your Children.

In KIDNAPPED we outlined 3 classifications for determining the positive or negative effect of products or programs. It’s important to repeat them here. Products or programs fall into three basic types:


      GOOD FOR YOUNG PEOPLE:  These are

      products and programs that result in furthering the

      healthy development of our young. They include

      developmental toys, most sports equipment, school

      supplies, some TV programming in moderation,

      positive films and most types of organizational offerings

      such as scouting, sports, clubs and special events.


      NEUTRAL: Products or programs that aren’t

      necessarily going to result in positive impact on

      young people developmentally but are not harmful –

      IN MODERATION. Such as: Food, beverages,

      snacks, most TV, and non-violent, positive video games.


      HARMFUL:  Too much use of technology such as

      computers, cell phones, iPods to the exclusion of

      non-tech play such as sports, family interactive

      games, and outdoor free play. Especially bad for

      young people are video games and other media

      such as TV, film and music that contain

      excessive violence, age-inappropriate sexuality,

      and negative sexual and racial stereotypes.

      Anything that promotes drugs, alcohol or guns is

      innately harmful in our view. 


      Unethical marketing strategies can also be included here such as deceptive or manipulative marketing tactics.

If you are engaged in the creation, development and marketing of products and programs that fall into this latter harmful category, please put this book down now and examine your conscience.

This Youth Product Development Handbook is a simple 7-step approach to winning products and programs plus a wake-up-to-the-future chapter on what’s ahead for all of us. Being a handbook, it should be simple, concise, easy to use and filled with lots of examples. Let’s get started.















NOTE: Please excuse some formatting problems as the Handbook's text has been transferred to this web-based format.








This Matrix was first introduced in the 1997 book, What Kids Buy and Why. While the basic model has been updated, the difference here is that this entire handbook is dedicated to its use as the key “tool” for new product and program ideation, development, and marketing. It allows for a big picture view of any product or program while isolating each of the necessary ingredients for success.

If a new product or new or existing program “hits” on key elements of the Matrix, it has a strong chance of success. Used in a step-by-step manner, or in a more right-brained gestalt-like manner, the results will prove the point. Intelligent and systematic use of the Matrix, combined of course with a good dose of creativity and insight, constitutes the closest thing possible to a “winning formula”.


The Matrix: 



Each of the 7 steps of this Youth Product and Program Developer’s Handbook focuses on key elements of this Matrix and together they comprise the core chapters of this handbook. Here’s the first step, starting at the center of the Matrix:




At the center of the Matrix is the “Audience”, consumer or social program participant. The first thing to identify accurately is who are the individuals who are going to purchase the product or program and who is going to use it, consume it, view it or participate in it.


  1. WHO IS THE PURCHASER?  It’s very important at the outset to accurately identify the purchaser of the product or program. Is it a Mom? Dad? Both parents? Grandparents? Is it the young person himself?  What is the purchaser’s motivation for purchasing? In the case of Social Programs, who is the person most likely to initiate involvement?    





Also of course at the center of the model is the young consumer or Social Program participant. Most important to understand about him or her is the developmental stage he or she is in along with cognitive capabilities and social and emotional makeup. Before we explore this most important developmental stage aspect of the child/youth, there are a variety of other aspects to briefly mention:


     · Learning Style:  Some children, for example,

        learn more with visual input and interaction,

        while others are more tactile in their

        approach and learn best by touching and

        manipulating what is to be learned.


    · Dimension:  An individual’s development occurs 

       along six dimensions:  Physical, Mental,

       Emotional, Social, Ethical and Spiritual. It may

       be important to take into account which of these

       dimensions come into play as our young

       consumer interacts with the product or program, its

       packaging, or even the advertising and promotion

       of it.


   ·  State: Does the product or program engage the

       child consumer in a more cerebral, rational state,

       or does it elicit emotional involvement? In the

       case of especially young children, emotional

       connection and involvement is key to success. As

       children move through the tween years into

       becoming teenagers emotionality is still primary

       in most cases, and depending on the category of

       product or program, rational understanding

       is important as well.


                                    Stage of Development


The most important fundamental to understand is the stage of development of the child, tween or teen. For in-depth detail related to each of these stages, the author’s first book: What Kids Buy and Why–The Psychology of Marketing to Kids is recommended. In it you will find a chapter on each stage.





In very brief form, here are a few highlights related to stages:


              BIRTH TO THREE

Dependency Stage. Primary needs are for Love, Stimulation, (play, early learning, interacting with family) and physical and emotional Safety. Safe and loving bonding with parents and caretakers is critical at this stage. Without sufficient bonding the result can be emotional problems and even brain development deficiency.


Winning Product Examples:  Infant and toddler developmental toys that attract with highly stimulating and colorful parts and provide lots of opportunities for these very young children to manipulate and play with them. Cuddly stuffed animals. Dolls to nurture. Clothing with entertaining/attracting characters. Safety items. High contrast designs and mostly primary colors.


Winning Program Examples: While there are some who ascribe to no television at all for this early child, we support highly monitored TV watching for children aged 1 to 2. the 1 and ½ year old child through three. For example, an hour or so a day of the proper type of programming is not going to harm the child. In fact he will learn from it.  Despite some people’s criticism of shows like Barney, Sesame Street and Teletubbies, there is much of value in their content. Positive TV offerings abound for this age and include The Backyardigans, The Wiggles, Cars, Dora the Explorer, and Diego.


                   Social Programs are minimally in the picture for birth to 3-year-olds. The ones that do exist would be such as day care “programs” and pre-schools that cater to ages as young as 2-3.


The “Why” of What Wins: This chapter simply lists some products and programs that have proven to be “winners” in the marketplace.  The power that is inherent in many of them will be covered as we explore each of the Matrix’ elements in the chapters that follow. What is it about Dora the Explorer, Barney, PlayStation games or Club Penguin that is so attractive?  Stay tuned.




Emerging Autonomy Stage. The 3 to 7 stage is a magical and vulnerable period. In addition to their needs for Love, Stimulation and Safety, three to seven year olds are building approaches to individual autonomy (control, power). In terms of  cognitive ability, children, especially the younger end, (3,4,5), of this age range are not yet fully equipped with the brain capability to think logically or rationally; they are in more of a not-yet-logical, fantasy  stage of development.

Related to marketing, they are in the “gimme, gimmie” stage. They want much of everything they see and are not yet as discerning as when their logical capacities become more developed toward the end of this age range. This non-discernment also can lead to being taken in by irresponsible, perhaps manipulative or deceptive forms of advertising.



Three to Seven? Some question why 3 year olds would be in the same age-range category as 7 year olds, given the obvious differences between a 3-year-old and a 7-year-old. The reason is that overall they are in the same brain development period. Up until around 6-7, the right side of the brain is on the front burner of development. The right hemisphere is more about imagination and fantasy and is more visual than verbal.

At the upper end of this 3-to-7 age range, the right side is sufficiently developed and moves to the back burner of the brain’s developmental focus. The left side of the brain begins its development in earnest. This produces more logic and reasoning capabilities in the child. He moves from fantasy toward the real and his preferences follow. He not only begins to move away from what is perceived as childish, but actually pushes away, in many cases emphatically.

Due to his social and emotional development, he cannot afford to be associated with products and programs that might label him as childish or a “little kid”. Many of his childhood treasures such as stuffed animals or Power Rangers figures find themselves shoved under the bed only to be taken out when none of their friends are around or when there’s a need to return to the emotional “safety” of earlier times.

Core Age:  It’s often very important to identify as precisely as possible the “core age range” within an age segment. For example, as noted above, the 3 to 7 age range is quite broad and includes very young 3 year olds along with more mature 7 year olds.  For a given product it is important to be as precise as possible when determining the ages within any age spread that most likely will be the prime consumers. For example, the core age for a ride-on toy might be 3 to 4, while for a certain board game it might be 6 to 7.


Winning Product Examples:  As this is the prime age for toys, any listing would be highly inadequate. Generically, boys love action figures, robots, building sets such as Legos, outdoor games, sports equipment, scooters and bikes, skateboards, remote-controlled vehicles, guitars and anything that transforms. Girls love dress up, dolls, Barbieä of course, playsets, ponies, arts and crafts and licensed toys and other products such as clothing themed around properties such as Dora the Explorer, Hannah Montana and High School Musical.


Winning Program Examples: Videogames (Ideally, positive in impact).  When it comes to TV, there is quite a difference in show preferences by the lower end of the 3 to 7 age range and the upper end around age 7.  While 3 and 4 year olds may love Dora the Explorer, Barney and Sesame Street, older kids will begin to replace these with shows that offer more complexity and less fantasy. Some of the Nickelodeon shows, for example, such as Sponge Bob, Drake and Josh, The Fairly Odd Parents, Jimmy Neutron and Avatar all have more sophisticated content and have broad appeal. Learning software also is rising in popularity both for parents’ purposes and child interest and involvement.


Social Programs: Guided in most cases by their parents, children become involved quite early in a variety of social programs. These include sports activities such as Little League and AYSO soccer as well as early scouting involvement or 4-H, and involvement in church activities and groups. Interestingly as well, web-based “programs” such as Club Penguin, High School Musical and the like are classified here as “Social Programs” because they involve communication and person-to-person interaction.




Rule/Role Stage. We term this “tween” stage the “Rule/Role stage” because during these years there is a great need to know what the rules are and to follow them. The tween is also making key decisions about himself and what roles are possible for him to play at home, in school, and in life. This age child is now typically in the 3rd thru 7th grade and as such is now dealing with peer influence and self-esteem issues. While his needs for Love, Stimulation and Safety remain as constants, his need for Acceptance by friends and family is strong at this stage along with his need to succeed Physically, Mentally, Emotionally, Socially, Ethically and Spiritually.

He wants to know the rules so he can successfully operate inside his family and at school, and he is examining what roles he? might play such as: “Am I popular?  Am I handsome? Am I smart at math? Am I athletic?” It’s a critical period of self-esteem formulation in which many decisions are made about one’s self–decisions that stay with an individual for life.

Brand Loyalty: His rational and logical capabilities are growing with each passing year and he is fast becoming a savvy consumer. This stage is a critical time for tweens to develop loyalty to certain brands. Their emotional needs tend to “bond” them with certain brands as being important to who they are, whether for girls it’s Revlon lipstick or for boys Nike sports gear and clothing.

Product and program developers have increasingly been creating, developing and marketing Concepts targeting this 8 to 12 stage of development. (Note: Different people define tweens differently. Some hold tweens as 7 to 14 year olds, others 8 to 13 and so forth. We isolate them as 8 to 12 year olds primarily because 8 to 12 year olds are in the same brain development stage, and have not typically gone through puberty–which of course changes a good many things related not only to the chemical and physical but to preferences as well.)


Winning Product Examples:  Technology has created a revolution in the types of “toys” that Tweens (8 to 12) are after. While certain toys will always continue to have some popularity with this age group such as Frisbees, skateboards, building sets, action figures, and remote-controlled vehicles, high-tech toys, along with videogame programs, are dominating the tween scene.

     Hasbro, for example, several years ago initiated an initiative to come up with “big kid” toys. After a good many research sessions with tweens they found out that this age group is fascinated with adult “toys” such as cell phones, iPods, Cameras and the like.

     Based on these findings, they recently came out with a series of electronic toys that are relatively inexpensive and which mimic adult gadgets.  They’ve successfully marketed their ChatNow Communicator which is a two mile range sophisticated walkie-talkie of sorts that allows tweens to talk, send text messages and take pictures. They also produced a video player and an inexpensive video camera called the VCam for $80. (Mattel also has a Vidster camera) Both can record short videos.

     More in the real toy category, Hasbro created the iDog–a futuristic looking “doggie” that takes on a personality when an iPod or other MP3 player is plugged into it. These products are flying off the shelves.  Overall, sales of youth-oriented electronic “toys’ of this sort have surged almost 40% to more than $700 million a year.

Winning Program Examples:  Videogames head up the list in popularity–with approximately a 70/30 male bias. These electronic games continue to have strong appeal through the teen years and into the twenties. TV preferences take on edgier themes for boys–such as South Park, The Simpsons and Family Guy.

Social Programs: Whether a traditional Social Program or a web-based one, the 8 to 12 year old age range is ideal for getting involved with  these kinds of offerings. This age young person is very open and eager to join clubs, organizations and group activities.



  The Early Adolescent stage. This stage is marked by physical body maturation (e.g. hormone changes), by emotional instability in many cases, and by social movement toward stronger peer relationships, experimentation, and less dependency on parents. Product and program selection reflects their needs for Stimulation (fun, entertainment) and Acceptance, such as wearing the “in” clothes. Cognitively early adolescent brains have developed the ability to understand increased complexity and abstraction.


Winning Product Examples:  Depending on the medium or category of product or program, this age segment is often difficult for youth-oriented product and program developers. They no longer are interested in “younger-than-they-are” products and programs. Gone are tweeny versions of tech, for example, in favor of real adult cell phones, musical tech, and computers.  Use of the Matrix here is extremely helpful in that from Concepts to Characters, young teens preferences have changed. Clothing, for example, especially for girls, rises in importance.


Winning Program Examples: Video games (male bias) are very strong at this stage along with the programs that accompany the tech devices mentioned above. YouTube is an excellent example of a “program” that is based on two powerful elements: the ego for self-expression and creativity  and social networking. (Other programs like Club Penguin essentially offer the same rewards for younger kids.) While young teens still are attracted to edgy cartoon shows such as The Simpsons, Family Guy or South Park, they tend to prefer mostly adult fare.

     There is a good deal of gender differentiation related to show preferences–males preferring action-oriented programming and females tuning more into social interaction and relationship oriented shows such as Desperate Housewives. Both genders like sitcoms, comedy shows, music shows such as American Idol , and reality television.


Social Programs:  Traditional programs such as scouting and church groups still involve young teens, but lose some of their attraction due to so many competitive enticements offered by tech-based programs such as FaceBook, MySpace and YouTube. The 13-to-15-year-old is particularly attracted to these types of sites given that they offer, as stated, so many opportunities for self-expression (ego-gratification) and communication.





Late Adolescence. This stage of development is marked by increased autonomy and increased interest in the opposite sex and romantic relationships. As purchasers/consumers they are much like adults when it comes to many consumables, but still especially interested in fun and entertainment as well as whatever products and programs their social sub-group is into from clothes to music. Their cognitive capabilities are near completion and they are quite discerning consumers.


Winning Product Examples:  For most categories of products the late adolescent is very much like a full-fledged adult. In the tech category, he will not be satisfied with simplified versions of adult tech and want adult items such as cell phones, DVD players, iPods, TV, etc. Males more than females may, however, still be very much into video games and will want the latest platforms and software. Certainly there will be some differences from adults in certain categories such as room décor, publications, and clothing choices.


Winning Program Examples: TV and film choices will be a mix of adult-oriented programming and younger appealing content such as horror films like I Know What You Did Last Summer. Navigation on the Internet is going to be substantially different from both very young kids and adults. Late teens seek out sites and content that speaks to their age and their issues. (Isn’t it ironic, sad, or something bizarre that we now capitalize the Internet along with God?)


Social Programs:  The 16-to-19-year-old is much like a young adult. As such, he is leaving many of his childhood and adolescent activities and involvements such as scouting, church groups, and some sports behind. (Of course a segment of this age group remains quite strongly involved with these activities.) In their place typically are school groups, clubs and activities and continued interest in web-based “programs” such as FaceBook, MySpace and YouTube.


Summary of Step One: Know Your Consumer


There literally is no substitute for a thorough and insightful understanding of the different age groupings. Many product and program developers naively think generically when it comes to kids. They think they are creating products or programs for “kids” as if all kids from at least 3 to 14 would like the same things or have the same capacities to understand and relate to them.

There are a multitude of factors that account for what attracts a 3 year old, a tween or early adolescent. Primary among these is the developing brain. A child’s ability to grasp certain ideas and relate to them is a function of his increasing cognitive capabilities. Humor is a great example. A 4 year old cannot understand most forms of verbal humor such as sarcasm or play on words. He responds mostly to physical humor such as slapstick, pie-in-the-face fun. An 8 year old can understand many forms of verbal humor, but may not typically be able to comprehend more sophisticated, complex forms such as innuendo or irony.


Winning Product Developer’s Checklist


At the end of each of the 7 steps toward creating and developing winning products and programs there will be a checklist of key necessities to keep in mind.




                  ____ Have you correctly identified the age

                           range and core age(s) of your consumer?


                  ____ Have you determined if the appeal is to

                           be dual gender or biased toward males or

                           females. If biased, what percentage of

                           bias is likely? 60/40? 70/30?


                  ____ Is your product or program likely to

                           engage your intended consumer

                           emotionally? (e.g. fun, excitement,

                           challenge, ego involvement)


                  ____ Will the purchaser get and appreciate the

                           value of the product or program for

                           himself or for its end consumer/user?


Now that we’ve briefly covered the center of the Matrix, the consumer, let’s turn our attention to the most critical component of any creative effort: CONCEPT. A misguided or mediocre Concept is doomed to fail from square one. A winning Concept finds its genesis in something that inherently will attract and involve young people. A winning Concept is typically something that innovates beyond present ideas or adds to them in significantly attractive and involving ways.
















Finding that Winning Concept




Covered in this Step:          , Point of Difference, Category & Knowing the Competition


Winning – It all starts with a strong Concept.


Concept is the basic idea.


They say that Content is king. Fine, we’ll explore Content in Step Three. But there’s no Content without a Concept or core idea. Like a toy that transforms from a truck into an action figure or a big, loving purple dinosaur, a novel approach to an in-store sampling campaign, a breakthrough in video gaming such as the Wii platform, a club based on girl’s fascination for ponies, or a humorous idea for a commercial, any product or program targeting young people that has a chance for success has to begin with a child or tween or teen-engaging CONCEPT.


     Where do powerful, winning Concepts come from? They come from a great variety of places. 


CATEGORIES: It’s very useful to examine them relative to their category. As you see in the Matrix, “Category” is one of the key components. It’s not only imperative to be aware of all the product and program categories available, but it’s often very useful to be able to capitalize on their cross-pollination, such as combining a popular TV/Music star like Hannah Montana with a retail promotion or a videogame. All the conceivable categories are on this list. They are arranged as a checklist to assist with combining categories:


____TOYS                                             ____ELECTRONIC GAMES          

____TELEPHONE/COM DEVICES              ____RADIO

____FOOD, BEVERAGES                   ____SNACKS AND CANDY    

____MUSIC                                           ____ROOM DÉCOR

____APPAREL, JEWELRY                  ____SPORTS EQUIPMENT

____PACKAGED GOODS                   ____SCHOOL SUPPLIES


____PUBLICATIONS                           ____TV, FILM

    ____ADVERTISING                             ____THE INTERNET

    ____RESTAURANTS                           ____ELECTRONICS                    

    ____PROMOTIONS                              ____TRADITIONAL GAMES  

    ____ SOCIAL PROGRAMS                           (eg.:Board, Card, Puzzles)     


    While there would never be enough space to detail several winning Concepts for each category, the following section selects key category winners, many of them evergreen Concepts, and explains some of the power that is inherent in them. You will see that when different components of the Matrix are mentioned, they are often capitalized fro emphasis.


TOYS: The consumers and users of traditional toys has shrunk from birth to approximately 9 years of age to birth to about 6. Societal changes have contributed to this along with forces competing for a child’s time such as video games and other technological innovations. At the same time, certain toys are played with by adults as well as children such as the first on our list, the Frisbee.


· THE FRISBEE: This “Pluto Platter” came from noticing existing behaviors and play patterns. Some say that college students used to toss around pie tins after consuming pies on campus. In actuality, the Frisbee was created after Walter Morrison tossed a popcorn can lid at a 1937 Thanksgiving Day gathering in Los Angeles and that inspired his interest in developing a commercially-produced flying disc. Later it was produced by the Wham-O company and first named the Pluto Platter to take advantage of the space race interest in the 1950s.


· MY LITTLE PONY: (Toy, TV, Publications, Room Décor, etc.) Young kids and many tweens love certain animals and especially baby ones, in this case, ponies. Girls especially connect with them on an emotional (love, nurturing) level. Play patterns (PROCESS) with pony “dolls” include dress up and grooming such as combing mane and tail hair and My Little Pony playsets. My Little Pony also includes their special, colorful, aesthetic, eye-pleasing designs.


· TRANSFORMERS: (Toy, TV, Film, Publications, Promotions, Room Décor, Video games, etc.) Simple toys that can be manipulated from one shape of configuration to another have been around for years. With Hasbro’s Transformers, this manipulative and fun play pattern has been taken to a new level of sophistication. In addition to the PROCESS of carrying out the transformation – from a truck to an action hero, for example, there are action play patterns that include identification (CHARACTER) with heroes and villains and associated stories.


· HOT WHEELS: (Toy, Publications, Film, TV, Promotions, etc.) While there was a TV series back in 1966 and a Hot Wheels movie, the evergreen power of these little toy cars lies in little boys’ fascination with vehicles and associated play patterns (PROCESS) of pretend car play. Roads, garages and motorized approaches add to the play possibilities. Accumulating and collecting lots of them is a play pattern in itself. (Children below the age of about 4 don’t collect the way older kids do; they mostly just accumulate without the cognitive awareness of being able to hold in mind a whole set. Once the cognitive ability to understand “set” is in place, older than 4-year-olds are motivated to truly collect by completing all the items in a set.) Mattel continuously “freshens” the brand by adding new features and models each year.


· TICKLE ME ELMO: What do you get when you combine a known and popular CHARACTER like Elmo from Sesame Street with tickling and laughter (PROCESS)?  You get a winning Concept well executed. There are no accidental success stories.




· LEGOS:  Construction activity is a natural. Even before Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs, kids (male bias) built things (PROCESS) with whatever they could find from mud to wet sand at the beach to cut plants and weeds, making them into logs. Legos and other plastic construction toys include a variety of aspects that challenge and entertain:  Manipulation of the building parts, choice of what to build, challenge of different building tasks, ego satisfaction of having created something, play with the end product, and fun with little play people if they are involved.


· HELLO KITTY and CABBAGE PATCH KIDS:  The creators of Hello Kitty brought together a variety of key elements to create a brand that not only has thrived for decades but has resulted in retail shops dedicated to its designs and themes. At the base of its success is the intangible yet powerful design itself of the basic kitty character (STYLE). This is one of those inexplicable, yet all-determining creative moments.

     Like the design of Hello Kitty, the Cabbage Patch Kids Concept was on its way to second base just with the unique design itself. Getting to home plate involves all the rest from background story (Cabbage Patch Kids were born and raised in a cabbage patch. This is unique CONTENT from the Matrix), to the individualization of designs and names, to the adoption Concept which is extremely strong (Pound Puppies used the same.) Then other factors entered in such as a scarcity of product availability–whether planned or unintentional. Both Hello Kitty and Cabbage Patch Kids have at their base the heart-tugging emotion of love and the powerful caretaking actions of nurturing and protecting/saving.


There are, of course, far too many examples of “hit” toy products past and present to continue to detail each one. Here’s a listing of many of them, but by no means a comprehensive list. As new product and program creators and developers the point is to look for the underlying aspects that lead to success. Among them are toys that were once standard best-sellers and now have gone by the wayside, toys that were linked to TV or film properties, and other evergreen Concepts like Barbie that are still very much both a part of our culture and bottom-line million and billion dollar producers each year:


DOLLS: Barbie, American Dolls, Cabbage Patch Kids, Strawberry Shortcake, Baby Alive, Raggedy Ann, Rainbow Brite, Bratz dolls, Dora the Explorer.


PLUSH: Popples, teddy bears (and other plush animals), Pound Puppies, Care Bears, WebKinz.


THEMED AND ACTION FIGURES: He-Man, G.I. Joe, Star Wars Figures and Playsets, Ninja Turtle Figures, Smurfs.


PRESCHOOL: Playdoh, Easy Bake Oven, Little People, Weebles, Mattel’s See N’ Say toys.


VEHICLES: Tonka Trucks, Matchbox vehicles, trains, boats, planes, Radio Controlled helicopter, RC vehicles.


NOVELTY: Rubic’s Cube, Nerf toys, Etch-a-Sketch, Lite Brite, Colorforms.


ACTIVE TOYS: Hula Hoop, water toys (water guns, Slip N’ Slide, Twister.


CONSTRUCTION: Tinker Toys, Erector Set, model sets, Rokenbok.


RIDING: Big Wheel, bicycles, scooters (then came the Razor scooter), skates, skateboards.


SPORTS TOYS:  Wiffle Ball & Bat, all others: balls, gloves, etc.


MISC: Slinky, jacks, Pick Up Sticks, , Mr. Potato Head, Yo-Yo, crayons, walkie talkies, Pogo Stick, stickers, Sea Monkeys, Aqua Doodle, Vortex Football, Magic 8 Ball.


So, where will the next great toy Concept come from?  Will it be via expanding on an existing play pattern? That’s PROCESS from the Matrix. Will it be, like the Webkinz, a linking together of two categories (CHARACTER and PROCESS)? Will it be as part of a new character-based story like Barney (CHARACTER and CONTENT)? Will it come from a tech breakthrough like happened with the invention of the Nerf material (PROCESS, a new way to play)? A new way to construct (CONTENT and PROCESS)? A puzzle like Rubik’s Cube (PROCESS)?

Walmart’s top toys in a recent year are an indication of a typical toy category mix and what might be expected in the future. You will notice that 9 of 11 of them utilize electronics:


      · Little Mommy Real Loving Baby Doll : Cute infant

         baby doll that recognizes her names, asks

         for her bottle and plays peekaboo! Ages 3 to 7.


      · Air Hogs Havoc Heli Radio Controlled Helicopter


      · Fisher Price Smart Cycle Learning Game System.

         Kids play games and ride a stationary bike too!

         Ages 3 to 6.


      · Fisher Price Digital Camera, Pink & Blue.


      · Littlest Pet Shop Electronic Diary. Keep written

         secrets locked inside this voice-activated,

         electronic diary. Ages 6 and up.


            · Razor RIPSTIK Castor Board,

               skateboard/snowboard hybrid. Ages 8 and up.  


            · Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader? Game ages 8

               and up.


            · Spider-Man 3 Action Command. Remote controlled

               Spider-Man. Ages 6 and up.  


            · Barbie Power Wheels Mustang Convertible Ride

               On. Ages 3 and up. 


            · Furreal Friends Kitty Cat. Lovable cat that comes to

               life like a real pet. Ages 4 and up.


            · Hasbro’s Power Tour Electric Guitar. Teaches kids

               how to play guitar. Plug into a MP3 and play along

               to your favorite tunes. Ages 10 and up.


In California, everybody and their neighbor has either written a movie script or has a “great idea” for one. It’s also common anywhere you go to find many who have come up with what they are positive is the “next toy megahit”. The reality is that the odds against succeeding in these crowded categories are tough, very tough.

We asked an extraordinarily successful toy inventor, David Fuhrer, Founder and President of Funanuf, key questions related to his success:

David, How many of your toy and game creations have made it successfully to market?

     More than 200 inventions have come to market – as an inventor, agent or consultant. Some of my favorites are the nerf vortex football, aqua doodle, backwords game, and guitar hero air guitar. 

Where did these ideas come from? Is there a method to your creative abilities?

     Ideas can come from anywhere. The key is to be open minded to other people’s ideas, be ever presently aware of your surroundings for new materials or technology that might be applied in other ways. Be keenly aware of your customer’s business/brands so the approach is more targeted. Walk retail often to get inspiration and information. Follow trends in entertainment, news etc. 

Which of your successes has become the most financially profitable?

      Aqua Doodle and Vortex Football have been the most successful.  

Why do you think that is—what's the magic in it?

     There are a variety of reasons that some good products succeed and some don’t. I look at it like a “mine field” that has to be navigated carefully. First, there is the product, the development, the engineering, the cost/feasibility, the manufacturing, the sales, the TV commercial, the distribution, the consumer acceptance. Anything can go wrong along the way. When success happens, it is like “lightning in a bottle” that everything went right.  However, at the heart of every success is a great product first. In the case of these two products, each one had a traditional, basic play pattern with an improvement. aqua doodle is a drawing activity toy. The magic is the hydrochromic ink that enabled a mess-free experience for very young children to create independently without parent worry about ink or paint making a mess. This solved a problem for parents and was a great play experience for children. The vortex football enables anyone, anywhere to throw a football farther and more accurately than a traditional football because of it’s unique aerodynamic design. Further, it has an attractive price point of approximately $10. 

4. What advice do you have for toy and game inventors today?

     Woody Allen was once quoted with something like “70% of success is just showing up”. I would suggest that would-be toy inventors go to as many industry trade events as possible, read trade magazines and also to walk the toy aisles of major retail chains. It is critical to establish high level relationships with industry executives and also to be familiar with product lines. I would also suggest that inventors try to identify their skills and weaknesses so they might seek out strategic collaborations with others that might improve or make their idea more viable. Collaboration and relationships are an important part of the equation for success in this industry along with the great idea.


· TECH DEVICES: With the exponential proliferation of technology, a variety of “tech toys” and other electronic devices have emerged to bite into parents’ and kids, tweens and teens’ budgets. Examples include: Cell phones, music devices such as the iPod, multi-function communication devices, Portable devices with TV and Internet functions, learning/play items such as Leapfrog and cameras such as Fisher Price’s Kid Tough Digital Camera.

     Hasbro, for example, via its Tiger Electronics division has released an array of tech items specifically designed for tweens. For example, they have created the VUGO portable multi-media system which allows tech-savvy tweens to have access to their favorite TV shows, music and photos all in one hand-held media system. They also have the VCAM NOW, a pocket-sized digital video camera specifically designed for tweens. It also takes still pictures.

ZOOMBOX is a portable and easy to use 3-in-1 entertainment projector that will play DVDs, CDs and it connects to most gaming systems. VIDEONOW XP, is an interactive video system that allows tweens to enjoy top rated programming and music videos as well as play interactive games anytime, anywhere! The CHATNOW Two-Way Radio Communicator is a modern day walkie talkie and a personal communicator, allowing users to be in touch with their friends and family in up to a two-mile range without paying for airtime or signing a calling plan contract.

Others are joining the tech parade targeting Tweens as well. Disney has its Disney Flix digital video camera that comes with Disney Director software. It allows young people to star in their own Disney movies. They are also offering LCD TVs such as the 15-inch High School Musical model, resembling a locker. Additionally, the cartoon-factory is offering Disney iPod compatible speakers for use with an iPod. They feature alarm clocks and AM/FM tuners. One is themed to Hanna Montana (PERSONALITY).


This is only the beginning. We will continue to see a proliferation of tech items with each passing year.


What are the keys to the success of tech devices such as these?  There are many. First and foremost is connectivity – being able to communicate and share easily and quickly and privately with friends and family. Connectivity also with the world–especially the world of entertainment and all the value it provides moment to moment (CONTENT). In addition, recording and camera devices involve the ego of the recorder as a creator and the fun and satisfaction of sharing one’s creations.




With the birth of Pong by Atari in 1972, a whole new medium entered the entertainment scene. Now the electronic game console landscape is littered with brands from PlayStation to X-Box to Nintendo’s regular game systems and their interactive Wii. It may be surprising but none of these is the most popular when both young people and adults are in the statistics; that accolade belongs to the PC computer. More people play computer games than use any other game platform. It’s important to note that electronic game play is highly male biased. Sources vary, but the mean percentage appears to be around 20 to 25% of females are involved. The percentage of females who play video games has been slowly on the rise.

The rewards of video game play are for the most part obvious. The term “reward” is consciously used here as it relates to the stimulus-response process that occurs in the process of game play. In therapeutic models, it most closely resembles behavioral therapy. Give the dog a doggie biscuit each time he correctly pushes a lever and he will be conditioned to push the lever–even when, after a while, he doesn’t always get a cookie. Thus, there are a lot of “cookies” waiting for game players.

Cookie #1: The player becomes the primary cause of all action and thus his ego is involved with his accomplishments in the game. Cookie #2: Each time the player hits a target or shoots down a missile or earns  “power points” or passes a race car on a track, there is an inherent reward in that accomplishment. In this way, the player is constantly rewarded throughout the game. Cookie #3: The player is challenged to win the game or score the most points possible. The ego satisfaction is the “cookie”. Cookie #4: Many games have layers of accomplishment.  After winning one less difficult level of a game, the player “graduates” to the next level. He’s moved from a private to a lieutenant. The goal: conquer all levels and be a general. Cookie #5: Often game play involves competing with other players. The motive is to win and the “cookies” go to the victor.


AN ETHICAL NOTE:  Many electronic games are fun and wholesome so long as game play does not take up too much of a young person’s time to the exclusion of other healthier and more physical activities such as family-together time, outdoor play, sports, arts and crafts and non-electronic game play. So time spent is an issue.

In addition, many high intensity games such as fighting and shooting games involve a “fight or flight” response that not only models violent behavior, but also triggers the secretion of cortisol in the brain. Cortisol secretion is part of the protective mechanism of individuals who are under threat. The brain does not completely distinguish between real danger and that portrayed on the screen, and some cortisol and other chemical reactions are bound to occur. Some of these secretions have been shown to contribute to overall levels of stress and even to obesity. Cortisol has been labeled the “stress hormone”.

High intensity video games immerse the player emotionally and cause this release of cortisol. Higher and prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream have been proven to have deleterious effects such as reduced cognitive performance, blood sugar imbalances, decrease in bone density, higher blood pressure, lower immunity and increased abdominal fat which relates to increased dangers of heart attack and stroke.

This is serious. Bottom line: If you are in a position of guardianship, substantially limit or better yet, eliminate play of these types of high stress games.

Then there is the issue of game CONTENT. Everyone is aware of the issues related to excessive violence in many electronic games. The question of whether or not involvement in these types of games is bad for all people, not just kids, is no longer a question. It has been shown by way of study after study that excessive involvement in these types of games does contribute to more aggressive dispositions and behaviors. Then there are other CONTENT issues such as sexual abuse of women and racial stereotyping. For more in-depth treatment of the ethical and even physical dangers of certain kinds of video games, we refer you to the author’s book: KIDNAPPED.

Leaving CONCEPTS that are based on violence and/or abuse aside such as Grand Theft Auto (which we unabashedly abhor and would like to see banned for all people), let’s look at a few classic video game Concepts that have stood out from the pack. Most all of them a combination of iconic CHARACTERS combined with engaging CONTENT and fun, interactive PROCESS:


· Pac-Man: Iconic characters that eat dots while being chased by iconic jellyfish-like bad guys.

· Missile Command: Player/shooter shoots down missiles before they can reach and destroy towns.

· Mario Bros. and Super Mario: A couple Italian plumbers smack stuff and win points before getting clobbered themselves.

· Zelda: and Link: Ganon, the King of Evil, breaks free from the Dark World and captures Hyrule's beloved Princess Zelda. Before she is caught, Zelda manages to shatter the Triforce of Wisdom and scatter its eight pieces throughout Hyrule. Link swears to recover the Triforce pieces and rescue Princess Zelda from Ganon's clutches.

· Gran Turismo, Mario Kart:  Racing games.

· Madden football games, most golf games and other sport games.

· Frogger: Player gets five frogs and attempts to hop them safely home. But, players lose a turn if the frog: Gets hit by traffic, gets struck by a snake in the median strip or on a floating log, misses a log or turtle and ends up in the stream water, runs off the screen on a floating log or turtle, stays on top of a "diving turtle" too long as it submerges, jumps into the mouth of a floating alligator, jumps into the mouth of an alligator in the

dock, gets eaten by an otter while on a turtle or end of a log, misses the dock as he tries jumping into it, jumps into a dock already occupied by a frog, runs out of time before making it to the dock. Whew!


TRADITIONAL GAMES: Board games, card games and family games are some of the most fun and wholesome activities ever conceived. They not only provide the fun and challenge of attempting to win, but involve lots of mostly entertaining and enjoyable family and friend interaction. Let’s look at just a few to examine their underlying power.


    · MONOPOLY:  In addition to the obvious reaching of the

      goal of winning at Monopoly, there are two other ingredients. 

      First, as a player buys a piece of property, he gets the ego-satisfaction and monetary rewards of being its landlord. Each time an opposing player lands on his property, he gets paid. Secondly, the metaphor here is the garnering of wealth. Despite it being only a game, it feels good to win money and, if you win the game, to become wealthy. Third, the design of the game (CONTENT) includes surprises via the game cards such as “Go Directly to Jail” and “Get out of Jail Free”. The element of surprise adds a degree of unpredictability and fun to the game.


· UNO: Part of the power of this Mattel card game is its 

   simplicity. There are rewards along the way as each player

   attempts to win the game by discarding all his cards and

   eventually gaining the winning point goal–typically 500.

   Rewards include matching the number or color of the turned

   over card on the base deck and also causing other players

   problems via drawing cards that retard the play of other

   players or them drawing a punishing card such as a “draw

   two” card.


   · PICTIONARY:  Anyone who has ever played

   Pictionary  knows it can be highly entertaining. In

   Pictionary, players form teams of at least two members.

   Each takes a turn drawing a card, reading a word such as

   “queen”, for example, and then hand illustrating on paper

   something that communicates that word/idea to the team.

   If a team member yells out the correct word, the team

   gets  to move forward on a game board. 

      There are essentially three elements that comprise Pictionary’s magic: First, there is the mental and creative challenge of being able to draw a representation of what word is on the card such that one’s team members can recognize it. Second, there is the fun of competing against another team, typically in a party setting in a home. Third, and perhaps most important, is the fun and laughter and sometimes raucous antics of players and their team members as they yell out ideas of what the drawings represent. This emotional interactivity is the most powerful ingredient of Pictionary.


FOOD, BEVERAGES & SNACKS: Of course food, snack and beverage ingredients and taste elements have a great deal to do with their success or failure in the very competitive arena of edible consumables. We won’t be focusing on taste or ingredients here as they are out of our domain. We’re more interested in food and beverage CONCEPTSnovel approaches to what kids, tweens and teens gobble up. The following food and beverage Concepts represent strong and often enduring food, snack and beverage concepts:


·  Go-GURT:  Yoplait’s very innovative Go-GURT has two features that contribute to its success and longevity. The first is the fact that the “delivery system” or container of the

      individual yoghurt product is an innovation that has made a

      significant difference; it’s a squeezable tube. This activity

       (PROCESS) is enjoyable in itself and at the same time

      allows the young consumer to exercise control over how

      much product is squeezed into his mouth at a time.

      This element of control is often unnoticed as a point of power. Control over anything is rewarding in itself and ego-gratifying. In a world of powerful adults anything that provides young people with a modicum of control is attractive. The second aspect of G0-GURT that has power is that it is portable. In fact it is promoted on the packaging as “portable” and as the first “portable yoghurt”. In today’s busy world, portability is a definite plus and makes the product ideal as a snack on the go or part of a lunch. Many juice producing companies also have taken advantage of the portability factor with portable, individual serve boxed drinks.

      A third “attractor”, although of less impact, is the use of an iconic cartoonish character on some of the Go-GURT packaging. The use of cartoon characters such as the Nesquik bunny or Froot Loop’s Toucan Sam or the goldfish for the Goldfish snack product will be covered more in detail when

we arrive at the CHARACTER component of the Matrix.


·   CHARACTER-DRIVEN CEREALS:  Cereal products

   and their taste, texture, color, shape and appeal aside, there 

   are a great variety of youth-oriented breakfast cereals that

   use character power to attract. Among them: Trix, Honey

   Nut Cheerios (bee), Cap’n Crunch and Tony the Tiger’s

   Frosted Flakes. These characters certainly add significantly

   to the attraction of these cereals–often to the dismay and

   disapproval of those who battle against so many sugar-laden

   products. They have a point. However, there’s no denying the

   entertainment impact of iconic characters. The

   M&M characters, created with YMS Consulting’s

   assistance over 10 years ago helped that brand to move

   way beyond the $500 million a year mark.

       Then there are the other package gimmicks such as

   in-box premiums, contests, games, holographic images on

   the box front and even scratch and sniff flavors to smell

   as the illustration of the cereal on the box front is


     In addition there are often quite effective tie-ins with 

other branded items and with films such as with the Batman

and Superman movies, Star Wars or the latest Disney movie.


· HANDI SNACKS & LUNCHABLES: Originally introduced by Nabisco in the mid 80’s and now under the Kraft umbrella, the Handi Snack lineup of SKUs (Shelf Keeping Units) has survived and thrived on grocery shelves. Oscar Mayer/Kraft Lunchables are similar.

There are four basic ingredients that contribute to the success of these products. First, They are a quick and easy item to put into kids’ (or other family members’) lunch boxes that at the same time offer a small but satisfying portion. In this way they fulfill on the promise of the title: Handi Snack and reinforce an excellent product name (CONCEPT) which is power point number two.

      The third point of power or leverage in Handi Snacks and Lunchables is that the PROCESS of eating the crackers, cheese, pudding or whatever, involves choices. Seven-year-old Greg gets to decide how much cheese to put on his cracker with a small plastic spreader implement that comes in the package (PROCESS). So in a sense the consumer gets to create his snack and have the control over its composition. Control equals power and is satisfying in itself.


·   BOX and POUCH JUICES: While there is little choice or creativity involved in the consumption of branded juices such as Nestle’s Juicy Juice and Kraft’s Capri Sun and Kraft’s Kool Aid’s Jammers, the same convenience and portability factors apply. These single serving items often have iconic CHARACTER images as well as offering promotional rewards.




·  FAST FOOD:  McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Jack In The Box, In N’ Out, Taco Bell, Del Taco, KFC, Popeye’s, Arby’s, A&W, Carl’s Jr, Chick-fil-A, Hardee’s, Dairy Queen, Pollo Loco, Subway, White Castle, Little Caesar’s, Long John Silver’s, Pizza Hut, Numero Uno, Papa John’s, Dominos, Sonic.

What is it about these and other fast food establishments that attract different age groups or ethnic groups? Food and beverage offerings certainly play a large part in young people’s choices, but here we want to look mostly at other “attractors”. While all ages often enjoy McDonald’s, for example, Micky D has struggled to attract more older “kids” –older than 8 or so. Beyond the menu, it’s all about perceptions.

McDonald’s with its Ronald McDonald and its playground apparatus and Kid’s Meals sets up a kiddish perception. Tweens and teens can’t afford to be seen as childish or kid-like, so many of them are going to go elsewhere. The point is that the total “gestalt” experience of a fast food “joint” as they are referred to is what contributes most to young people’s choices. The determination will be made based on each individual’s and group’s sense that a given restaurant is “for me/us” or “not for me/us”. Value for the money is also a determiner in restaurant selection and young people are very aware of impact on their cash flow.

For Me or Not For Me: Individuals of all ages are very quick to determine if a given product or program is “for me” or “not for me”.


·  CHUCK E CHEESE: The Chuck E Cheese CONCEPT is a very different and unique story. Definitely designed with the below 7 crowd in mind and as a venue for kids’ parties, Chuck E Cheese is more about fun, games and entertainment than food or drink. The CHARACTER, Chuck E Cheese appears along with his band (Helen Henny, Jasper T. Jowls, Mr. Munch and an Italian chef named Pasqually) with animatronic movements on a special stage inside the restaurant. The show repeats every so often and adds to the specialness of the Chuck E Cheese experience for this young age group (Typically 7 and below).


· OTHER RESTAURANTS: Other “family” type and specialty restaurants such as Sizzlers, Denny’s, Coco’s, Chili’s, Cracker Barrel, Islands, Carrows, Red Lobster, and the Old Spaghetti Factory all compete in their own ways for the kid, tween and teen business. It has been our experience that not much attention is paid to how to intelligently go about attracting these age groups. The fact is, however, that most young people accompany their families to these establishments, and very importantly carry a lot of weight in determining which ones to frequent. Beyond menus, there are a variety of determining factors for today’s and tomorrow’s young people. “What is there for me?” “Is this an environment I am comfortable in?” “Is it fun/entertaining in some way?”




ETHICAL NOTE:  As covered in the introduction, products like candy that contain potentially harmful (mainly sugar) ingredients if consumed in excess, need to be monitored and controlled by parents and caregivers. No one, not even the over-commercialization of childhood critics, would argue for a world without M&Ms, Tootsie Rolls, gum, ice cream or cookies. However, many rightly argue against the availability of so much “junk food” and sugary foods and beverages in schools and other youth-populated venues.

      Let’s put the responsibility where it belongs–with parents and other gatekeepers of the young person’s choices and diet. Properly monitored and controlled throughout the child and tween years, by the time the young person enters his teens he will be able to make health-conscious choices regarding all foods and beverages not just sweets. Whether he makes the right choices will be shaped by his parents’ role-modeling, what he’s allowed to consume at home and school, and health education.

With childhood diabetes on the rise, sweets and snack manufacturers (most all snacks have sugar in them) need to take extra precautions about everything from their ingredients to their marketing approaches. At the same time, these manufacturers have the right to and the charge of producing attractive, flavorful and often fun products so they can compete in crowded categories. The examples that follow are of specialty candies that have gone beyond the product itself to provide the added benefit of entertainment at some level.


· NOVELTY CANDIES: If there were a candy hall of

fame the PEZ novelty candy would have to be featured there.

The candy itself originated in Vienna, Austria in 1927 and

was named after the German word for peppermint,

PFEFFERMINZ, taking the first, middle and last letters.

CHARACTER heads were first added in 1955 when the

product was introduced to the U.S., and the first characters

were Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse.

Manipulating the PEZ dispenser provides a degree of added fun beyond eating the candy and enjoying the CHARACTER. And again, we see the control factor in this type of dispenser delivery container as the consumer controls the product’s output. The dispenser is like a toy in itself and refills are sold separately.

Other attempts to entertain as well as deliver candy abound. It’s entertaining to list a few of them, some quite preposterous. There are candies themed to CHARACTER and licensed property SKUs such as the Bratz Candy Jewelry Set, Nascar themed foil minicars, American Idol Pop Microphones and Marvel, Spiderman and Nintendo character-themed Klik dispensers (like PEZ dispensers), Harry Potter themed chocolate frogs, Etch-a-Sketch lollipops, Push Up Puppet candies themed as the Incredibles, and Betty Boop Candy Lip Gloss.

Then there are Pop Rocks that sizzle in your mouth, chocolate covered ants, Wurmz & Dirt, Lite up Candy Yo-Yo Pops, Gummy Bears and Worms, Red Vines, Candy Flower Beads, Candy Lipstick, Wax Lips, Wax Fangs, Junk Mouth Sour Staining Spray, (We’re not making these up!), Giant Marshmallow Hamburgers and Hot Dogs, Chocolate filled Gold Coins, Laffy Taffy, Glow Pops (one item has a glowing handle that turns into a space bracelet).

And finally, There are those disgusting CONCEPTS that are not quite entries to the fictional Candy Hall of Fame, Toxic Waste, Sour Flush Candy Toilets, and the horrendous quartet of That’s Bull, Porky Pooper (pig), Happy Hen and Crazy Daisy Pooping Dispensers (Daisy is a sheep and the rest is unfortunately up to your imagination). Three of these last four pooping wonders were out of stock at a prominent

novelty candy website.

What does that tell us? One of the things it tells us is that

kids, especially 6+ and more males than females love the

irreverent, the shocking and taboo. They get a kick out

of the scatological and disgusting. It’s fun for many

of them to shock their elders or their friends (mostly girls)

with disgusting stuff. Like it or not, it’s part of a coming of

age process by which they learn about often secretive

anatomical functions and sexuality, get laughs from their

friends and attempt to gain a little control over those adults

who wield so much power over them.


TV and FILM: There are of course multitudes of TV and Film Concepts that have attempted to attract children, tweens, teens and families to the small and big screen–far too many to do justice to. A strong TV or film Concept begins with strong CHARACTERS and compelling, meaningful stories (CONTENT). In the mix below, we list a few nostalgic programs such as The Mickey Mouse Club and Welcome Back Kotter because what we are interested in here is the power of certain entertainment CONCEPTS, whether current or in the past. In order to understand this underlying leverage inherent in some of

them, the following divides the youth audiences into three groups:


KIDS AGES 2 to 7: Partial listings past and present:


· TV:  Little Rascals (1922-1944), The Mickey Mouse Club, Sesame Street, Barney, Thomas the Tank Engine, Arthur, Blue’s Clues, Lazy Town, the Wiggles, Teletubbies, The Magic School Bus, Dora the Explorer, Go, Diego, Go, The Flintstones, Rugrats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, George of the Jungle, Scooby Doo, Yogi Bear and Jay Jay the Jet Plane.

The older end (5,6,7 female bias) will also enjoy TV such as Hanna Montana, anything related to High School Musical and many family type sitcoms.


· FILM: Lion King, Bambi, Land Before Time, Beauty and the Beast, Ratatouille, Pirates of the Caribbean, Aladdin,

Cinderella, Finding Nemo, the Littlest Mermaid, (and

almost all Disney fare), Ice Age, Peter Pan, Charlotte’s Web, Babe, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Shrek, E.T., Never Ending Story, Madagascar, Over the Hedge, Open Season, Happy Feet, 101 Dalmatians, and Harry Potter.


Note: Some of these are unsuitable for the bottom end (2,3,4,5 year olds) of this age range due to violence, frightening characters or other potentially upsetting content.


Two to seven “Attractors”: There are many notable qualities in the above TV and film offerings that attract and engage this younger audience. To name just a few, first there is the fact that many of these programs feature either mostly friendly cartoon animals or very young cartoon kids. Shows like Barney, the Mickey Mouse Club, and the Wiggles use real kids. Second, the CONTENT of these programs centers around issues germane to this target audience and adventures and conflicts that are exciting to them. Content also includes enticing visuals and music. Third, Content typically includes learning of facts or moral messaging.


TV, Film and Tweens


 As previously noted, we are beginning to see more and more products and programs specifically targeting the 8 to 12 year old.


· TV: Lizzie McGuire (2001), American Idol, Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Hanna Montana, Cheetah Girls,

Naked Brothers Band, Drake & Josh, Suite Life of Zack & Cody, That’s So Raven, All That,The Simpsons, South Park, The Flintstones, Sponge Bob SquarePants, Brady Bunch,

Eight is Enough, Wonder Years, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Scooby Doo, Yogi Bear, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and anything related to High School Musical.

Gender Note:  Girls tend to leave certain more “kiddish” TV shows behind before boys.


· FILM: Tweens will remain interested in sophisticated Disney and Pixar-type animated films such as Jungle Book, Toy Story, Shrek, Monsters Inc., Cars, Madagascar, Secret of Nimh, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Surf’s Up, Happy Feet, Over the Hedge, and Horton Hears a Who, along with movies such as Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, Batman, Spiderman and Hook. All-family movies like Home Alone, Karate Kid, Dennis the Menace, Babe, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Escape to Witch Mountain, Chronicles of Narnia, Goonies, the Wizard of Oz, Enchanted, 101 Dalmatians, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, King Kong, and of course the classic: E.T.


Eight to Twelve “Attractors”: While tweens still find solid entertainment in all-family animation, it’s clear that they are now attracted to more sophisticated storylines and

CONTENT. “Edge” and conflict are in fact now quite attractive along with the scary and the dangerous, as in adventure programming. Content related to boy-girl relationships also attracts along with themes related to family issues and problems. Humorous Content is now more important than ever as this age child cognitively can now understand more sophisticated humor such as sarcasm and innuendo that escaped him before.


TV, Film and Teens


· TV: Teens are as interested in adult programming as younger-targeted shows. The list includes a mix: American Idol, Sponge Bob Square Pants, Family Guy, South Park, Welcome Back Kotter, All in the Family, Lost, Seinfeld, Two and a Half Men, Married with Children, Desperate Housewives (female bias), reality shows such as Survivor and The Amazing Race.


· FILM: As for TV, especially mid to late teens (15 and up) are likely to be more attracted to adult films than to films that target kids below the age of 12 or so. In addition there are films that specifically target teenagers such as: American Pie, Not Another Teen Movie, Road Trip, Almost Famous, Clueless, Porky's, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Can't Buy Me Love. There are also broadly appealing films such as Karate Kid, Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lion King, E.T., Spiderman and Transformers.


Teen “Attractors”: While many teens will continue to enjoy animated films such as Shrek and adult-targeting and all-family targeting movies such as Home Alone and Indiana Jones, there is the special attraction of teen relationship films like Pretty in Pink. To the horror of many, horror movies also attract such as Saw, Fear of the Dark, I know What You Did Last Summer, Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. Comedy, adventure, romance and getting scared are all high on a typical teen’s list when it comes to the big screen.




     As we have learned, “Social Programs” includes both traditional youth organizations such as Girl Scouts, church groups, Indian Guides and tech-based programs such as Club Penguin or MySpace. Let’s look briefly at both types:


     TRADITIONAL:  Before Robert Baden Powell first organized scouting programs in the UK in 1907, he conceived of the CONCEPT. The YMCA was originated also in England in 1844. In Norway, someone conceived of and created the Pony Club idea, taking advantage of young girls’ fascination with horses and ponies. There is always room for the next club or organization idea. 

     Our web research has indicated that few of these organizations have taken full advantage of the web medium. Web activity and involvement is here to stay, and will only expand. Strategic and effective “marriage” of the traditional which provides critical face-to-face and group interaction with tech-based mediums such as the Internet would only enhance a young member’s experiences and opportunities. Many of the Boy Scouts’ objectives, for example, could be maximized via creative approaches to web-based activities–even virtual worlds. Why not provide young scouts with web-based fun and learning activities along their way to earning scouting merit badges?


     TECH-BASED: We use the term “tech-based” rather than only web-based, because the web is rapidly expanding to hand held and remote devices.  Social programs such as Club Penguin or MySpace offer young people, into adulthood, many opportunities to communicate and self-express. New tech-based Concepts are emerging exponentially.

     What will be the next billion-dollar attractor? Which interests and/or activities of young people will it take advantage of? Will it be fashion? Dance? How about making money as a young entrepreneur? How about a new approach to everyone’s love of pets, whether real-life or computer-generated?


Core Concepts


     Let’s explore more deeply certain “Core Concepts” that are at the base of success. In this case we’ll focus only on youth TV entertainment and the web.


YOUTH TV ENTERTAINMENT: Nickelodeon has proven itself to be on the leading edge of what works in kid entertainment. Assuming there is always uniquely conceived of and depicted character graphics, or in the case of live shows, strong casts, it’s revealing to explore the different core Concepts of some of their top shows that continue to attract kids, tweens and some teens:


· Sponge Bob Square Pants: A uniquely depicted and

   funny sponge character under the sea who has a pet snail

   named Gary, a sidekick starfish named Patrick and

   Squidward, an irascible neighbor.


· Rocket Power: Urban cartoon kids involved in kid

   versions of extreme sports such as skateboarding.


· Jimmy Neutron: Boy genius and dopey sidekick. Jimmy

   invents futuristic stuff like rockets. Jimmy has a robot dog.


· Drake & Josh: Live action. Two complete opposites–

   Josh who is buttoned-down and conservative and party-

   dude, Drake, become brothers and have to share their lives

   at home and in school.


· The Fairly Odd Parents:  To deal with his off the wall

   parents and otherwise boring life, ten year old Timmy

   Turner conjures up Cosmo and Wanda, two magical and

   messed up fairy godparents who give him more help than

   he bargains for.


· El Tigre: With a Latino demographic in mind–Manny

   Rivera, with powers of his own, is caught between an ex-

   superhero dad and a dark side Grandpapi. Manny has to

   decide how to use his superpowers as the masked warrior,

El Tigre.


· Dance on Sunset: A new live action show taking

advantage of so much interest these days in dance.

(Many dance classes and clubs are springing up around

the country at junior and senior high schools)


In just these few examples we see “hot buttons” for young people–the wacky characters and scenarios of Sponge Bob, extreme sports taken down to kid level, a weird, nerdy looking genius kid who invents gadgets, personality issues in high school, magical godparents, Latino superheroes and the trendy dance phenomenon. Ideas like these are what winning Concepts are made of along with great character depictions and great writing.




     Like before around 1945 when television first began to be a workable technology in people’s homes (TV’s origins date back to pre 1900’s), it’s hard to imagine life before the Internet rocketed into popular use in the 1990s. Since then, almost everyone with a computer uses the Internet for a multiplicity of uses from simple e-mails to research to shopping to a multiplicity of business communications. Here we’ll focus on winning concepts as they relate only to 3 to 7 year olds.

     This age group is only minimally involved with computers and the Internet compared to older children and teens. Simple computer video games and learning software make up most of this involvement. As children grow to the ages of 5, 6, and 7, toward the top end of this age range, they will become increasingly involved with computer games, learning software and the Internet.


· Learning Software:  Programs such as Leapfrog which in actuality uses a simplified computer as hardware, provides basic learning in the form of fun CONTENT and engaging      PROCESS. Then there are literally hundreds of computer software titles that, using puzzles, games, adventure stories and activities, teach reading skills, math basics, foreign language,

music, basic geography and other subjects.

      Just to mention one as an example: “Arthur’s Preschool” teaches learning the letters of the alphabet and numbers 1 to 10, first-step addition, identifying basic geometric shapes and colors, sorting and matching exercises and learning to follow instruction and interact with a computer program.  This CONCEPT, using learning software, combines a known and popular CHARACTER with important CONTENT delivered in a fun and engaging way (PROCESS).


· Interacting with the WWW: As stated, the older end of this age range, e.g. 5, 6 and 7 year olds become increasingly involved with the Internet as they mature. Statistics show that Internet usage by 6 and 7 year olds in most developed nations is approximately 75%. By the time a typical 7 year old in the USA and other developed countries reaches the second grade in school he is using the Internet to some degree for gaming, surfing the net, downloading schoolwork assistance and communicating with his friends. He may even have his own website or web pages on a site such as MySpace.

Concepts like personalized websites and pages take advantage of a primary human need and that is to reinforce the individual’s identity and ego. Whether kid, tween or teen, this is a powerful motivator. In addition, having one’s own site or pages allows for self-expression, creativity and being able to share one’s self, ideas and creations with one’s friends. These are powerful motivating forces.


· Club Penguin: Disney’s Club Penguin is an especially successfully conceived CONCEPT. It is one of many new kinds of sites that are emerging in which members can, for a monthly fee, create their virtual world. In this case it’s a penguin world for $5.95 a month. Targeting very young kids, at least 8 and below, the child becomes a penguin “avatar” and can dress it in different outfits, create its igloo home, adopt (here again is the adoption theme) little Puffles and go on adventures.  There are ways to chat, blog, do activities and play games.


· The WEBKINZ™: More appropriate for this 3 to 7 age range than for older kids, Webkinz™ is a good example of what can happen when two or three categories are combined. The Webkinz™ (CONCEPT) are plush animals – such as a plush puppy. When the child brings one home, he goes to webkinz.com and types in a “secret” code that comes with the purchased plush animal. At the Webkinz™ site, the child proceeds to “adopt” this pet and give the electronic version of the puppy a name (CHARACTER). Then the child can take care of his Webkinz™ pet (PROCESS) on line, decorating a room for him, feeding him, etc. Of course the idea is to have children purchase a variety of Webkinz™ pets. Webkinz™ provides a variety of activities:


  · First there is the identification with a baby animal. This

     elicits a nurturing and love response in children.

  · There is the adoption idea (like Pound Puppies

     and Cabbage Patch Kids) along with a nurturing play

     pattern as kids take care of their pets.

  · In addition, the child makes ego-feeding decisions

     about such things as what to name the animal, what 

     gender it is, and what type of room to create for it.

  · Then there are games to play on the site – even ways to

      play with/against friends interactively. Many of the 

      games involve learning.

  · Kids can also chat safely with other kids.


The Webkinz™ Concept and process is a very strong example of a winning Concept well executed. It incorporates all the components of the Matrix and is filled with approaches and activities that work at this level.

These days, every enterprise that has to do in one way or another with young people has a website to attract and involve their young customers. Nickelodeon has their website, and also their special “world” of Nicktropolis where a Nick loving young person can create his own Nickself and customize their own room there along with a self-designed pet fish. They can also hang out with their favorite Nick characters like Sponge Bob, play games, watch videos and safely chat with other visitors on the site.

Some of these sites are completely free. Others charge a subscription. Others invite site visitors to make microtransactions –small purchases a nickel or dime or quarter at a time.

Kellogg’s has their Kellogg’s Kid’s Club, General Mills has a virtual “town’ called Millsberry, all the videogame companies have sites, and National Geographic has a special kid site with games, stories, animal photos, activities and videos.

In fact, an entity known as Virtual Worlds Management has emerged and puts on Virtual Worlds Expos along with publishing Virtual World News. They recently completed a “Youth Worlds Analysis” and found that there are more than 100 youth-targeting virtual world sites either active or in development. Disney alone accounts for 9 of them.

As more and more young people move away from traditional toys to a degree and toward tech and web-based “play” sites like Mattel’s Barbie site have emerged. Sites that allow girls to dress their virtual models are very popular. What they and others are discovering is that young people go to and participate in these sites for the experience (PROCESS) and the CONTENT. In the Barbie case, after much experimentation, the most popular three activities have been music, fashion design and play and social interaction with others on the site.



The Known and the Unknown: Point of Difference


Any winning Concept must either represent an important addition to something that is known or break with the known and be a true innovation. The human brain works much like a computer when it comes to paying attention to what’s old and known and what’s new and interesting. When a young person encounters any product or program, it immediately gets slotted into either “I’ve seen this before” or “Huum, that’s interesting. I’ve never seen that before”. The known can be represented by a simple box or “frame”:




And something new that enters a person’s world can be

represented thus:


Text Box:     The 

                             The New


What’s new “breaks frame” so to speak. It breaks with the known and importantly therefore calls attention to itself. Any new Concept needs to represent a meaningful Point of Difference, that is, it must provide something novel and different and therefore interesting. There are PODs (Points of Difference) that truly make a difference and others that don’t. If someone decides that no one has ever created green cereal and they go ahead thinking it would be a difference with any kind of impact, they’d likely be mistaken. A POD needs to really make a difference; it needs to make an impact.

The introduction of the first PONG game was a truly unique entry onto the scene. Now, years later, the Wii platform is again an innovation that represents a powerful POD from competitive platforms and a significant “break frame” CONCEPT. Things that are already known by the consumer bring about a “been there, done that” ho-hum response. In order to truly get attention the new Concept must offer something significantly novel and of course interesting and involving.

Using the Matrix, we also can create and evaluate advertising and positioning in the marketplace against competition. Advertising starts with a Concept and so does positioning. Recently Wendy’s restaurant chain cleverly “broke frame” from their competitors in an ad campaign. The “frame” is:



Text Box:  











Wendy’s Concept was to position itself as “not that” and “better than that”. The “break frame” positioning was:


 Way Better than Fast Food


In this way, Wendy’s used the known point of reference in people’s minds for restaurants of the fast food variety by  separating itself from them and claiming superiority over them.


Name Power and Essence


The name of a product or title of a program is very much a part of the CONCEPT element of the Matrix. A strong name or title goes a long way toward the success of a product or program. In many cases if the name or title is “essenced” to the product itself it also adds to the power of the project. By “essence” we mean that the name captures aspects of the Concept and communicates them. The name, “Webkinz” for example, conveys two aspects: cute young somethings that relate in some way to the web. The name “captures” the essence of the Concept and even inherently conveys emotionality. The name “Transformers” is perfectly “essenced” and perfect for what the line is – toys that transform from one form to another.

Other strong names include Gogurt, Leapfrog, The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean, Hot Wheels, Tickle Me Elmo, Etch A Sketch, Rainbow Brite, He-Man, Baby Alive and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There are of course many more very effective and essenced names such as DieHard, Head & Shoulders and Close-Up. Often the mark of a strong name is that it also elicits an emotional response of some kind such as the name “Pound Puppies”.


Positioning Impact


The marketing concept of “positioning” is also something to consider along with Concept. What is it about your product or program that might serve as a subtitle to position it as superior and unique from other competitive? Here are some examples of powerful positionings from the past and present. Can you identify what products they go with?


      · Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.

      · The Strongest Man in the Universe

      · You can do it, we can help

      · 99% pure

      · Breakfast of Champions

      · Just keeps on going, going…

      · I’m Lovin’ It

      · Adds Life

      · Just Do It

· We try harder

· The night time, coughing, sniffling, sneezing so

   you can  rest medicine.


Impactful and effective positioning can accomplish a variety of things. It can separate your product or program as unique from competitive items in your category. It can put forth the single greatest benefit. It can declare superiority over other brands. Or it can convey an emotional message such as “Adds Life” or “Just Do It”.


Model Concept


In order to illustrate how a Concept might emerge from nothing to something then to the possibility of being a real winner, even an evergreen property, we will offer a Concept of our own and track it through the Matrix from start to finish. It is a cross-over Concept that includes many categories of products and programs.

Where do winning Concepts come from? In this case I was at a book expo in Los Angeles and out of the corner of my eye I saw a book about dinosaurs for kids. My first thought was: “Wow, I’ve never seen a treatment of dinosaurs that was based on them being silly or wacky.” I went over to look more closely and found out that this particular treatment wasn’t silly at all; it was just me that incorrectly interpreted it as silly.

But the core idea stuck with me: “silly dinosaurs”. From past experience I of course knew that dinosaurs have always been of strong interest to young people. Back at the office I began to research different treatments of dinosaurs, looking to see if silly dinosaurs were anywhere out there. What I found was that Disney in 1991 launched a non-animated TV sitcom called “Dinosaurs” but it wasn’t a children’s book/toy/animation concept/property like I envisioned. I also found PBS’ Dragon Tales that is parallel in some ways to a silly dinosaur Concept, but based on dragons, not dinosaurs. Then of course there is Barney, but again, not really a silly treatment, and Barney on TV is live action.

A good sign that you might be on to something when the “light bulb” goes off in your head is a reaction such as: “No one has ever done that before”. In this case it was that no one had ever created an approach to kids’ interest in dinosaurs that was silly and wacky.

Bottom line: green light to go ahead with a silly/wacky approach.

The next task was to come up with a name for my silly dinosaur Concept. The name “Sillysaurus” seemed ideal. After searching for trademarks for this name at the patents and trademarks office (http://www.uspto.gov/), I discovered that the name “Sillysaurus” was already taken. Back to the naming drawing board. I selected “Wackysaurus” as it completely “essenced” the idea as well. In fact, keeping a core age of 3 to 8 in mind, “wacky” has slightly broader and older appeal than “silly”.

For the next steps of creating Characters (along with Style of depictions), Content and Context, I returned to the Matrix as you shall see in the chapters/steps that follow. The Matrix model guides us as we carefully tread along the dinosaur “tracks” of “Wackysaurus” from this start to a finished property ready to present to toy companies, animation houses and children’s book publishers.

Notably, as a “property” such as the likes of Strawberry Shortcake or Barney, I saw that this idea also could have the potential, once successful, to reach into many categories such as music, promotions, apparel, packaged goods, school supplies, room décor, games, and the Internet. Wackysaurus is currently available for parties interested in a full-fledged licensable Concept.




So, where do powerful Concepts come from? First of all they come from understanding the likes, dislikes, preferences, capabilities and play and use patterns of the intended consumers. They come from intimate and detailed knowledge of the product or program category. And most of all, they come from innovative thinking related to each category.

Innovations abound:  The first pushup ice cream delivery system/concept, Pong, M&M Characters, Baby Einstein, great stories and characters such as in the Lion King, YouTube, Club Penguin, Wii, Webkinz, Razor scooters, shoe skates, iPods, the Internet, new concept restaurants like Chuck E. Cheese. The list is a long one. Whether or not your next new CONCEPT will be added to the list depends on that Concept being based on something that will attract and engage your intended consumers and ideally sustain their interest over time.


Winning Product Developer’s Checklist


Below is a checklist for the second step, CONCEPT. Winning Concepts will of necessity be generated from sources such as these:

      ____ Is your Concept based on something that is

               already of strong interest for your intended age

               range and gender(s)? Examples: dinosaurs,

               surprises, magic, transformation, tech

               communication, cool fashion, humor, good vs.

               evil, scary stuff, ponies?


      ____ Is your Concept based on an innovation or

               invention that has never been seen before?

               Examples: Nerf material, Magic 8 Ball, light-up

               Shoes, unique website?


      ____ Does your Concept represent a strong Point of

               Difference from competitive Concepts? Is it a

               difference that makes a difference?


      ____ Is the name of your product or title of your

         program essenced to it? Does it evoke an

         emotional reaction? Is it unique? Is it memorable?


____Have you created an impactful positioning?


In Step Three that follows we look at the power of CONTEXT, an often-neglected element in most all projects. Context is both the geographical locale of the concept if applicable and the time period in which it takes place.











CONTEXT = Time and Place




Covered in this Step:         


CONTEXT = Time and Place 


The element of the Matrix referred to as “Context” is comprised of two aspects: time and place. Let’s look at time first. By “time” we mean time period. Does the Concept take place in the past, present or future or some combination such as in the film, Back to the Future? Jurassic Park played with time as well by bringing dinosaurs into present day.

With regard to kids, tweens and teens, how time is dealt with is very important. Below approximately the age of 7, children are very present-day oriented. They don’t relate well to past time periods such as might be presented in Concepts based on historical Content. In the post He-Man era a major toy company attempted to create a line of action toys that was half futuristic and half western. Picture a covered wagon that was half traditional western wagon and half mechanical with futuristic weaponry. Didn’t work. Millions of dollars were lost.

There are a couple of exceptions. The play pattern of playing cowboys and Indians is an example. In the 40’s and 50’s there were more western films and TV shows so kids mimicked their heroes’ actions in play. Today there is very little entertainment content based on western Content and kids typically might play cops and robbers or Star Wars light saber “sword fighting”, but not cowboys and Indians so much. The other exception is notable: dinosaurs. All young people have an innate fascination with dinosaurs from the loving Barney to the ferocious T-Rex of Jurassic Park.

As children progress into the tween years and on into adolescence they become more interested in both past and future, but more future than past. At the same time, entertainment concepts based on the past can be of little interest, except those adventure films like Indiana Jones that are more about the conflict and adventure than about the past from the young person’s point of view. Certain future-based entertainment can be of strong interest. The Star Wars films are perhaps the strongest example. The Terminator series of films also has reference to the future but most of the action takes place in the present. Disney’s Wall-E is future oriented.

The category of product or program will most accurately dictate whether a past, present or future Context could add power to a Concept. For most packaged goods, present day Context is most appropriate. From the Trix rabbit to Gatorade, the time period associated with them is present day. Most TV programming is present day, and categories such as personal hygiene and sports equipment and toys have no reason to create past or future Contexts.

Again, there are exceptions dictated by the Concept involved. For example, we assisted Quaker Oats with a new instant oatmeal offering based on dinosaurs called “Dinosaur Eggs”. Just add boiling water and dino eggs hatch into colorful baby triceratops and stegosaurs. Their Cap’n Crunch Character sails in a ship that’s like the ships of pirate days. Pirates as a Concept is inherently interesting to kids, tweens and teens so in this case, the past Context works because it’s about pirates.


CONTEXT = Geographical Locale or Setting


The element of Context from the Matrix model also refers to place or setting. Where does the Concept take place? What is its setting? The Cabbage Patch Kids were born in a cabbage patch and certain graphics that accompany the packaging and other print and electronic media reflect this bucolic setting. Star Wars films, toys and other products have the future as their setting. The background graphics on most all Star Wars mediums is futuristic and filled with space Context inhabited by Star Wars spaceships, futuristic cities and Characters.

Nickelodeon produces a TV show called the Wild Thornberries created by Klasky-Csupo. It consists of a fairly odd family, but that isn’t the defining ingredient that primarily contributes to its success. What makes the difference is that Wild Thornberries takes place primarily in remote areas like jungles around the world. The basic premise is that the Thornberries family is making travel films and of course this requires exploring and adventuring in jungles, forests, deserts, etc. These non-urban settings bring with them all the possibilities of sometimes cute and cuddly animals, sometimes ferocious animals, primitive peoples and natural lore. In this case CONTEXT provides a host of interesting elements from learning about these people, places, flora and fauna to the inherent conflicts and humor that arises.

Most Contexts for most product and programming is present day. The challenge is to create Contextual settings that attract and involve kids, tweens and teens. Some examples include electronic game settings, racecars and racetrack settings and settings such as for vehicles, sports, adventure, pop stars, music, magic, outer space, monsters, the beach, the ocean, the forest, parties, theme parks, arcades, fashion and celebrities.


Context and Social Programs


Time Period: All youth-oriented social programs such as scouting or church clubs are very present-day oriented as they should be. Special activities might be created, however, around the past or future. Scouts on an archeological dig, for example, or the activity of burying objects and mementos to be dug up by future Earth inhabitants.

Locale: Again, the club or organization itself is most likely to base itself in urban settings. Organizations such as scouting utilize natural locales on such activities as camping trips. What IS important regarding locale is that the young people’s meeting place be interesting, safe and ideally filled with materials and activities related to the youth group.

Social Web-Based Programs and Context:  If a Social Program is web-based, there is more latitude for the utilization of Time Period and Locale such as a dinosaur-themed or robot-themed web “club” or other attraction. Such an offering would involve more story-like aspects and therefore have fantasy elements that add to its attraction.


Wackysaurus Concept Development Continued


In the case of the Wackysaurus property, CONTEXT is very important. Again, Context includes both time period and locale. Knowing that our 3 to 8 consumer doesn’t easily relate to the past, it was decided to have our characters live in the present.

Another breakthrough in thinking occurred at this point and it involves a critical piece of CONTENT as well. Remember that the Matrix is a dynamic model and the 8 outer elements of the Matrix often necessarily interact simultaneously. What if our dino characters are inside a variety of wildly decorated eggs under a frozen over blanket of ice and snow in a hidden valley. And what if because of climate changes the snow and ice melts exposing the eggs. Let’s call their home the “Valley of the Fantasaurs”. And as the story unfolds, the wacky inhabitants of this jungle-like valley have access to a local town via a tunnel that’s hidden behind a waterfall.

Voilá, we have handled time period and locale; we have our CONTEXT.




Unless you are developing apparel or music or in some other category that doesn’t require time period and setting, the time period and the geographical locale of your Concept are elements that must be calculated and executed correctly in order to ensure optimal success. The Smurfs lived in a forest. Shrek takes place also in a forest and in olden days of knights and princesses. Finding Nemo happens under the ocean, and Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius happens in present day suburbia even as Jimmy is ahead of his days and futuristic in orientation and invention. Nickelodeon’s popular Avatar program takes place in a fantasy world as does Digimon from Japan. Nick’s Rocket Power takes place in present day and uses extreme sports sites. Time and place must work together with Concept and most importantly must work for your intended consumers.


Winning Product Developer’s Checklist


Below is a checklist for the third step, CONTEXT. In order to successfully incorporate Context into your Concept, you should:


            ____ If applicable, make sure that the time period in

                     which your Concept takes place is appropriate for

                     your intended consumers. When in doubt, use

                     present day. The older the target audience, the more

                     likely they will be to become attracted to and

                     involved with past and future Contexts.


            ____  Make sure that the place or setting in which your

                      Concept occurs is appropriate for your target

                      audience. Attention-getting settings can add

                      greatly to any Concept.


            ____ Explore different possibilities for time period and

                     locale. A “break-frame” approach may add

                     significantly to your Concept’s Point of Difference.


On to Step Four in our quest to create a winning product or program or to maximize ones already in existence. In the next step, we explore the critical arena of CONTENT. Content refers to the visuals and the verbal that the young person encounters inherent in any Concept. Visuals include all graphics and verbal refers to any words utilized–typically the “story” or description of the product or program in advertising, promotion or packaging.






















Covered in this Step:          and


CONTENT = Visual and Verbal


Content is comprised of two elements–what is seen visually (along with its graphic attitude and style) and what is either read or heard verbally. We’ll look at the visual component of Content first.

Whether it’s the entertainment business, apparel, publications, or a new kind of BMX bike, it’s often difficult to separate the basic Concept from its visual Content. The Essence of Sponge Bob Square Pants, for example, is as much the idea of a sponge character as it is his physical depiction. The power of what is seen cannot be underestimated.

This discussion of the power of visual Content is a good point to introduce a very basic, yet revealing marketing model, what we term the “Effectiveness Criteria”. In order for any product or program to succeed it must track well through the components of this model:





ATTENTION                    The concept/product/program

                                                  must "grab" the attention of its

                                                  intended purchaser or user.



COMPREHENSION      It must be easy to understand.*



INVOLVEMENT                      It must engage the consumer by

                                                    way of satisfying his needs and

                                                    wants. If he becomes

                                                    emotionally involved, even




YIELD                              The consumer/user must form

                                                    a positive attitude toward

                                                    wanting to purchase, have or

                                                    view the concept or to become

                                                    involved with a Social





ACTION                          The young consumer must be

                                                    so motivated that he takes the

                                                    action of requesting

    the item or purchasing the

    item or watching the program

 himself. For a social program,

 he takes the action of

 requesting to be involved or

 initiates involvement himself.


REACTION                     After having used the product,

    or having viewed or

    participated  in the program,

    he must  experience positive

    satisfaction. Ideally he will 

    want to “re-act”, that is return

    to purchase and/or use it again

    and again.


COMMUNICATION      He will be so satisfied with his

                                                   experience with the product or

                                                   program that he will say

                                                   positive things to himself about

                                                   it and recommend it to others

                                                   (positive word of mouth).


*Comprehension: The ability of a target individual to understand something is not, in all cases, necessarily essential to their Attraction and Involvement. Children below the age of 6 or so do not yet have certain cognitive abilities in place and therefore often may not fully understand something, yet become attracted to it and involved with it.


ETHICAL NOTE: This also makes this young age more vulnerable. Responsible marketers will make sure that children under the age of six will not be taken advantage of.


The Effectiveness Criteria model is critical to keep in mind throughout the creation, development and marketing of any product or program. You must be able to get the individual’s ATTENTION. If your product or program doesn’t pass the Attention test, nothing else will follow, especially in today’s highly competitive environment. Once Attention is gained, your offering must be presented in such a way that it is easy to COMPREHEND.

Then the most critical step is that your intended consumer becomes engaged and INVOLVED with your product or program, finding personal satisfaction and benefit–his needs being met in some significant way. Ideally there will be an emotional component to his involvement as well. If these three elements have happened, he is most likely going to form a positive attitude toward it, what we term “YIELD”. Optimally then, he’ll take either the action of requesting the item or purchasing it himself in the case of a product or wanting to be involved with a Social Program.

Once he has used, viewed, listened to or participated in the product or program, he will ideally have a positive REACTION to it and will “re-act” by wanting to use it again, purchase another one or return to the Social Program and its activities. Finally, having had a positive experience he will internally form positive communications (thoughts, attitudes and beliefs) about the product or program and again, ideally, will even COMMUNICATE his positive experience with others such as: “You’ve got to get one of these!” or “You’ve got to go see that movie!” or “You have to participate in this program!”


Back to Visual Content


Now, after having underlined the importance of the Effectiveness Criteria, let’s continue to look at visual Content. Before children can read it’s obvious that visual “information” or stimuli are going to dominate their perception. Even after learning to read, whatever is visual is going to attract most young people more than verbal. After learning to read, with each advancing year, young people become more and more involved with what they read verbally or hear, yet the visual still has typically as much or more potency than the verbal.

With so much “visual power” let’s look at some aspects that make up the visual:


      · COLOR:  As a general rule, young people are

         attracted to bright, high contrast color. Even neons

         have gained in popularity in recent years. Color

         preference, however, can depend on four things:

         Gender, Age, Subgroups or Cliques and

         Product Category.


                  · Gender:  Like it or not, certain colors are

                     preferred by females such as pink and purple

                     and lavender. Males tend to stay away from

                     these. Blue is strong with both genders.

                     Metallic approaches to color bias toward



                  · Age: Most people know that up to about the

                     Age of 5 primary color treatments are most

                     popular. Anything bright with high contrast

                     will attract. After 5 or so, preferences for

                     different colors expand. Around adolescence,

                     some colors that previously were avoided as

                     being dull such as grey, brown and black

                     become popular for certain categories such as

                     backpacks and some kinds of apparel.


· Subgroups and Cliques: In the tween and teen stages of development, young people increasingly form into subgroups such as the studious types, the jocks, the cheerleaders and the fringe groups. Each of these subgroups has different tastes in apparel and associated colors.


      · Product Category: The category of product also dictates color preferences. Preschoolers’ backpacks are brightly colored primarily with primary colors, for example, while high schoolers’ packs are typically grey, blue or black. Sneaker color preferences and tech toys and devices follow a similar pattern of offering brighter colors for younger kids and grays, blues, whites and blacks for older individuals.


   · COLOR FRAME BREAK:  Interestingly, creators of a given product might find a way to “break frame” and garner special ATTENTION by breaking away from typical coloration for a product.


· SYMBOL POWER: Symbols often get Attention from all people and can carry special meaning for young people. A heart ♥ of course stands for love, a star  may signify success or “being a star”, lightning bolts ~ can connote energy or excitement and a musical note Musical Note 3 Clipartcan stand for musical fun. The Care Bears are one of the strongest and most effective examples of the power of symbols. A corporate icon such as the Nike swoosh has become a part of Americana and it’s no secret how much power that symbol has with young people related to the shoes and other clothing items they purchase and wear.


· SPECIAL EFFECTS: Consumers, whether young or old, are easily attracted to flashing visuals or special visuals such as holograms. In the packaged goods arena, notably for cereals, holograms have been used on package fronts to grab the Attention and Involvement of consumers.


Ethical Note: Many youth anti-consumerism advocates may decry this type of tactic. Some of them believe this amounts to manipulation. While it’s true that holograms and such attract special attention and you and I might prefer to not have this kind of strategy, what is the alternative? To ban holograms? Where would this stop? We live in a free society and marketers rightly enjoy that freedom–so long as the end result is not proven to be harmful to children, tweens and teens.


But there’s the potential “rub”. Anti-too-much-sugar groups argue that special effects like holograms on sugary cereal packages irresponsibly entice and encourage child consumption. This controversy continues, and rightly so in today’s environment that includes a doubling and tripling of childhood obesity and  diabetes.


We also live in an era of entertainment as noted in Michael Wolf’s The Entertainment Economy–How Mega-Media Forces are Transforming Our Lives. Food, snack and beverage manufacturers know that they are offering entertainment as well as the consumables themselves.

It has been proven that alcohol, drugs and nicotine, for example, are harmful. And yes a case could be made for too much consumerism or too much sugar in our foods as harmful. But let’s be realistic. Where does the PRIMARY responsibility lie for the monitoring and regulation of how much stuff or sugar our young people consume? It primarily lies with parents and other caretakers such as teachers and it lies with the individual himself as he learns and matures. We absolutely should have consumer education beginning from the early school years.

Importantly, responsibility also lies with manufacturers. They should do everything possible to support healthy lifestyles via promotion of moderation and education as well as via healthier ingredients and responsible marketing.


          Content = Verbal

Verbal Content can range from the wording on a cereal box to the spoken aspects of a videogame or TV show or movie, to music lyrics or the verbal Content of children’s books or words and verbal logos on apparel. Verbal includes anything in the form of language. 

As we have noted, language takes on more and more importance as the child matures from the preschool years through toddlerhood, childhood and into the tween and teen stages. All young people and adults are attracted to visual Content, but the amount and type of verbal information that is important varies and takes on more importance and impact with each advancing stage of development.

It’s of course very important to create the verbal aspects of any product or program in an age-appropriate manner. If you are ever unsure of the language level to utilize for a given project, go to the bookstore or library and study the types of word usage and vocabulary level present in books that target the same age consumers you are pursuing.


Visual and Verbal


An examination of what’s effective and what’s not effective with visual and verbal Content in a few different categories is enlightening.


      · Toy Packaging: Given that most traditional toys are for the below 8 age segments, visual illustrations of the toys themselves or see-through packaging, or no packaging at all may be the case. Keeping in mind that such visual aspects as coloration need be “essenced” to the item as a general rule bold colors and energetic graphics are recommended. By “essenced” we mean that given their inherent nature, Transformer toys, for example, would likely have metallic grays and blacks mixed in with eye-catching coloration.


      · Cereals and Snack Foods: There are most often six or seven elements that comprise any food package that is made with young people in mind:


1.      Background/overall coloration.

2.      Depiction of the food or see-through access to it.

3.      The Name of the manufacturer and the brand.

4.      Supporting verbal naming benefit(s)

5.      Picture or illustration of either real young people or iconic characters such as the Trix rabbit or Honey Nut Cheerios Bee.

6.      Games or activities or things to send in for on the package back.

7.      In-pack surprises or fun items.


Companies often do not maximize the relative “weight” or power of each of these components. Especially for 7 and under, verbal information is less important than the visual. Ignoring this, many companies put excessively small visuals on the package such as small iconic characters or small illustrations of food or surprises inside. Then they make the manufacturer’s name and brand name huge. This may satisfy management, but not intended young consumers.

There are many, many other considerations. If a character is used, what animal or type of cartoon character is it? Certain animals have more power with young people than others as we shall explore more in detail in the next step, step five. Do you use a real young person? How is the food depicted? If there is a game to be played on the package or other activity, is it age-appropriate for the core age of the intended consumers? Are the words used comprehensible to them? Considering that typically moms are the purchasers, is the mix of appeal to both moms and young people on target?



      · TV and Film: Given a strong Concept and great

Characters, excellent verbal Content of course is critical to a show or movie’s success. There’s no substitute for superior script writing. This is the obvious. What’s not so obvious is how a writer matches up with his intended audience and their capabilities and preferences. The level of abstraction with language needs to be appropriate to the stage of development of the audience, for example. Humor must also match. Comedic ideas that are too abstract such as innuendo or irony, for        example, may sail right over the young people’s heads.


Leverage Hierachy


      The ultimate goal for all visual and verbal Content is to maximize what we term the “Leverage Hierarchy”, an element that goes along with the Matrix model. The most effective approach to all visual and verbal Content is one that presents the most powerful information/stimulus in the most prominent way, then the second most powerful, then the third, etc. In the case that there are multiple “audiences” such as moms and young people, then both need to be taken into account and the “mix” of elements needs to be optimal.


More on Style


By “style” we mean the approach to graphics as applied to such as lettering, symbols, illustrations, characters, and backgrounds. Will you use an old fashioned approach? Modern? Futuristic? Abstract? The Japanese anime style?

Some of these are typically not recommended for young people. Past oriented, or styles that are too abstract, for example, would not typically be very effective with them. As children move into the teen years they do, however, become involved with a wider breadth of styles depending on the category of product. A safe and typically effective approach to Style is the use of present day, high contrast, energetic use of both the verbal and visual.


Impact Principles


There is a great variety of what we call “impact principles” that can come into play at any stage of development of a product or program. Here is a brief description of each:


· Hot Vs. Cold Mediums:  TV, the Internet and many hand-held tech devices are “hot” mediums in that they have all the advantages of sound and impactful visuals. Publications and print ads, for example, are “cold” mediums and do not have as much impact.


· Rational vs. Emotional:  Interacting with an intended youth consumer, audience or participant in a rational, explanatory way is typically inferior to interacting in a way that involves their emotional involvement.


· Personalization: Even more than adults, young people are ego-centric. Anything that relates to them personally like the inclusion of their name can have impact. Nike, for example, has a website where a child can design his own shoe and add his name on the back of the shoe. Young people that get mail with their name on it receive a personal ego stroking at the same time.


· Personal Power and Control: Any product or program that delivers to the consumer or audience a sense of being in control, being powerful or being able to make choices increases in impact.


· Complexity: As children mature from kids to tweens to teens they actually need and demand more and more complexity to keep them involved. Videogames are good examples. For very young children, they are simple while for older young people they become increasingly complex.


· Magic: Simple magic is attractive and has impact for the under 8 crowd while older young people require magic that is more sophisticated and complex. If magic is too simple, older individuals will perceive it as beneath them.


· Transformation: Anything that can transform from one form to another can have impact. Complexity is an issue here as well in that older individuals will demand more complex transformations.


· Immediate Vs. Delayed Gratification: Below the age of around 7 kids demand more immediate gratification. They would not be good candidates for sending away for a prize or for joining a club that involved waiting for interactions. As children mature they more easily tolerate waiting and delaying gratification.


· Centration: The French psychologist, Piaget came up with the concept of “centration”. He found that very young children tend to centrate or focus narrowly on the most prominent visual stimulus on something such as a product package. They tend to stay “fixed” on that stimulus to the exclusion of noticing other visual aspects. The Trix rabbit is an example of the utilization of this centration phenomenon in that this character is huge on the cereal box front.


· Overcuing: Related to centration, overcuing is taking something that the consumer or audience is already interested in and making it exaggerated. Mattel’s He-Man  action figure and the wrestling action figures have huge, exaggerated muscles. Young boys, already being interested in power, are especially attracted to these muscles because they are oversized.


· Cool Cues:  There are certain elements that can be added to a Concept or Character that immediately become associated with being “cool”. Put sneakers or sun glasses on anything practically and it becomes cool. The Kool-Aid pitcher Character is a good example. Remember when it was just a frosted pitcher with a smiley face? Now it has legs with sneakers and wears shades!






· Good Vs. Evil:  The struggle and conflict between opposing forces can have strong impact. Toothpaste commercials and bug spray ads, for example, depict germs and bugs as the enemy and the product as heroic.


Strategically and responsibly utilized, these “Impact Principles” can increase the power of any Concept and add to the effectiveness of its Content.


Wackysaurus Concept Development Continued


Once the basic Concept was in place of a group of wacky dinosaurs alive today in a fantasy valley other Content elements needed to be introduced.

Visually, the “look” of these wacky dinosaurs had to be created along with the graphic Style of their Context–where they live. So, the first character was conceived of and drawn: Wackysaurus. Keeping in mind our 3 to 8 intended audience for the Concept, Wackysaurus was designed using mostly primary colors and relatively simple lines. Relative simplicity of graphic Style is also important when it comes to animation to keep costs down.

Verbally, other elements were introduced to round out the story. Every story needs conflict, so two elements were created. First, the Valley of the Fantasaurs was made to be inhabited by mutant creatures (not really scary) that presented problems. The first story, for example, was entitled, “Attack of the Pidgeon-Moles”. In this way, most of the denizens of the Valley were combinations of animals such as “pigogators” and flying “ducksnakes”. The idea is simple and based on strong interests of kids: animals and mutants. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles went to town with the mutant idea.

Secondly, a town with regular people in it, especially one special kid, was created so that Wackysaurus and friends could interact with the world of our audience–3 to 8 year olds.

Now all that remained to be created was the rest of the Characters. We’ll describe them in Step 5  regarding Characters that follows.




All right. As we have discussed, the Matrix element, Content, is comprised of both Visual (what is seen) and Verbal (what is read or heard). Almost every product or program of necessity has both these aspects. Even a T-shirt will have a small label somewhere and be branded in one way or another.

The key here is no secret; it is to conceive of, design, and execute Content that is both visually Attractive and Involving (from the Effectiveness Criteria Model) and verbally effective.






Winning Product Developer’s Checklist


Regarding Content:


      ____ Are your approaches to what your intended

               consumer will see visually powerful? Will what

               you design Attract and Involve?


      ____ Is the verbal information comprehensible? Does it   

               engage your audience/consumer?


      ____ Almost every Concept can have a “story” that goes

               with it. Does your “story” include compelling

               ideas? Does it include hot buttons like humor? Soft



      ____ After reviewing the Impact Principles, have you

               included those that are appropriate?


      ____ Referring to the Matrix element of “Leverage

               Hierarchy”, are the components of your Concept’s

               Content maximally organized for strongest

               power and impact? Are they prioritized in the

              way they are presented?


CHARACTER POWER: Strategic use of iconic, cartoon Characters and real life Personalities can bring significant power to many Concepts. In Step Five that follows we will reveal a variety of factors and examples that add up to a thorough understanding of the leverage or power that successful use of Characters can bring to any Concept.













Covered in this Step:         


Characters and Personalities     


First of all we need to distinguish between Characters and Personalities. In the case of Characters we refer to iconic cartoon Characters such as Bart Simpson or the M&M guys (and green gal). By “Personalities” we mean real life people. The use of real people typically involves “borrowing the equity” of celebrities and sport stars such as Hanna Montana’s Miley Cyrus or the Laker’s Kobe Bryant, but not always. Ordinary people have been used, for example, in Life cereal’s “Mickey Likes It!” campaign and on Life cereal boxes where real kids and parents (typically moms) are utilized.

Character and Personality power cannot be underestimated. Whole companies such as Disney got their start essentially with a Character, in this case a quite famous mouse. We’ve had the privilege of working on a variety of famous Characters over the years. A listing of some of them demonstrates the wide variety of their use:


· Contracted to create new iconic Characters for two new

   cereal introductions by a large cereal company in Canada.

   We created a crocodile Character and a lion. The croc was

   for a colorful and crunchy cereal, thus a colorful and toothy



· Mattel had us help them determine who Barbie could be in

   the 1980s. Could she be a doctor and just a nurse? Could

   she carry a briefcase? We assisted with the idea and

   positioning that Barbie, (and all girls) could be anything.

   (Except we counseled against “Plumber Barbie” and the



· We were contracted in the mid 1990’s to create the first

   illustrations of the now popular M&M Characters for Mars,

   Incorporated. The popularity of these Characters took off

   and greatly enhanced the profitability of the brand. In

   addition, the Characters became a very successful licensing

   phenomenon appearing, for example, as toys, on apparel

   and as part of room décor. They have been a very

significant contributor to the M&Ms candy brand doubling

in profit over the years.


· Disney contracted us to do a workshop on Character

   power and to assist them in determining how

   Mickey Mouse and  friends could appeal to older

   audiences as we were moving into 2000 and beyond.


· Warner Bros. Licensing department hired us to examine

   most all their Characters from Bugs Bunny to the

   Tasmanian Devil and create personality profiles for them

   and make suggestions for maximal licensing



· Nickelodeon secured our services to study and report on the

   relative power of a variety of Character-driven new

   properties and to make suggestions for maximization.

   Among those shows: Sponge Bob SquarePants, the

   Rugrats, Angry Beavers, Rocket Power and CatDog.


· We worked to maximize the Cap’n Crunch Character for

   Quaker Oats and the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee for General



· We changed and updated and improved the penguin

   Character for the Kid Cuisine line of kid’s meals.


· We helped Sargento create a new approach to their

   Mootown cow Character.


· Microsoft Corporation hired us to research approaches to a

   software Character via focus groups.


· An educational software company hired us to assist them in

   the maximization of a cast of teacher and student

   Characters created by the Rubber Bug company that were

   part of their Algebra’s Cool programs. It won awards.


· The USDA’s Department of Children’s nutrition contracted

   us to improve their walk-around-at-schools Power Panther

   Character. He was too thin and not powerful enough.

   The revised Power Panther is more buff and more

   appealing. To incorporate what we call “Character

   Dynamic”, we created a sidekick nephew Character for

   him named Slurp. This created a dynamic in which

   Power panther could teach Slurp about  healthier eating

   and exercise habits.


· Baylor University’s Department of Children’s Nutrition

   had us create a Character Program from scratch to be part

   of 30 second TV spots to influence preschoolers to eat

   more fruits and vegetables. We created two characters:

   Judy Fruity and Reggie Veggie.



Judy Fruity                      Reggie Veggie

Ó Baylor University 2007


Testing has shown the ads to be significantly effective in encouraging more veggie preference and consumption

Of all the possible categories of products from toys to magazines, there is not one that stands out as not taking advantage of the use of Characters or Personalities in some fashion. Every category uses them to varying degrees as in the following:


   · Toys: Many examples of action figures such as Spiderman

      and Transformer Characters as toys. Barbie is a Character and

      so is the toy form of Sponge Bob.

   · Publications:  Filled with Characters and Personalities.

   · Apparel: many examples of licensed Characters on

      clothing, backpacks, shoes (Tweety Bird sneakers)

   · Packaged Goods: Cereal characters. Fruit snack

      Characters. Real kids on food packaging. Sports stars.

   · Personal Hygiene:  E.G.: Sesame Street toothbrushes.

   · Room Décor: Posters, Curtains, bed sheets, rugs, etc.

   · School Supplies:  Character themed software,

      Characters on writing tools and backpacks.

   · Candy & Snacks:  Pez dispensers, M&M guys and

      many, many others.

   · TV and Film: All about Characters and Personalities –

    both in iconic cartoon form or real life people.

· Restaurants: Iconic characters such as Ronald McDonald.

   Licensed Character promotions.

· Advertisements that use celebrities or ordinary people.

· The Internet: Character and Personality websites.


      Characters attract. No doubt about it.


So then, let’s say you want to take advantage of Character or Personality power. Where do you start?

Your Concept will certainly dictate what type of Character or Personality is “essenced” to your project. The Concept may even start out as a Character or based on Personalities like Nickelodeon’s Josh and Drake. And, always, always start with the age and gender of your intended consumer. How do you want them to relate to your Characters or Personalities? We refer to this “relating” as “Identification”. We have discovered that there are essentially 5 forms of identification–ways that kids, tweens and teens relate to Characters and Personalities:


1.      NURTURING:  The Character or Person either nurtures

      the child (Barney) or is nurtured by the child.(Baby

      Alive doll. Of the American Idol judges, Paula Abdul

is the nurturer while Simon plays the role of villain). Mr.

Rogers was a great example of nurturance. His soft-

spoken tone and manner along with messages of “I like

you”, and “you are wonderful and special” reinforced

very young children’s self-images and emotional safety.


2.      LIKE ME:  In “like me” Identification, the individual kid, tween or teen finds aspects/qualities in the Character or Personality that are like himself/herself. A 4 year old girl, for example might see Strawberry Shortcake as like herself. This form of Identification is the most limited in that the consumer or audience person would have to be approximately the same as the Character or Personality, that is they would need to be the same age, gender, ethnicity, etc., to fully identify. Nickelodeon’s Zoey Character from Zoey 101 is a good example of like me Identification. If the audience person is a girl of about the same age (early teen) with similar circumstances, identification as “like me” can occur. When Zoey exhibits behaviors that are positive, even possibly heroic, then she could also be the object of emulatory Identification which we discuss next.


3.      EMULATION: The individual finds qualities in the

      Character or Personality that he wants to emulate such

      As superheroes, military, police and caretakers. This

      form of Identification is often the most potent. Action

       heroes such as Toby McGuire’s Spiderman or TV

      heroes like Hanna Montana result often in powerful

      forms of young people wanting to be like them. In the

      era of Star Wars movies, there were several strong,

      mostly positive Characters in the original and the

      sequels to emulate such as Luke Skywalker, Princess

      Leia and Han Solo.


4.      ENTERTAINMENT: The individual simply finds the

      Character or Personality to be entertaining such as Bugs

      Bunny, Jim Carrey, the Jake Character of Two and a

      Half men. While the Jimmy Neutron Character attracts

      some Emulatory identification, he’s most likely to

      offer identification of the entertainment variety. That is

      the audience members don’t necessarily want to be like

      him, but find him entertaining.


5.      DISIDENTIFICATION: The kid, tween or teen is

      attracted to this Character or Personality because of its

dark side qualities–villains, for example. Everyone loves a good villain. They are the Characters we love to hate. Superhero movies, TV dramas and even many cartoons, for example, are nothing without a good villain, from the manipulative Lucy of Peanuts to the diabolical Joker of Batman.


It’s very important to calculate ahead of time how it is that your intended audience or consumer is going to identify with/relate to any Characters or Personalities you utilize for your Concept. “Identification” is related to “relationship”. What is the relationship that you envision between your consumer audience and the Character or Personality?


Archetype Power


An archetypical Character is one that has played a constant type of role down through the ages from ancient times to the present. Whether you are creating one Character or a cast of Characters, the type of Character(s) you design and utilize determines the type of Identification that occurs and whether or not there is Attraction and Involvement.


Here are the known archetypes:
































___ CAREGIVER           





















The success of Star Wars is in large part due to a powerful and effective use of a cast of archetypical Characters:


· HERO/SEEKER: A clear hero in Luke Skywalker in the

   first of the series. In fact there was a hero problem in the

   retroactive first film, Star Wars I, The Phantom Menace,

   in that the hero, Anakin Skywalker, was a child and therefore

   did not possess sufficient heroic identification qualities.

· SIDEKICKS: R2D2, C3PO, Chewbaca. (Chewbaca

    also represents a “beast” archetype.)


· REBEL: Han Solo


· WISE OLD MEN/TEACHERS: Obi-Wan Kenobi and



· VILLAINS: Headed up by Darth Vader and his “boss”,

   the hooded Palpatine who is also the Ruler of the evil


· WARRIORS: The Storm Troopers, other Jedi Knights.

· PETS: The cute Ewoks. An obvious inclusion for



Character Personality Summaries


In order to maximize the opportunity for success of a Character or a Cast of Characters, it’s critical, beyond their archetypes, to know a good deal about their personalities and behaviors. To this end, we have created Personality Profiles and Character Power summaries. You can find samples to illustrate how they work as well as blanks for your use in the Appendix section of this Handbook.


What = Evergreen?


It’s a somewhat short list of truly evergreen products and programs that are Character driven. By definition, an “evergreen” Character is one that lasts decade after decade. Our list would have to include: Barbie, Barney, Strawberry Shortcake, Mickey Mouse and other Disney Characters such as Donald Duck, Warner Brothers Characters such as Bugs Bunny, Superman and Batman and Marvel heroes and villains.

It remains to be seen, but Characters such as Sponge Bob SquarePants, the Simpsons characters and the M&M Characters are likely to be around for decades to come. Part of their success factor is of course continued exposure via TV and via advertising, but the point here is that they possess innate archetypical and entertainment power to begin with.


Animal Vs. Human


When considering the creation and deployment of a Character, another critical determination is whether to create an animal Character or a human. This determination will depend on a variety of factors, chief among them being:


· Age of intended consumers/audience. Animal Characters have special appeal to the very young while for older tweens and teens real human Characters are often preferred. If animal Characters are used for older young people then they will typically need to be more edgy. Cutesy, lovable Characters will be perceived by this older crowd as “for little kids” and avoided. General Mill’s Yoplait Go-GURT product could have gone with animals or humans, but they ended up using (for many of the Go-GURT SKUs) an edgy looking, skateboarding cartoon kid about 11 years old. They wanted to make sure that the product appealed upward as far as tweens.


· Essence of the Product or Program: The inherent nature of the product or program may dictate whether to use a human or animal Character. Most cereals use animal Characters such as the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee (bees and honey), the TRIX rabbit, Toucan Sam and his nephews for Froot Loops (colorful bird, colorful product), and Tony the Tiger for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes (“They’re Grrreat!”).

      The Wheaties brand of course has always used real life sports champions on their packaging with the intent of delivering the power message and Positioning: “Breakfast of Champions”.

Then there’s the “he just keeps on going” Energizer Bunny, the Geico gecko and the Budweiser frogs. These have no particular innate connection with the product but deliver entertainment Identification and value.

When appropriate to the product or program, animal Characters enjoy particular advantages. First of all, there are no ethnic issues as black, white or blue people all relate the same to them. The exception would be ethnically special animals such as pandas and dragons for Chinese and kangaroos for Australians. Secondly, animals don’t have gender Identification problems either. Both males and females alike become attracted to and involved with most all animal Characters. If the animal is too edgy or scary, however, it might skew male. Third, depending on the depiction and execution of the Character, and depending on the product or program it’s associated with, animal Characters can appeal to very broad audiences.


The Most Popular Animals


Interestingly, in a parallel way with colors, very young children prefer more basic (and safe) animals and older young people branch out to include more diverse and edgy animal preferences and interests. The most popular animals for kids birth to about 6 include cats, dogs, rabbits, ponies and horses and bears–not the grizzly, scary kind, but the cute and cuddly teddy bear, panda bear, koala bear kind.

As young people grow through their tween years into being teenagers their animal attraction goes beyond these mostly domestic animals to include all sorts of animals from geckos to turtles and pigs.

Also of note is that those animals and insects that are creepy and crawly (spiders, beetles, ants, snakes, etc.) and that have sharp, non-soft outer surfaces like the lizard and spiny fish are not preferred and overall avoided. Birds are interesting in this regard. Birds with sharp beaks (that could be perceived to hurt a person) are generally avoided. It’s no accident that the popular Toucan Sam has a large, rounded, colorful beak.

Dinosaurs, as we have pointed out, have consistent appeal across all ages, but with a male skew. As kids grow older they begin to include scarier and scarier dinosaurs as being interesting and appealing.

There is a phenomenon related to some characters that we refer to as “approach-avoidance”. It’s a human phenomenon, not just with children. It essentially refers to the idea that when there is something gory or scary or taboo it sets up a “go-toward-it”, and “run-away-from-it” reaction. Interest in an accident on the freeway is this type of “approach-avoidance” phenomenon. Dinosaurs, especially for the very young, can be very scary. But at the same time, it’s partially the scariness that evokes interest and approach behavior.


The Wackysaurus Concept Development Continued


In the case of the Wackysaurus property, it is both Concept and Character driven. The basic idea of a batch of wacky dinosaurs alive today on Earth is strong and unique, but without great Characters and excellent depiction of same, the idea will most likely remain average at best.

Therefore, informed by both Identification patterns and by Character archetypes, we created a cast of 8 Characters and thus renamed the Concept: Wackysaurus & Friends. The Characters:


1.      Wackysaurus:  Archetypes: Leader, Hero, and Jester


2.      Rascaldactyl: Sidekick to Wackysaurus, Slightly

Rebellious and quite nuts.

3.      Raptorella: Female Princess archetype. Heroic at times.

4.      Goofy-Tooth Tiger: Buffoon, Pet, Innocent

5.      Brontoff: Teacher, Parent

6.      Topsy-Turvy: Victim, Child

7.      Dr. T: Wise old man (T-rex)

8.      Gigantasaurus: (We never see his whole body as he’s so big. We only see his feet and ankles and occasionally his head as it comes down into the frame.) Friendly Giant archetype.


Great Characters help immensely when attempting to create great Content. Many writers agree that when great Characters are in place, stories often tend to “write themselves”. This is because great Characters are based on archetypes and certain types of Characters bring issues with them. The victim Character, for example, brings all of their victim issues and conflicts to the party.




We’ve made a strong case for the inclusion of what we call a “Character Program” for your Concept in most cases and categories. All products and programs are certainly not appropriate candidates for the use of Characters or Personalities, but when kids, tweens and teens are involved, the effective utilization of Characters or Personalities may add significant power. Again, we live in an entertainment era, and Characters and film, TV or sports celebrities generally can add to the total impact of a brand. In the cases of properties like Barbie and Barney, Sponge Bob and like Concepts, Characters are the core of the brand itself.


Characters and Social Programs


It appears that primarily web-based Social Programs are the ones that utilize Characters and Personalities. Celebrity fan clubs, for example, such as a Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana site obviously utilize her Character Power. Programs such as scouting or Indian Guides might use generic types of iconic characters in publications or promotions, but they don’t have lead Characters or Personalities.


Winning Product Developer’s Checklist


Below is a checklist for the fifth step, CHARACTER or PERSONALITY. In order to successfully incorporate these critical components into your Concept, you should:


____ Determine if a Character, Characters or a personality or Personalities would indeed add to the overall impact of your product or program.


____  Essence or “match” the Character or Personality “program” to the product or program you are developing.


____  Ensure that the Characters or personalities you are developing are a match with the ages and genders and ethnicities of your intended audience/consumers.


____ Determine what it is about the Characters or Personalities you are using that will be engaging. How will your audience relate to and Identify with them?


____ Make sure that whatever Characters or Personalities you come up with are archetypes that work effectively with your product or program. If a cast of Characters or Personalities is to be created, make sure that cast is balanced archetypically.


____  If animal Characters are being created, make sure that the animal or animals you select are going to be perceived as Attractive and Entertaining.


On to Step Six. In the next step, we explore the critical Matrix element, PROCESS. “Process” refers to how the consumer or viewer interacts with your product or program from their very first perception of it through using or consuming it and reacting to their total experience with it.














PROCESS = Products/Programs & Consumer    






Covered in this Step:         


Process is simple to explain yet perhaps one of the most difficult elements of the Matrix to achieve in the most powerful and effective way.

Process is the interaction between our young consumer and

a product or program–from start to finish.


Process certainly will involve some physical interaction such as participating in a Social Program, viewing an ad or opening a package or playing with the product inside or using it in some way. In the case of many products and programs, ideally there will be an emotional element involved in the interaction as well. It’s important to revisit our effectiveness Criteria model at this point:








From the very beginning of exposure to a product or program there is interaction of some sort. Let’s take a hypothetical product and a couple of tweens, for example, and track them through their PROCESS:

Let’s create a sample program. Let’s say it’s a new animated cartoon show appearing on Nickelodeon. Let’s title it: Jake’s Magic. The CONCEPT is that Jake is a young 12-year-old magician wannabe who uses magic and illusions to catch bad guys.

Consumers at most any age beyond 4 or so immediately make a ”for me” or “not for me” decision when first perceiving a product or program. Looking at the Effectiveness Criteria model, whether or not tweens, for example, let’s say Ben (age 10) and Lauren (age 8), become effectively Attracted to and Involved with our Jake’s magic show will depend on a variety of Matrix elements all at once, especially:


The Concept: the idea of using magic as the core idea.

    Red Flag: Most simple magic has appeal below the age of

    7 or so, so our tween audience would need that magic to

    be sophisticated such as with special effects.


The Characters and their Style or “look”: As we saw

    in the previous step, Character, there has to be

    Identification in an effective, ideally powerful, way with

    the Characters of any product or program. Their artistic

       interpretation or “look” has everything to do with whether

       effective Identification takes place–leading to Attraction

       and Involvement. In addition, there are many other

       factors such as Ben and Lauren’s ethnicity and whether

       our tween girl, Lauren, finds enough to become Attracted

       to and involved with in the cast and Content. Does Jake

       have a female sidekick, for example?


Referring to the Effectiveness Criteria, a critical objective is to get the intended consumer’s Attention and Involvement such that he “Yields” to it, that is forms a positive attitude toward participating/wanting it/buying it/asking for it/using, viewing or consuming it.

Given the above, let’s follow Ben and Lauren through their Process. Ben sees a promo for Jake’s Magic and is hooked immediately. He has played with magic sets in the past and has a predisposition toward magic. He’s not so sure about the Character, Jake, however, as the way he is depicted graphically seems too childish to him.

Lauren isn’t interested in magic and the promo piece hardly showed any females in the cast. Her Process (interaction with the promo and therefore the Concept) is not very positive or impactful.

Ben, on the other hand, becomes completely absorbed with the show and related products. Over the next months he watches and records all the shows, talks about them with his buddies at school (Communication from the Effectiveness Criteria model), and has even purchased a Jake’s Magic Kit on the web.

When the Magic Kit arrives, however, Jake is disappointed in it because it doesn’t look like the one on TV and is smaller and has less tricks than he thought. His RE-ACTION to the show remains positive, but to related products his YIELD (attitude formation) is negative.

Process, therefore, is not just the interactivity that occurs once the young consumer gets the product in his hands or turns on a TV show. Process includes every encounter with a product or program from first perceiving it on a retail shelf or in an ad or at a friend’s house to having it, using it, participating with it, or consuming it and forming a Re-action to it–positive  or negative.


Process by Category


In order to more thoroughly understand Process, let’s look at a number of different product and program Categories. Much of the “magic” of young people’s Involvement with a given product is due to how it has them interacting with it from start to finish.

We won’t focus on the entire Process from first seeing an ad to going to the store and seeing the product on the shelf to bringing it home to opening the package, etc., but all of that is definitely part of Process as established. We’ll look mostly at how our young consumers interact with the product or program once it’s being participated in, played with, viewed, consumed or used.


Toys:  From infant mobiles (babies) to remote controlled race cars (tweens), Those toys that continue to deliver play value are the strongest in providing Process. Variety of play, creativity and challenge are elements that contribute to sustained interest. What does Barbie play involve beyond Identification with Barbie, her friends and her pets?

There are a variety of play scenarios: 1. Dress up that inherently includes creative, ego-gratifying choice-making about how to dress the dolls, 2. Role playing the different Characters interacting with each other, 3. Playing with the dolls in combination with play sets such as Barbie’s Dream House, 4. Interacting with friends and the dolls.

There’s no accident that evergreen properties like Barbie and Hot Wheels continue to attract and involve year after year. Children come back to them time and time again because they offer a variety of experiences each play session.

When it comes to toys, Process can be interpreted as play patterns. These activity patterns include a great variety of processes such as building, doing puzzles, throwing objects like Frisbees, controlling vehicles remotely, dress-up play, nurturing play with dolls and toy pets, arts and crafts like PlayDoh, playing with wind-up toys, robots and model kits.


Traditional Games: Whether it’s musical chairs, a card game like UNO or a board game like Monopoly or chess, the object is to win. Competition with others is inherently ego-involving and often creates strong emotional response. This emotional element as part of the Process is extremely important when a winning product is what is desired. Games typically involve a variety of mental processes as well such as figuring things out, strategizing and planning.


Electronic Games: There’s no mystery how profits from electronic game sales have outstripped profits from all toy sales. First of all the customer base for most toys peaks out at around 8 years of age, while individuals from as young as 3 to mature adults become involved with video games.

The real power of electronic games comes from PROCESS. More than any other Category of products, electronic games deliver powerful Process or interaction. Of course a strong game Concept is important along with solid Characters and graphic Style, but it’s what the player does throughout the game–his Process–that constitutes how Involved he is and whether or not he’ll return again and again to play the game. Many games have levels of achievement. Once the player “conquers” the easiest level he moves on to the next most difficult layer. This also adds to Involvement.

The Wii innovation has ramped up Process and interactivity to a whole other level. Playing Wii tennis, for example, involves the whole body as well as the emotion that goes along with competition.


Apparel:  Up until recently wearing clothing items didn’t involve much Process. Young people didn’t do anything with their clothes after putting them on and the clothes themselves didn’t do anything either.

      Technology is changing that. We are starting to see “smart clothes”, clothes that have technology embedded in them. You want music? Just tune in by pushing a couple of buttons on your jacket or listen to speakers in the hood of your pullover. Cell phone use? Clothing may replace much of the hardware and software. Soon we may see young people talking to their sleeves.

There are more innovations brewing: Clothes that can monitor one’s health, performance feedback from running shoes, clothes that clean themselves, air-conditioned clothing, electronic images on clothes, and even transparent clothing that has thousands of tiny pieces of glass on the surface that acts as a screen onto which a camera projects the background behind a person, rendering them invisible.

      Most of these are for adults, but Processes like listening to music, using cell phones and gaming will involve apparel more and more as the future becomes the present.


● Packaged Goods:  Before a young person gets involved with the Content of any package, whether it’s cereal, candy, yoghurt, potato chips, or a new kind of roll-up-the-tube toothpaste, there’s his exposure to advertising, then interaction with the graphics and verbal information of the package itself. If Attention and Involvement isn’t happening already, then interest will be limited. Is there play value added to the package? Are there games to play on the back? Contests to enter? Things to send away for?

      Note: Remember, before the age of about 6 or 7 children aren’t very good at waiting for things. They want more immediate gratification. After 7 or so, when greater cognitive capabilities are in place, they are more adept at and amenable to waiting to receive something in the mail or by e-mail.

      Once the consumer opens the package, Process becomes critical. What does he do with the Contents? Does he merely eat them? Drink them? Or is there a use or play pattern involved? Some examples: Go-GURT comes in a tube and to eat it the consumer has to squeeze out the yoghurt. A different yoghurt product comes with tasty “space rocks” in separate cup containers. The young person sprinkles them on top of his yoghurt. Sounds simple, but this Process involves the fun of sprinkling the space rocks and the ability to control how much of these add-on “rocks” to sprinkle.

      The containers themselves also often provide Process. M&M candies came out with mini versions of the candies and packaged them in small tubes instead of the familiar soft packs that regular M&Ms come in. From a child’s point of view, these little containers are almost like toys in that they can be used to put stuff in after consuming the candy. Pez candies come in fun, Character-topped container/dispensers.


● School Supplies: Most school supplies are straight forward such as pencils, pens, and scissors. If we add backpacks to the list, however, then Process becomes involved. Like apparel, many new kinds of backpacks will be including technology related to cell phone use, music and gaming. Since young people are seldom without their backpacks, tracking devices embedded in them will likely become common.


● TV & Film: While the basic activity between the young viewer and the screen is typically just watching, the point here regarding Process is that there is interactivity going on at some level, especially if the Content of what’s being watched elicits an emotional reaction. Emotion is a strong form of connection.

      There are TV programs for preschoolers that involve physical, mental and emotional response and interaction. We’ve all seen preschoolers, for example, dancing and singing along with a Barney show or other similar program.

This is very effective Process at work.


Promotions: There are of course a wide variety of promotions that are intended to Attract and Involve young people. Maybe it’s a wetsuit offer that comes with the more expensive surfboard purchase. Perhaps it’s an offer from a website “club”. Join and you’ll receive special prizes such as toys or games.

      Fast food establishments that court especially kids and tweens continuously offer promotions. We’ve all seen the  toys related to the latest animated or action film (E.g.: Spiderman, Transformers) offered as part of a kid’s meal.

The promotional items that offer the most Process or interactivity–the most play value–these are the ones that most likely will sustain a young person’s interest and provide real entertainment.


● Publications: Teen and tween targeting magazines involve their readers in the same way that adult publications do. They publish pictures and stories with the hope of providing entertainment value and some Involvement on an emotional level as well as information. Many kids’ publications such as Disney Adventures or Disney Princess also offer stories and pictures, but typically include interactive Content such as puzzles and games. Content is often educational as well.


The Internet: The Internet as an example of Process has purposefully been saved for last. Even more interactive than video games, the Internet represents the ultimate in Process. It provides extremely interactive and engaging activities. A young person, at least after about age 6 or so, does everything an adult does from researching information to playing games, to cyber-chatting with friends, to visiting a myriad of websites designed to capture his Attention and Involve him with its Content.

     Just consider how many ways a kid, tween or teen can interact on a well-conceived and designed site. Websites such as nick.com, disney.com, kids.discovery.com, pbskids.org and scholastic.com’s Harry Potter site offer lots of alternative ways to engage – activities such as:


      Gaming, including multiplayer competition.

          (Nick.com alone offers 100s of games)

      Chatting, blogging, message boards

      Videos and podcasts

      Listening to and downloading music


      On-line magazines

      Virtual worlds such as Nicktropolis. As we have

          pointed out, these “worlds” have evolved into full-

          blown sites themselves where the young person

          creates an avatar (a virtual self) and engages in such

          activities as gaming, shopping, creative exercises

          and communicating with other avatars, a.k.a.

          other young people.

      Downloading, e.g.: screensavers, games, posters

      Special offers such as family cruises

      Information about and interaction with Characters and

          personalities such as Nick’s Sponge Bob and Zoey of

          Zoey 101.


Indications are that the most popular activities on youth sites are gaming, creating one’s own site and chatting. These three activities represent three of the most powerful needs of young people–to be entertained, to ego-express and to be connected and in communication with friends.

Technology, especially the Internet, has virtually changed the way today and tomorrow’s children, tweens and teens go through their daily lives. The options offered for interactivity appear to surpass most all other forms of activity. It’s no wonder then that so many hours are spent on computers and the Internet. With each passing stage of development from preschool to college, young people spend more and more time on computers and the WWW.


Process and Social Programs


Process elements are extremely important when it comes to young people’s participation in Social Programs–whether traditional in nature such as scouting or web-based. One’s first exposure to going with his father to Indian Guides, for example, will begin to form positive, neutral or negative attitudes in the child. And once the young person becomes a “member” of the group, what is provided for him to interact with, to engage in, is critical in forming his enjoyment of his involvement–or not.

Web-based Social Programs such as visiting a celebrity’s fan club site have the advantage of being “hot mediums” and can continually provide fun and varied tech-based activities and challenges.


Wackysaurus Concept Development Continued

How are our wacky dinosaurs coming along? We’ve got a CONCEPT based on a novel, wacky approach to a theme that has proven to be of perennial interest to young people. Our CONTEXT is the Valley of the Fantasaurs and a nearby town where Wackysaurus and friends can interface with real people and especially kids. As far as CONTENT is concerned, we are hiring an artist to create funny-looking visual depictions (Style) of the CHARACTERS and have set up problems and potential conflicts on which stories can be developed. And as detailed in the previous step, we now have a cast of 8 Characters.

So, now how do we approach PROCESS, our consumer’s interaction with the Concept? The execution will depend upon and vary with each category:


TOYS and GAMES:  We anticipate that there will be a variety of toy items developed and marketed. For example: Plastic dinosaur figures, Dinosaur eggs (hatching Process), Valley of the Fantasaurs play set, board game, other Characters in the Valley as figures, etc. Process will begin with ads and packaging and continue with the way young people play with different components of the property alone and with their friends (typically below age 8 for toys).


ELECTRONIC GAMES: Wackysaurus & Friends electronic game series for console and hand-helds. Process would be like any electronic game. Lots of interactivity.


THE INTERNET:  A Wackysaurus website could be very Involving and filled with different Processes. All the fun and engaging activities of some of the best kid sites could be a part of Wackysaurus.com, such as we listed previously in this chapter for websites on the Internet.

     In addition, given our probable age-range of interest in a Wacky dinosaur Concept, a whole section of our website could be dedicated to a fun and educational approach to learning all about dinosaurs. Kids’ Process would be to go to that section and explore the world of real dinosaurs.


MUSIC:  We happen to know a performer who has 20+ years of bringing music into preschool and primary schools. He has developed a whole approach to music and a CD based on dinosaurs. Wackysaurus could be a part of this approach. Children’s process would be to sing along with the dinosaur-based Content of the songs.


PUBLICATIONS: This type of Property/Concept is perfect for children’s books. The Process would of course be reading the Wackysaurus books and being read to. Some of these books might be pop-up books.


ROOM DÉCOR: In that room décor items based on Wackysaurus and Friends are mostly passive experiences of just looking at the Characters’ images and their Contextual settings, the Process is fun but relatively passive.


TV & FILM: While watching a TV show or film of Wackysaurus & Friends is a passive Process on the surface, ideally their Content would bring about degrees of emotional involvement and fun. This is also part of Process.


FOODS and BEVERAGES: In addition to the entertainment Process appeal of having Wackysaurus Characters on food and beverage packaging, the Characters would be ideal as in-pack premiums. In addition, learning about real dinosaurs could be part of what is presented on and in packaging as well as being referred to the Wackysaurus website for promotions and other activities.


This concludes the initial creation and development of Wackysaurus & Friends. Working with an artist, we now have all the Characters complete and two sample stories have been written as Content. Interested parties in the Wackysaurus property can contact us.




It’s imperative to keep in mind that Process begins when your intended consumer or purchaser first perceives your product or program and continues throughout his experience with it. In addition if he ends up becoming emotionally involved at some level in his first impressions so much the better as this is part of his internal Process.

As a new product or program developer, if you can create highly involving interactivity you are well on your way to success. If that interactivity results in kids, tweens or teens returning again and again to the Processes you have designed into your offering, then you’ve really hit the bull’s eye.  If you are seeking to maximize current products or programs, then the creation and deployment of new and involving Process elements will go a long way toward insuring on-going positive attitudes and interest.


Winning Product Developer’s Checklist


Below is a checklist for the sixth step, PROCESS. In order to successfully incorporate Process into your Concept, you should:


            ____ Present your product or program in such a way that

               the resulting Process your prospective consumer or

               purchaser initially goes through is positive, leading

               to positive Yield (positive attitude formation).


            ____ If there is a package involved, make sure that

               the consumer’s experience with it is appealing and

               easy to use. Is your visual and verbal on the

               package Attractive and Involving?


            ____ Are there elements you could add to your

               consumer’s or participant’s Process with your

               product or program that would increase

               that interactivity and his personal involvement

               and satisfaction?


            ____ Are the Processes involved in your offering at the

               right level of complexity? Not too complex and

               not too simple as to result in disinterest?




            ­­­­____ Will your product or program elicit engaging

               emotional experience on the part of your

               consumer–emotions such as love, happiness,

               excitement, satisfaction, pleasure, challenge?


With this Step Six, we have completed our exploration of the Matrix model. Now the challenge is to put it all together in a powerful and effective way as we shall see in the chapter that follows.



































Winning ideas “hit” on as many of the above elements of the Matrix as possible. Even in the simplest of Concepts such as a new kind of snack food, the graphic style of packaging and particular ad Content must be considered along with how packages are opened and how the product is consumed (Process). Would the addition of a Character optimize the product’s chances? Is there an existing Character or real life personality the product could borrow equity from? What about a promotional offering? How about tying in with an entertainment property? What’s truly unique about your Concept and what is the Leverage or Power Hierarchy within it? If a Social Program, have you explored, for example, how web-based activities and opportunities could maximize your participants’ involvement, enjoyment and even learning?

The really huge successes such as the megahit, Harry Potter, most certainly hit home runs throughout the Matrix. While we understand that not everyone is attempting to create an entertainment property like Harry Potter or Barney or Strawberry Shortcake from the past and present or today’s Hanna Montana or Disney’s Wall-E robot, it is instructive nevertheless to take a property like Harry potter, put it on the examination table and dissect it.


THE HARRY POTTER CONCEPT:  While seemingly very complex in its totality, the basic Concept of Harry Potter can be summed up thusly:


 When Harry was a baby, the evil wizard Voldemort killed his parents ( like Batman). At the age of 11 and mistreated by his uncle’s family where he was sent to live, Harry magically is invited by a hairy giant to go to school at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry–as Harry is not just an ordinary Muggle but possesses magical abilities.


     It is here that Harry studies to perfect his magical capabilities while encountering all sorts of conflicts and dangers from trolls and two-headed snakes to Voldemort himself. It’s a parallel world of witches, magic and wizardry and evil bad guys right alongside but hidden from our normal world.




Referring to the Matrix, it’s easy to see that many aspects of it are already in play. We have a basic CONCEPT of a young boy being cast into a world of wizards and magic. Wizards and magic are strong interests of a core target of Tweens.

CONTEXT: Related to Context (place and time period) we have two worlds–the ordinary Muggles world, and the fantasy, but all-too-real-seeming other world of Hogwarts school and environs. We also have a mixture of present time and past as this world of wizards and witchcraft has medieval Content.

CONTENT: The Content itself is entertaining yet not particularly unpredictable. Harry confronts bullies at school, has the potential of a romantic interest in Hermione, defeats foes and competes in wizard games—all great fun and in keeping with the idea of Hogwarts, a school for young wizards in training.

     CHARACTERS: As for Characters, the above only introduces us to Harry and a few others. The Harry Potter stories are filled with wonderful and varied Characters. The archetypes abound: Heroes, villains, magicians, the wise old man archetype of Albus Dumbledore, teachers, sidekicks, witches and monsters.

     PROCESS: Process will, as we have established, depend on which category of product we are addressing. For the movies and other story versions of the Concept and categories such as school supplies (images on notebooks, etc.) and apparel, interactivity is relatively passive (watching, reading, being read to). But other items such as games based on Harry Potter and websites are very interactive and Process heavy.

   CONSUMER/AUDIENCE: Another advantage that the Harry Potter property enjoys is its very broad audience appeal. From 6 or so to seniors, the characters and stories attract and involve.


New Product and Program Ideation


As noted, most new product and program developers are not out to create the next Harry Potter or Sponge Bob SquarePants. Most are charged with coming up with a new kind of toothpaste or snack food. Many are attempting to create products that go with an entertainment property like consumer goods for Disney’s Wall-E robot movie. Others are trying to innovate in the arena of clothing or school supplies. And still others are either planning the initiation of a new kind of Social Program or the maximization of an existing one.

The process of ideating, of creation, has been far too much of a hit or miss proposition. Many millions of dollars are wasted and lost due to sub par creativity and settling for ideas that are at best mediocre. Mediocrity in today’s economy won’t cut it.

What’s needed is a systematic approach. We are suggesting here that the use of the Matrix in a step-by-step fashion, along with a variety of dynamic and innovative in themselves techniques, will bring about both more prolific ideas, superior ideas, and ideas that are more thoroughly thought through.

The way we approach Ideation is truly unique. We first spend at least a half day instructing “ideators” in the different elements of the Matrix such that they have a thorough understanding of this most basic tool.

Then, we spend a day or a day and a half innovating, using the Matrix in a step-by-step AND dynamic way and using a variety of unique techniques and strategies. Remember, even though we have outlined the Matrix in a step-by-step manner, the creative process is not only step by step; it’s a wonderfully dynamic process that can begin anywhere, go anywhere and end up anywhere.

Using this approach–the YMS Ideation Method–we recently worked with a major fortune 500 company for a day and a half and assisted them in coming up with more than 100 fresh ideas and a variety of line extension possibilities. We all know that only a few of these, maybe even one or two, may ever make it to the marketplace. But it’s typical to begin with a host of quality ideas. That client was extremely satisfied.




If the 7 steps of our innovation process are followed meticulously and expansively, the creative and practical results will speak for themselves. Use the steps in this handbook and the below checklist over and over to insure greater success than you’ve most likely achieved before:



      ____Core age is_____________________________

      ____Age Range: From _______ to  _______

      ____Gender Breakdown:  ___% Male ___% Female

____Primary Purchaser_______________________

____Secondary Purchaser_____________________

____Any Ethnic Issues?__

____Any Specific Demographic Issues?___________



2. ____CONCEPT:


____Concept Essence: In a few words describe the core

        essence of the Concept: _____________________


____Unique Point of Difference from Competitive

        Concepts is: ______________________________


____Effectiveness Criteria: Will this Concept achieve:


                        ____Attention? _______ Why? ____________



                        ____Involvement? ____    Why? ___________


                                Will Consumer/Audience become

                                Emotionally Involved? _______________

                                If so, How? ___________________

                        ____Yield? Will they form a positive attitude

                                toward it? ____  Will that attitude be

                                sustained over time? __________




                        ____Retention:  Will your consumer or

                               audience be sufficiently attracted and

                               involved that they remember your product

                               or program? _____________



A.                          Will they have a positive reaction once they use or view your product or program? _________

B.                           Will they want to “Re-Act”, that is, use or view your product or program again and again? ____Why? ____


____Communication:  Will they communicate positively with others about your product or program? ______ Ideally will they encourage others to use or view it? _____


____If applicable, does the Concept have “Legs” in a

        variety of categories? _____  If so, which ones?


____TOYS                                             ____ELECTRONIC GAMES          


____FOOD, BEVERAGES                   ____SNACKS AND CANDY    

____MUSIC                                           ____ROOM DÉCOR

____APPAREL, JEWELRY                  ____SPORTS EQUIPMENT

____PACKAGED GOODS                   ____SCHOOL SUPPLIES


____PUBLICATIONS                           ____TV, FILM

     ____ADVERTISING                             ____THE INTERNET

____RESTAURANTS                           ____ELECTRONICS    

____PROMOTIONS                              ____TRADITIONAL GAMES  

                                ____SOCIAL PROGRAM                              (eg.:Board, Card, Puzzles) 



____Name: Is the name or title of your Concept

        powerful and appealing to your intended

        consumer/audience? Why? ____________





____Positioning: If applicable, have you created an impactful

        Positioning statement?________If so, what is it? _______



3. ____CONTEXT:


____Locale:  If applicable, what is the locale or setting

        your Concept is placed in? _________ Is the

        geographic locale or setting of the Concept

        Involving and appealing for the intended

        consumer/audience?  Why? _____________



____Time Period: If applicable, what is the time period

         your Concept is set in? ____Past?  ____Present?


        ____Is this time period Involving and appealing to

                your intended consumer/audience?



4. ____CONTENT: 


____Visual Content:  Are the images and graphics your

        intended consumer/audience sees Involving and

        appealing?  Why? _____________________



____Verbal Content:  Are the words and symbols used

        on your product, your packaging, your ads and

        promotions, and your programming (Software,

        Games, TV or Film):

                           ____Comprehensible by your intended



                           ____Will they Attract and Involve them?



               ____If a story is involved, will it engage your

                       intended audience?  Why? _____




            applicable. Could a Character or Personality (C/P)

            add to the power of your Concept?)


____Will your intended consumers and audience find

        the Characters and/or Personalities (C/P) you are using to

        be powerful and attractive? ____Why?_________


____Identification: How will they Identify or Relate to

        your C/P:


                           ____Nurturing – either being nurtured by one

                       or more of them or the consumer/audience

                       actually experiencing the nurturing of the


                           ____Like Me:  Will the consumer or audience

                                   person perceive your C/P to be like

                       themselves in some way? ____How? __


                        ____Emulation: Will your consumer or

                       audience want to be like your C/P in some

                       way? ____ How? ___________________

                           ____Entertaining: Will your consumer or

                       audience find your C/P to be entertaining?

                       ____Why? How entertaining on a scale of

                      1 to 10? _______

                           ____Disidentification: Will whatever villains

                       you include be Attractive and Powerful?

                                    ____ Why? ______________________


____Internal Process:  Will your consumer or audience

        have a positive experience with your product or

        program from first perception to ideally continued

        use? ____ Why? ______________________


        Will they become emotionally Involved in a

        positive way? ____ How? ___________________


____External Process: Will they find your package (if

        applicable) to be Attractive and easy to use? _____


        Will they find your product or program to be

        Attractive, Involving and Satisfying? ___________


If you have envisioned and created a product or program that sails through this checklist with flying colors it is very likely that you have a successful, winning product or program that you are developing or maximizing. Congratulations. They unfortunately are few and far between in today’s competitive environment.


Many Other Factors


Even with an initially winning product or program prospect, there are of course many other hurdles to success and sustaining success in a crowded marketplace. To name a few:


1.      Price Point: can you manufacture your product or have it

      manufactured at a cost that allows for retail viability –

      especially considering competitive products? If a social

      program that involves outlay of money, is it affordable?


2.      Is your product safe to be used? Are there any dangers

      involved? If a program, will there be negative press?

      Controversy that works against you?



3.      Profit Potential: Will the profit margins on sale of your

      product or participation in your program be sufficient?


4.      Distribution: Do you have the necessary avenues for

Distribution in place? Will they be sufficient?


5.      Are all other budgets in place and sufficient such as for

      promotion and advertising?


6.      Will that promotion and or advertising be effective?  Ads and promotional campaigns can be treated as “products” themselves and can be created and tracked via the Matrix.


As you obviously can conclude after so much detailed analysis, the ultimate success of a product or program depends on a huge variety of elements, sometimes scientifically, systematically orchestrated, sometimes artfully so. The pitfalls and barriers along the way to success are numerous and often unanticipated, but at the same time the potential is unlimited if both art and science and a dynamic approach such as a thorough use of the Matrix is utilized. May your creative efforts leap in winning fashion from your mind to the drawing board to reality and retail.


Implications for Marketing


The step by step approach detailed here in the Youth product and Program Developer’s Handbook is also intended for use in the marketing process. Successful marketing certainly begins at the center of the Matrix:



            identify and understand the intended consumer or

            audience and purchaser. What is the “core” target and

            expanded target?


Step 2: CONCEPT/PLAN: Marketing is a “program” in

            itself. Effective marketing needs an effective idea or a

            Concept and a series of strategies, in other words, a

            marketing plan.


Step 3: CONTEXT:  In which Contexts or locales will the

            consumer or audience be: A) First perceiving the

            product or program? B) Where will they be using,

            it, participating with it, viewing it? What implications

            for marketing might this represent, if any?


Step 4: CONTENT: Will your approach to any Visuals be

            Attractive, Powerful and Effective in your ads,

            promotional materials, or packaging or other

            marketing approaches? Will your Verbal

            details be impactful and comprehensible?



            use of Characters or Personalities add to the

            power of your marketing efforts, such as on

            packaging or in ads and promotions?


Step 6: PROCESS:  Process being any and all Interactions

            of the consumer or audience with your product or

            program, what will their process be? How, from start

            to finish, will each consumer or audience member

            interact with and relate to the different aspects of

            your product or program?


Step 7: PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER: Intelligent and

            creative inclusion of all of the steps above may very

            well be the “winning market formula” all youth

            marketer’s seek.





The Future of the Future


No discussion of new product and program development and marketing would be complete without looking into what the future will be bringing to the minds of creatives and to the drawing tables of corporations committed to serving young people with innovative offerings. Put your space helmets on and get ready to rocket into the future.
































                                The Future of the Future


No corporation today gets hit by the future between the

eyes; they get it in the temple.

                                                                Dick Davis1                                                                                                   


Where are you standing relative to the future of creating, developing and marketing or promoting your kid, tween or teen product or program? Are you looking back at the past to orient your present and future actions? Are you merely standing in the present, dealing with the day-to-day of your business?

Or are you standing in the future, orienting yourself by the realities and surprises of the future? Is your vision of where your enterprise fits into that future, and creates that future, guiding your present plans and actions?


The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
                                                                 - Alan Kay2     


As expressed by noted futurist, Glen Hiemstra3, the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy is not just a widely accepted psychological principle. As you look into your future and visualize yourself and all that’s important to you in that future you are actually influencing present actions and realities.


Hiemstra puts it succinctly:


Our images of the future…what we expect to happen, what we are afraid might happen, most powerfully what we prefer to happen…all subtly or not so subtly influence our current decisions and actions. Change your image of the future in a way that matters to you, and you will do something different in the present moment. The future creates the present. It was the President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel who noted this once when speaking to the U.S. Congress. ‘Consciousness precedes reality, and not the other way around’.


    Put it this way: If you knew 15 years ago the technological innovations that were to become reality today would you have acted differently? A few investments in the right place—like buying up key domain names when the Internet launched—and you’d be enjoying the fruits of those actions today, maybe sipping daiquiris on a tropical beach instead of thinking about your next deadline.


It is difficult, indeed dangerous, to underestimate the huge changes this (tech) revolution will bring or the power of developing technologies to build and destroynot just companies but whole countries.

                                                         Rupert Murdoch4                                                                                            


        Taking the future squarely into account is critical to anyone’s success, perhaps especially when young people are your intended audience. Bury your head in the sand of the present and you are bound to miss key tech and strategic developments headed your way. At the same time there are dangers lurking in the many tomorrows to come. One can’t simply splash into the future riding the wave of the next “breakthrough” idea. Silicon Valley is strewn with the corpses of innovation’s wake.

Mattel Toys was almost brought down in the 1980’s because of the millions lost on a venture into electronic gaming gone sour. Remember Intellivision? Introduced in 1980, profits of $100 million by 1983 and shut down and sold off by 1984 with losses of $300 million. With change happening so fast, solid thinking, planning, and strategizing is imperative now more than ever before.



Changing Contexts


Merriam Webster Dictionary Online defines “context” as the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs. It’s easy to see how the interrelated conditions of everyday life are changing dramatically decade after decade. Just reflect on the interrelated conditions that were present as you were growing up and compare them with the conditions or context of today’s children. It’s hard to believe but pre-1954 when Ray Croc established the first McDonald’s, fast food wasn’t even a reality. A little over two generations later and fast-food establishments are in every nook and cranny of the U.S.A. and are invading cities throughout the world. Sometimes they are even the objects of protest and terrorism.

    Innovation is certainly the prime cause of shifts in context. New products such as lasers transform key aspects of many industries and new services like the Internet transforms communications throughout the planet. On the market today and on drawing boards around the world there is an ever expanding list of new innovations such as electric bikes, motorized surfboards, mashed potato machines, wind-up and disposable cell phones, robots small enough to crawl through pipes to check for chemical leaks or as “Spy-Bots” to sneak under doors.

The list goes on: “Slugbot”, a robotic slug catcher that not only identifies and eliminates slugs but can also power itself with its victims' bodies, an automatic heat-generating jacket, stink-free shoes, ouch-less shots, a dog translator, spill repellant clothing, translucent concrete, a camouflage suit that can make you truly an invisible man/woman, the first “Phone Tooth” that can be embedded in a molar and receive cell-phone calls, and the Enlux LED light5 that’s on its way to offing incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. LEDs use a small fraction of the energy of traditional bulbs.

Is that crushing pain a heart attack, or pulled muscles from yesterday's gym session? Ask your T-shirt. Made of a soft, washable fabric with optical and electrical fibers woven into it, the SmartShirt6 records heart and respiration rates, body temperature and calories burned. Information is relayed wirelessly and can be fed back to you and sent on to personal trainers or doctors.
      Potholes? No problemo. Supplanting 100 years of traditional spring-and-shock-absorber suspension systems, a new system from Bose—a company best known for its stereo speakers—uses electromagnetic motors in place of traditional shocks. Mounted on each wheel, the motors use input from sensors throughout the vehicle to react to bumps and potholes instantaneously. Flat tires? No more!  The Tweel7 from Michelin is a shock-absorbing rubber tread band that distributes pressure to dozens of flexible polyurethane spokes. Voila! No air needed.

Tracking devices? Microsoft is already rolling out its “sense web”8. Place electronic devices in participating restaurants and you’ll be able to find real time information on waiting lists and table availability. Cars with these sensors will be able to navigate easily and will be instantly locatable via the web. If everyone’s cell phone is part of the “sense web” then everyone would be locatable at all times. Think of the marketing implications of being able to precisely track who goes where and when.

Tired of all that kitty and puppy mess? Surf away for a robotic cat, dog, or even a robo-raptor to send after the neighbor’s actual, not virtual, yappy pooch. Are you tired of all that fuss trying to listen to music when out and about? Try on a musical jacket Designed for snowboarders, The jacket is made with a Sony Mini-Disc and digital music player sewn right into its fabric. The player's controls are touch-sensitive fabric patches on the jacket's sleeve, so you can control the music just by pressing your arm. Or how about this: an “Intelligent Oven”9 that switches itself from a refrigerator into an oven.

All the innovations cited here are already on the market or soon will be. But what more does the future hold that will change our lives forever, and certainly change how tomorrow’s young go about their daily lives, eating, drinking, studying, communicating, shopping, playing, sleeping, entertaining themselves. Today’s teenagers are quite aware of coming shifts in their tech context: 


The 2006 Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, which gauges Americans' attitudes toward invention and innovation, found that a third of teens (33 percent) predict the demise of gasoline-powered cars by the year 2015. One in four teens (26 percent) expects compact discs to be obsolete within the next decade, and roughly another one in five (22 percent) predicts desktop computers will be a thing of the past.

     Teens are also optimistic that new inventions and innovations can solve important global issues, such as clean water (91 percent), world hunger (89 percent), disease eradication (88 percent), pollution reduction (84 percent) and energy conservation (82 percent).

     "Perhaps more than any preceding generation, today's young people are completely comfortable with rapid technological change," Lemelson-MIT Program Director Merton Flemings said. "The rate of innovation, as reflected in U.S. patent applications, has more than doubled during their lifetime.”10


Sitting here, typing these words on a desktop computer, possibilities of obsolescence seem strange. What will replace desktop computers? How will the way we work change without them? Never before has the adage “the more things change the more they stay the same” been called into question so radically and “the only constant is change” been so apparent. As Flemings in the above quotation indicates, young people today accept, embrace and even delight in change perhaps more than any generations before. After all, change is part of the context they are familiar with, one of the core interrelated conditions in which they exist.

Let’s gaze farther into the future. As you examine your “possible future” and the future of your company and its approach to innovation, ask yourself: What impact will each of these innovations have on you directly and on the lives of young people - how they play, learn, communicate and entertain themselves and how they are reached with product and program communications?




One of the foremost futurists, Ray Kurzweil in his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines11, lays out a long list of probable innovations and events. By 2009 he foresees computers themselves being commonly embedded in clothing, jewelry, credit cards, and the average household having more than 100 computers, most of which are embedded in appliances and built in communication systems.

He sees people typically having a dozen or so tiny computers in, on and around their bodies such as web and Internet access, cellular phones, pagers, automated identification capability, navigation systems and a host of other services.

Many “hard goods” will disappear as such. Movies, music, and software will be distributed mostly via wireless network. This alone has and will continue to significantly alter the way many industries market. Most purchases of musical albums, videos, games, and other forms of software will not involve any physical object such as books or discs. Increasingly you’ll be shopping by strolling through virtual malls—sampling, selecting, then purchasing and downloading.

Computer displays will be built into eye glasses, tiny lasers built into glasses that project images directly onto your retina and have them “appear” to hover in front of you. Circuitry has moved from single-layer, one-dimensional chips to 3-D chips significantly increasing both capacity and speed once again.

Education will occur mostly via visual displays and software learning programs instead of books. The teacher role will be more motivational, facilitative of tech, psychological well-being and socialization.

     Immediate Speech translation will become a reality. All you will have to do is speak in your native tongue and you’ll be translated immediately into whatever language is needed for communication with friends and business contacts.




     Kurzweil and others continue their predictions:


    Computers are now largely invisible….they are imbedded everywhere…in walls, tables, chairs, desks, clothing, jewelry and bodies. Computer cables have largely disappeared. Nearly everything is wireless. Routine use of 3 dimensional displays built into glasses with different projection effects and auditory ability to have sound “placed” in precise locations in a 3-D environment.

    The computational capacity of a $1,000 PC is approximately equal to the capability of the human brain (20 million billion calculations per second.)

    Business: A rising majority of transactions involve a simulated person. (My bot interacts with your bot to make a purchase.) Household robots, automated driving systems.

    People are beginning to have relationships with automated personalities as companions, teachers, caretakers and even lovers.                         

    Videogames and computer games by now have outstripped in sales the movie industry at 10 billion a year plus.  More importantly from an enrichment perspective, these games are leading to a variety of positive impacts as well. While many of the violent and abusive darkside games will unfortunately likely remain and even take on more spectacularly horrific forms, the use of electronic gaming for good represents a growing trend.



                    2029 and Beyond


    As we venture even farther into the future it begins to boggle the mind and brain. A $1,000 unit of computation now has the computing capacity of 1,000 human brains. Eventually, by at least 2099, machine intelligence and capacity far exceeds human. Human thinking is merging with the world of machine intelligence that the human species initially created.


              Surprising New World


You can anticipate many, many future developments that will not only change your personal life dramatically, but will directly and profoundly influence how you do business and certainly how you plan for products and programs that have young people as end users. Consider these relatively random but interwoven changes that are likely to occur:


· FAST TRACK OF CHANGE: Innovation itself is on

   a fast track. It used to be that computers would become

   outdated/obsolete every two years or so. In the future

   innovations will invite or require updates every year or

   even every 6 months. As that great American scientist,  

         Freeman Dyson, has said, the technological revolution is

         like an explosion which is tearing apart the static world of

         our ancestors and replacing it with a new world that spins

         1000 times faster.


· TEXTBOOKS: Textbooks are likely to be a thing of the past, as information quickly grows old and inaccurate. Students will rely primarily on the worldwide web for information and study and on specialized curriculum software.


· NEWSPAPERS: Newspapers as we know them will diminish even further in popularity, supplanted by the web.  Rupert Murdoch11: “We need to realize that the next generation of people accessing news and information, whether from newspapers or any other source, have a different set of expectations about the kind of news they will get, including when and how they will get it, where they will get it from, and who they will get it from." Consumers between the ages of 18-34 are increasingly using the web as their medium of choice for news and are neglecting more traditional media.


· BOOKS: While books as we know them will likely never disappear—especially when it comes to fiction, poetry and some illustrated works—electronic books will become easier to access and easier to read on the screen. Non-fiction in particular will increasingly be preferred via the web given its “updatability”. Literacy rates may increase as almost every electronic device involves reading. However, indications are that deeper cognitive skills such as analysis, synthesis and creativity may be on the decline due to the lack of contemplation time and a troublesome non-requirement for deeper thinking skills. 


· POPULATION RISE and DECLINE: The U.N. has been revising its population forecasts downward, and while it still assumes nearly a century of growth and a peak near 9.5 billion, it seems more likely that further downward revisions are likely. In fact, the best bet is that the world population will peak by 2025, at something around 7.8 billion, and decline after that. Don't believe this? Russia, Germany, and Japan have all officially raised alarms this year about declining population in their countries, and more countries will soon follow.


·INFORMATION/COMMUNICATION/ PORTABLE DEVICES:  Computing and communications will shift from devices that we carry, to devices that we wear.  These might include such innovations as computing in our running shoes, augmented reality sunglasses and wireless communication buttons on our clothing. Rupert Murdoch: “Media becomes like fast food–people will consume it on the go, watching news, sport and film clips as they travel to and from work on  mobiles or handheld wireless devices like Sony’s PSP, or others already in test by our Satellite companies”12.


· CUSTOMIZATION: Given the ability to instantly exchange information and track customer preferences and purchases, niche marketing and specific target marketing will become increasingly more popular and refined. This is the central message of the “long tail” phenomenon that points to the profitability of smaller volume sales.13


· AUGMENTED REALITY:  A combination of larger, flatter computer and media screens combined with continuous web interaction will result in a more seamless and invisible yet ubiquitous marriage of “cyber living” and everyday life. Laser and holographic technologies will likely transform viewing experiences from 2-D to 3-D creating virtual reality. Imagine aliens and predators snarling and drooling viciously two feet away from your face. Or perhaps worse Tom Cruise virtually jumping up and down on your living room couch.


      · MEDICAL:  Blood tests will be made via bio-electronic patches on your skin—no more drawing blood. Electronic monitoring devices implanted beneath the skin and in other places throughout the body will provide the person themselves ongoing feedback as well as medical practitioners and caretakers. There will be sensors parents can place under a baby's mattress to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). If an infant stops breathing for more than 20 seconds, a portable receiver sets off an alarm.

             Nanotechnology, as we have mentioned, will transform healthcare via a variety of minute innovations that can literally travel throughout the body checking on conditions and even repairing problems as they occur. Murdoch cites the stated position of the National Cancer Institute in the U.S.: By the year 2015 we aim to see the elimination of death and suffering due to cancer.”


· ROBOTS: Today when one thinks about robots one’s mind goes to auto factories with fixed robotic machines and to robotic toys. The future will maximize, “nanotize” and mobilize robots such that they become much more prevalent and even, in some cases, become the stuff sci-fi is made of. Get ready to interact with your own bot-buddy. Some of your kid’s pets may be more metallic than furry.


While tech innovation is inevitable, there are two sides to any argument. There are some who celebrate technology’s penetration into every corner of our lives:


  Technology is a gift of God. After the gift of life it is perhaps

  the greatest of God's gifts. It is the mother of civilizations, of

  arts and of sciences.          

                                                                        - Freeman Dyson


      We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial

      elements  profoundly depend on science and technology.
                                                                         - Carl Sagan


The digital revolution is far more significant than
 the Invention of writing or even of printing.   
                                                               - Douglas Engelbart


God and Nature first made us what we are, and then out of our own created genius we make ourselves what we want to be . . .Let the sky and God be our limit and Eternity our measurement.

                                               -Marcus Garvey





  There are more who raise red flags of caution and danger:


It has become appallingly obvious that our technology
has  exceeded our humanity.
                                                                       - Albert Einstein


       Technology... is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with

       one  hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.
- Carrie P. Snow


Technological progress has merely provided us with more  efficient means for going backwards.
Aldous Huxley


      It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made

      have lightened the day's toil of any human being.
- John Stuart Mill


       Men have become the tools of their tools.
                                                                 - Henry David Thoreau


     Notwithstanding these concerns, there is no denying change and innovation and its profound and systemic impact on everything we know and do—everything our children know and do. The Internet has already transformed communication patterns for millions of young people. A most outstanding example: MySpace.com. “MySpace” is a networking site on which millions of mostly young people communicate online with each other about everything in their world: dating, music, computers, travel, entertainment, whatever. Each MySpace member has his or her own mini-site at MySpace on which they blog, post pictures, writings, etc., and most importantly where they become accessible to all other members. After only a couple years in existence registered users have grown past 100 million and new registrations number a staggering 230,000 per day. YouTube parallels this success with its focus on video.




    Rupert Murdoch brings home the challenge to business:14


Today one of our great challenges is to understand and seize the opportunities presented by the web. It is a creative, destructive, technology that is still in its Infancy, yet breaking and remaking everything it its path. The web is changing the way we do business, the way we talk to each other and the way we enjoy ourselves. As old and new technologies merge, the questions multiply:
Will the internet kill fixed-line telephony? It is already happening via VOIP—Voice Over Internet Protocol. When high-speed broadband pipes TV and film onto enhanced computer screens at home, what happens to the television companies, the film studios and indeed newspapers? I pose these questions—and there are many more thrown up by the web—in   this context. There are about one billion people in the world who have access to computers, although only about 10%  to broadband.  In 20 or 30 years there will be six billion such people, or two-thirds of the human race. We know the $100 laptop is on the way. In a few years, there could be a $50 laptop.


Those people, those companies, those nations which understand and use this new knowledge will be the ones to prosper and grow strong in our age of discovery and innovation.

How companies respond to innovation and all the human and social issues that come with it will determine their success or failure. The most pressing concern is: Will technology dictate those companies’ values, their day-to-day decision-making, their policies and actions? Or will businesses use technology intelligently as one of their greatest tools and allies to shape an even more wonderful, safer, more prosperous, more enriched and happy world for ourselves and for our children?

In great part, the purpose of this handbook is to assist and guide youth new product developers and marketers in this process. The future of youth new product and program creation, development and marketing and indeed the nature of young people themselves will be directly impacted by your decisions and actions.


Those choices and actions, as always, will be yours.





































GENDER:   ___Male  ___Female        Maleness  1  2  3  4  5  Femaleness














PREDOMINANT EMOTIONS:    ___Love    ___Joy     ___Boredom

___Excitement        ___Anger        ___Fear         ___Embarrassment

___Hate      ___Sadness     ___Jealousy       ___Envy      ___Surprise 


EMOTIONAL RANGE:   ___Narrow       ___Moderate     ___Broad

ENERGY LEVEL   ___Low   ___Medium   ___High   ___Very High


CONTROL STYLE:  ___Physical       ___Intellectual      ___Social

___Emotional   ___Ethical


CONTROL USE:  ___Nurturing   ___Cooperative   ___Competitive

___Manipulative   ___Abusive


















___Physical Slapstick                                    ___Sarcasm

___Taboo, ie: Sex, Ethnic, Gross                  ___Incongruity/Irrationality

___Affectionate Ridicule,"Put Downs"        ___Satire

___Sudden Surprise/The Unexpected           ___Word Play

___Puns,Gags, Jokes,Wisecracks                   ___Victim/Butt of Joke

___Reckless Abandon                                    ___Outrageous

___Language Elements:




___HERO   ___HEROINE    ___MOTHER    ___FATHER   ___RULER




___INNOCENT     ___WITCH     ___MAGICIAN         ___WARRIOR











SYMBOL 211 \f "Symbol" 2009 YMS Consulting











GENDER:   _X_Male  ___Female        Maleness  1  2  3  4  5  Femaleness



ANIMAL/HUMAN:  Fantasy dinosaur




CHARACTER NEEDS: Fun, Play, Stimulation


CHARACTER WANTS/AFFINITIES: Acting silly, Adventures


PREDOMINANT BEHAVIORS: Goofing around, Playing games,

Going on adventures


ENERGY LEVEL   ___Low   ___Medium   ___High   _X_Very High


CONTROL STYLE:  _X_Physical       _x_Intellectual      _x_Social

_X_Emotional   ___Ethical


CONTROL USE:  _X_Nurturing   _X_Cooperative   _x_Competitive

___Manipulative   ___Abusive

KEY RELATIONSHIPS: His sidekick, Rascaldactyl and his other





MARKETABLE QUALITIES: His Cute, Fun, Colorful Design and

everyone needs to just be silly from time to time


CHARACTER'S  MISSION: To spread the joy and fun and satisfaction

of acting silly and having fun throughout the world


CHARACTER'S ATTITUDE: Why worry? Just be silly and have fun


CHARACTER'S PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE: Life is a never-ending parade

 of  fun and silly things to do




QUOTABLES:  “It’s wacky-licious!” “Wacky is as wacky does!”

“Wacky Boy, Oh Boy!”


IDIOSYNCRACIES:  Wackysaurus can hardly stand still; he’s always

Dancing and jumping about   His voice is distinctive and silly




_XX_Physical Slapstick                                 ___Sarcasm

___Taboo, ie: Sex, Ethnic, Gross                  _X_Incongruity/Irrationality

___Affectionate Ridicule,"Put Downs"       ___Satire

_XX_Sudden Surprise/The Unexpected       ___Word Play

_X_Puns,Gags, Jokes,Wisecracks                 _x_Victim/Butt of Joke

_X__Reckless Abandon                                  _X_Outrageous

_X__Language Elements: Repeats himself a lot






___SIDEKICK      ___UNDERDOG     ___BUFFOON       ___VILLAIN  


_x_INNOCENT     ___WITCH     ___MAGICIAN         ___WARRIOR





CHARACTER ESSENCE:  The wackiest dinosaur in the world


SYMBOL 211 \f "Symbol" 2009  YMS Consulting



In addition to the Character Personality Profile above, the relative power and appeal of a Character is also important to calculate. The blank Character Appeal form can be used for all Character creations. “High” power and appeal can be reached via the upper left and right corners of the form and the lower right corner for “bad guys” or at least mischievous types like Garfield. In most cases it’s critical to avoid the lower left corner. The Eyore character of Winnie the Pooh is a notable exception in that he is the penultimate downer character and designed to be that way.

   The blank form is followed by a sample form for the leader of the Wackysaurus Concept.
















1.   Dick Davis in Joel Barker's video The Business of Paradigms



2.  Kay, Alan. Go to: smalltalk.org/alankay.html/


3.  Rupert Murdoch in March 13, 2006 speech at Stationers Hall 

     See full text at:



4.  Go to: www.futurist.com for information on Glen Hiemstra


5.  For details on the Enlux light go to:        



6.   Go to: http://www.gatech.edu/news-room/archive/news_releases/sensatex.html


7.  Go to: http://www.michelinman.com/difference/releases/pressrelease01102005a.html


8. For more information on Microsoft’s “sense web” Go to



9. See at: http://www.time.com/time/2003/inventions/invoven.html




10. http://web.mit.edu/Invent/n-pressreleases/n-press-06index.html


11. Kurzweil, Ray, The Age of the Spiritual machine, 1999, Viking Penguin


12. Sony’s PSP:  http://www.us.playstation.com/PSN/mediamanager/


13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Long_Tail


14. Rupert Murdoch in March 13, 2006 speech at Stationers Hall See full text at: business.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,9071-2083911,00.html