YOUTH PRODUCT &
PROGRAM DEVELOPER'S HANDBOOK
7 Steps to
Creating Winning Products for Today's Kids, Tweens
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
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
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
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
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.
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
GOOD FOR YOUNG PEOPLE: These are
products and programs that result in
healthy development of our young. They include
developmental toys, most sports equipment,
supplies, some TV programming in moderation,
positive films and most types of
such as scouting, sports, clubs and special
NEUTRAL: Products or programs that
necessarily going to result in positive impact
young people developmentally but are not
IN MODERATION. Such as: Food, beverages,
snacks, most TV, and non-violent, positive
HARMFUL: Too much use of technology
computers, cell phones, iPods to the exclusion
non-tech play such as sports, family
games, and outdoor free play. Especially bad
young people are video games and other media
such as TV, film and music that contain
excessive violence, age-inappropriate
and negative sexual and racial stereotypes.
Anything that promotes drugs, alcohol or guns
innately harmful in our view.
Unethical marketing strategies can also be
included here such as deceptive or manipulative
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
THE PRODUCT AND PROGRAM
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
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
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:
STEP ONE: KNOW YOUR CONSUMER(S)
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.
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
WHO WILL PLAY WITH
IT/VIEW IT/USE IT/
PARTICIPATE IN IT?
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
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
be important to take into account which of
dimensions come into play as our young
consumer interacts with the product or
packaging, or even the advertising and
State: Does the product or program engage the
child consumer in a more cerebral,
or does it elicit emotional involvement? In
case of especially young children, emotional
connection and involvement is key to success.
children move through the tween years into
becoming teenagers emotionality is still
in most cases, and depending on the category
product or program, rational understanding
is important as well.
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
In very brief form, here are a few highlights
related to stages:
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
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.
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
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.
THREE TO SEVEN
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.
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,
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
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.
EIGHT TO TWELVE
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
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.)
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
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.
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.
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.
THIRTEEN TO FIFTEEN
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
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.
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
SIXTEEN TO NINETEEN
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.
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.
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
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.
For Step One: KNOW YOUR CONSUMERS
____ Have you correctly identified the age
range and core age(s) of your
____ Have you determined if the appeal is
be dual gender or biased toward
females. If biased, what
bias is likely? 60/40? 70/30?
____ Is your product or program likely to
engage your intended consumer
emotionally? (e.g. fun,
challenge, ego involvement)
____ Will the purchaser get and appreciate
value of the product or program
himself or for its end
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
Finding that Winning Concept
Covered in this Step: ,
Point of Difference, Category & Knowing the
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
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:
BEVERAGES ____SNACKS AND CANDY
JEWELRY ____SPORTS EQUIPMENT
GOODS ____SCHOOL SUPPLIES
PROGRAMS (eg.:Board, Card,
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,
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
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
ELMO + KNOWN FUN ACTIVITY OF TICKLING + CHILD’S
ABILITY TO CAUSE THE EFFECT + ELMO
GIGGLING & MOVING
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
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
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
Barbie, American Dolls, Cabbage Patch Kids,
Strawberry Shortcake, Baby Alive, Raggedy Ann,
Rainbow Brite, Bratz dolls, Dora the Explorer.
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.
Playdoh, Easy Bake Oven, Little
People, Weebles, Mattel’s See N’ Say toys.
Trucks, Matchbox vehicles, trains, boats, planes,
Radio Controlled helicopter, RC vehicles.
Rubic’s Cube, Nerf toys, Etch-a-Sketch, Lite Brite,
ACTIVE TOYS: Hula
Hoop, water toys (water guns, Slip N’ Slide,
Tinker Toys, Erector Set, model sets,
Wheel, bicycles, scooters (then came the Razor
scooter), skates, skateboards.
Wiffle Ball & Bat, all others: balls, gloves, etc.
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
baby doll that recognizes her names, asks
for her bottle and plays peekaboo! Ages 3
Hogs Havoc Heli Radio Controlled Helicopter
Fisher Price Smart Cycle Learning Game System.
Kids play games and ride a stationary bike
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
Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader? Game ages 8
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
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
Which of your successes has become the most
Aqua Doodle and Vortex Football have been the
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.
What advice do you have for toy and game inventors
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
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
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
This is only the beginning. We will continue to see
a proliferation of tech items with each passing
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
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
· 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.
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.
In addition to the obvious reaching of the
goal of winning at Monopoly, there are two
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
Anyone who has ever played
Pictionary knows it can be highly
Pictionary, players form teams of at least two members.
Each takes a turn drawing a card, reading a word such
“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 CONCEPTS–novel
approaches to what kids, tweens and teens gobble up.
The following food and beverage Concepts represent
strong and often enduring food, snack and beverage
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
allows the young consumer to exercise control
much product is squeezed into his mouth at a
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
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
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
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
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).
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
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
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
The candy itself originated in Vienna, Austria in
was named after the German word for peppermint,
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
KIDS AGES 2 to 7: Partial listings past and
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
· 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
funny sponge character under the sea who has a
named Gary, a sidekick starfish named Patrick and
Squidward, an irascible neighbor.
Rocket Power: Urban cartoon kids involved in
versions of extreme sports such as skateboarding.
Jimmy Neutron: Boy genius and dopey
invents futuristic stuff like rockets. Jimmy has
a robot dog.
Drake & Josh: Live action. Two
Josh who is buttoned-down and conservative and
dude, Drake, become brothers and have to share
at home and in school.
· The Fairly
Odd Parents: To deal with his off the wall
parents and otherwise boring life, ten year old
Turner conjures up Cosmo and Wanda, two magical
messed up fairy godparents who give him more help
he bargains for.
Tigre: With a Latino demographic in
Rivera, with powers of his own, is caught between
superhero dad and a dark side Grandpapi. Manny
decide how to use his superpowers as the masked
Dance on Sunset: A new live action show
advantage of so much interest these days in dance.
(Many dance classes and clubs are springing up
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.
COMPUTERS AND THE INTERNET
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,
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
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.
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.
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.
addition, the child makes ego-feeding decisions
about such things as what to name the animal,
gender it is, and what type of room to create
there are games to play on the site – even ways to
play with/against friends interactively. Many
games involve learning.
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
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
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
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
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:
Wendy’s Concept was to position itself as “not that”
and “better than that”. The “break frame”
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”.
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
Breakfast of Champions
Just keeps on going, going…
I’m Lovin’ It
Just Do It
· We try
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”.
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
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
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.
STEP TWO: CONCEPT SUMMARY
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
already of strong interest for your
range and gender(s)? Examples:
surprises, magic, transformation,
communication, cool fashion, humor,
evil, scary stuff, ponies?
____ Is your Concept based on an innovation or
invention that has never been seen
Examples: Nerf material, Magic 8
Shoes, unique website?
____ Does your Concept represent a strong
Difference from competitive Concepts?
Is it a
difference that makes a difference?
____ Is the name of your product or title of
program essenced to it? Does it evoke an
emotional reaction? Is it unique? Is it
____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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Voilá, we have handled time period and
locale; we have our CONTEXT.
STEP THREE: CONTEXT SUMMARY
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
____ Make sure that the place or
setting in which your
Concept occurs is appropriate
for your target
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
CONTENT = VISUAL and VERBAL
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
must "grab" the attention of its
intended purchaser or user.
It must be easy to understand.*
engage the consumer by
way of satisfying his needs and
wants. If he becomes
emotionally involved, even
The consumer/user must form
a positive attitude toward
wanting to purchase, have or
view the concept or to become
involved with a Social
The young consumer must be
so motivated that he takes the
action of requesting
the item or purchasing the
item or watching the program
a social program,
takes the action of
requesting to be involved or
initiates involvement himself.
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
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
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
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.
have gained in popularity in recent years.
preference, however, can depend on four
Gender, Age, Subgroups or Cliques and
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
Metallic approaches to color
Most people know that up to about the
Age of 5 primary color
treatments are most
popular. Anything bright with
will attract. After 5 or so,
different colors expand. Around
some colors that previously
were avoided as
being dull such as grey, brown
become popular for certain
categories such as
backpacks and some kinds of
· 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.
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
connote energy or excitement and a musical note
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
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.
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:
Depiction of the food or see-through access
The Name of the manufacturer and the brand.
Supporting verbal naming benefit(s)
Picture or illustration of either real young
people or iconic characters such as the Trix rabbit
or Honey Nut Cheerios Bee.
Games or activities or things to send in for
on the package back.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
(CAN WE PUT ILLUSTRATIONS HERE OF THE TWO
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
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
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
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.
STEP FOUR: CONTENT SUMMARY
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.
____ Are your approaches to what your intended
consumer will see visually powerful?
you design Attract and Involve?
____ Is the verbal information comprehensible?
engage your audience/consumer?
____ Almost every Concept can have a “story”
with it. Does your “story” include
ideas? Does it include hot buttons
like humor? Soft
____ After reviewing the Impact Principles,
included those that are appropriate?
____ Referring to the Matrix element of
Hierarchy”, are the components of
Content maximally organized for
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
CHARACTERS AND PERSONALITIES
Covered in this Step:
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
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
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
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
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
in profit over the years.
Disney contracted us to do a workshop on Character
power and to assist them in determining
Mickey Mouse and friends could appeal
audiences as we were moving into 2000
Warner Bros. Licensing department hired us to
most all their Characters from Bugs
Bunny to the
Tasmanian Devil and create personality
profiles for them
and make suggestions for maximal
Nickelodeon secured our services to study and report
relative power of a variety of
properties and to make suggestions for
Among those shows: Sponge Bob
Rugrats, Angry Beavers, Rocket Power
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
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
the maximization of a cast of teacher
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
us to improve their
walk-around-at-schools Power Panther
Character. He was too thin and not
The revised Power Panther is more buff
appealing. To incorporate what we call
Dynamic”, we created a sidekick nephew
him named Slurp. This created a dynamic
Power panther could teach Slurp about
and exercise habits.
Baylor University’s Department of Children’s
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
Judy Fruity and Reggie Veggie.
Judy Fruity Reggie Veggie
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
so is the toy form of Sponge Bob.
Filled with Characters and Personalities.
· Apparel: many
examples of licensed Characters on
clothing, backpacks, shoes (Tweety Bird sneakers)
Goods: Cereal characters. Fruit snack
Characters. Real kids on food packaging. Sports stars.
Hygiene: E.G.: Sesame Street toothbrushes.
· Room Décor:
Posters, Curtains, bed sheets, rugs, etc.
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
Licensed Character promotions.
Advertisements that use celebrities or ordinary
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:
NURTURING: The Character or Person
the child (Barney) or is nurtured by
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.
spoken tone and manner along with messages
of “I like
you”, and “you are wonderful and special”
very young children’s self-images and
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.
EMULATION: The individual finds
qualities in the
Character or Personality that
he wants to emulate such
As superheroes, military, police and
form of Identification is often the
most potent. Action
heroes such as Toby McGuire’s
Spiderman or TV
heroes like Hanna Montana result often
forms of young people wanting to be
like them. In the
era of Star Wars movies, there were
mostly positive Characters in the
original and the
sequels to emulate such as Luke
Leia and Han Solo.
ENTERTAINMENT: The individual simply
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
some Emulatory identification, he’s most likely to
offer identification of the entertainment variety.
the audience members don’t necessarily want to be like
him, but find him entertaining.
DISIDENTIFICATION: The kid, tween or
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
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?
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
Here are the known archetypes:
The success of Star Wars is in large part
due to a powerful and effective use of a cast of
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
in that the hero, Anakin Skywalker, was a child
did not possess sufficient heroic identification
SIDEKICKS: R2D2, C3PO, Chewbaca. (Chewbaca
also represents a “beast” archetype.)
PRINCESS/HEROINE: Princess Leia
· WISE OLD
MEN/TEACHERS: Obi-Wan Kenobi and
Headed up by Darth Vader and his “boss”,
the hooded Palpatine who is also the Ruler of the
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
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
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
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
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
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:
Wackysaurus: Archetypes: Leader, Hero, and
Rascaldactyl: Sidekick to Wackysaurus,
Rebellious and quite nuts.
Raptorella: Female Princess archetype. Heroic
Goofy-Tooth Tiger: Buffoon, Pet, Innocent
Brontoff: Teacher, Parent
Topsy-Turvy: Victim, Child
Dr. T: Wise old man (T-rex)
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.
STEP FIVE: CHARACTER SUMMARY
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
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
____ 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
____ 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
____ If animal Characters are being
created, make sure that the animal or animals you
select are going to be perceived as Attractive and
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
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
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
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:
Concept: the idea of using magic as the core
Red Flag: Most simple magic has appeal below the
7 or so, so our tween audience would need that
be sophisticated such as with special effects.
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
interpretation or “look” has everything to do
effective Identification takes place–leading
and Involvement. In addition, there are many
factors such as Ben and Lauren’s ethnicity
our tween girl, Lauren, finds enough to
to and involved with in the cast and Content.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
● 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
● 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.
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
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
Virtual worlds such as Nicktropolis. As we have
pointed out, these “worlds” have evolved
blown sites themselves where the young
creates an avatar (a virtual self) and
engages in such
activities as gaming, shopping, creative
and communicating with other avatars,
other young people.
Downloading, e.g.: screensavers, games, posters
Special offers such as family cruises
Information about and interaction with Characters
personalities such as Nick’s Sponge Bob
and Zoey of
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
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.
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.
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
● 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
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
STEP SIX: PROCESS SUMMARY
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
to positive Yield (positive attitude
____ If there is a package involved,
make sure that
the consumer’s experience with it is
easy to use. Is your visual and
verbal on the
package Attractive and Involving?
____ Are there elements you could add to
consumer’s or participant’s Process
product or program that would
that interactivity and his personal
____ Are the Processes involved in your
offering at the
right level of complexity? Not too
not too simple as to result in
____ Will your product or program
emotional experience on the part of
consumer–emotions such as love,
excitement, satisfaction, pleasure,
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
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
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
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
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
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
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
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:
1. ____ CONSUMER AND PURCHASER:
____Core age is_____________________________
____Age Range: From _______ to _______
____Gender Breakdown: ___% Male ___% Female
____Any Ethnic Issues?__
____Any Specific Demographic Issues?___________
____Concept Essence: In a few words describe the
essence of the Concept:
____Unique Point of Difference from Competitive
Concepts is: ______________________________
____Effectiveness Criteria: Will this Concept
____Attention? _______ Why?
If so, How?
____Yield? Will they form a
toward it? ____
Will that attitude be
sustained over time?
____Retention: Will your
sufficiently attracted and
involved that they
remember your product
Will they have a positive reaction once they
use or view your product or program? _________
Will they want to “Re-Act”, that is, use or
view your product or program again and again?
____Communication: Will they communicate positively
with others about your product or program? ______
Ideally will they encourage others to use or view
____If applicable, does the Concept have “Legs” in a
variety of categories? _____ If so, which
BEVERAGES ____SNACKS AND CANDY
JEWELRY ____SPORTS EQUIPMENT
GOODS ____SCHOOL SUPPLIES
____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
Positioning statement?________If so, what is
____Locale: If applicable, what is the locale or
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
your Concept is set in? ____Past?
____Is this time period Involving and
your intended consumer/audience?
____Visual Content: Are the images and graphics
intended consumer/audience sees Involving
appealing? Why? _____________________
____Verbal Content: Are the words and symbols used
on your product, your packaging, your ads
promotions, and your programming (Software,
Games, TV or Film):
____Will they Attract and
____If a story is involved, will it
intended audience? Why?
5. ____CHARACTERS and PERSONALITIES: (if
applicable. Could a Character or
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?
____Identification: How will they Identify or Relate
____Nurturing – either
being nurtured by one
or more of them or the
actually experiencing the
nurturing of the
____Like Me: Will the
consumer or audience
your C/P to be like
themselves in some way?
____Emulation: Will your
audience want to be like your
C/P in some
way? ____ How?
your consumer or
audience find your C/P to be
____Why? How entertaining on
a scale of
1 to 10? _______
Will whatever villains
you include be Attractive and
____Internal Process: Will your consumer or
have a positive experience with your product
program from first perception to ideally
use? ____ Why? ______________________
Will they become emotionally Involved in a
positive way? ____ How? ___________________
____External Process: Will they find your package
applicable) to be Attractive and easy to
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
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:
Price Point: can you manufacture your product
or have it
manufactured at a cost that allows for retail
especially considering competitive products?
If a social
program that involves outlay of money, is it
Is your product safe to be used? Are there
involved? If a program, will there be negative
Controversy that works against you?
Profit Potential: Will the profit margins on
sale of your
product or participation in your program be
Distribution: Do you have the necessary
Distribution in place? Will they be sufficient?
Are all other budgets in place and sufficient
such as for
promotion and advertising?
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:
Step 1: CONSUMER/AUDIENCE/PURCHASER: Correctly
identify and understand the intended
audience and purchaser. What is the
“core” target and
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
Step 3: CONTEXT: In which Contexts or locales will
consumer or audience be: A) First
product or program? B) Where will they
it, participating with it, viewing it?
for marketing might this represent, if
Step 4: CONTENT: Will your approach to any Visuals
Attractive, Powerful and Effective in
promotional materials, or packaging or
marketing approaches? Will your Verbal
details be impactful and comprehensible?
Step 5: CHARACTERS and PERSONALITIES: Will the
use of Characters or Personalities add
power of your marketing efforts, such as
packaging or in ads and promotions?
Step 6: PROCESS: Process being any and all
of the consumer or audience with your
program, what will their process be?
How, from start
to finish, will each consumer or
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
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
No corporation today gets hit by the future
eyes; they get it in the temple.
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
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.
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 destroy—not just
companies but whole countries.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
People are beginning to have
relationships with automated personalities as
companions, teachers, caretakers and even
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
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
TRACK OF CHANGE: Innovation itself is on
a fast track. It used to be that computers would
outdated/obsolete every two years or so. In the
innovations will invite or require updates every
even every 6 months. As that great American
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.”
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.
arranged a civilization in which most crucial
profoundly depend on science and technology.
revolution is far more significant than
the Invention of
writing or even of printing.
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.
There are more who raise red flags of caution and
It has become
appallingly obvious that our technology
Technology... is a queer thing. It brings you great
one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the
Carrie P. Snow
progress has merely provided us with more efficient
means for going backwards.
questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet
have lightened the day's toil of any human being.
John Stuart Mill
Men have become the tools of their tools.
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
Rupert Murdoch brings home the challenge to
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
CHARACTER PERSONALITY PROFILE (BLANK)
___Male ___Female Maleness 1 2 3
4 5 Femaleness
SOMATOTYPE (BODY TYPE):
PREDOMINANT EMOTIONS: ___Love
___Jealousy ___Envy ___Surprise
RANGE: ___Narrow ___Moderate
LEVEL ___Low ___Medium ___High
USE: ___Nurturing ___Cooperative
CHARACTER'S PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE:
ie: Sex, Ethnic, Gross
___Affectionate Ridicule,"Put Downs"
Surprise/The Unexpected ___Word
___Victim/Butt of Joke
___HEROINE ___MOTHER ___FATHER
___SIDEKICK ___KING ___QUEEN
___SEEKER ___REBEL ___VICTIM
___DESTROYER ___WISE OLD MAN ___WISE
___TEACHER ___DARKSIDE CHILD ___ CAREGIVER
___GHOST ___MYTHOLOGICAL, eg:TROLL, UNICORN
211 \f "Symbol" 2009 YMS Consulting
Sample PERSONALITY PROFILE
_X_Male ___Female Maleness 1
3 4 5 Femaleness
DEVELOPMENTAL STAGE/AGE: Tween approx. 8-9
ANIMAL/HUMAN: Fantasy dinosaur
SOMATOTYPE (BODY TYPE): Mesomorph
NEEDS: Fun, Play, Stimulation
WANTS/AFFINITIES: Acting silly, Adventures
PREDOMINANT BEHAVIORS: Goofing around,
LEVEL ___Low ___Medium ___High
USE: _X_Nurturing _X_Cooperative
RELATIONSHIPS: His sidekick, Rascaldactyl
and his other
MARKETABLE QUALITIES: His Cute, Fun,
Colorful Design and
needs to just be silly from time to time
CHARACTER'S MISSION: To spread the joy and
fun and satisfaction
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
and silly things to do
QUOTABLES: “It’s wacky-licious!” “Wacky is
as wacky does!”
Boy, Oh Boy!”
IDIOSYNCRACIES: Wackysaurus can hardly
stand still; he’s always
and jumping about His voice is distinctive
ie: Sex, Ethnic, Gross
___Affectionate Ridicule,"Put Downs"
_XX_Sudden Surprise/The Unexpected
_x_Victim/Butt of Joke
_X__Language Elements: Repeats himself a lot
___HEROINE ___MOTHER ___FATHER
_x_SEEKER ___REBEL ___VICTIM
___DESTROYER ___WISE OLD MAN ___WISE
___TEACHER ___DARKSIDE CHILD ___ CAREGIVER
ESSENCE: The wackiest dinosaur in the world
211 \f "Symbol" 2009 YMS Consulting
1. Dick Davis in Joel Barker's video The Business of
2. Kay, Alan. Go to: smalltalk.org/alankay.html/
3. Rupert Murdoch in March 13, 2006 speech at Stationers
See full text at:
4. Go to:
for information on Glen Hiemstra
For details on the Enlux light go to:
For more information on Microsoft’s “sense web” Go
11. Kurzweil, Ray, The Age of the Spiritual machine,
1999, Viking Penguin
12. Sony’s PSP: http://www.us.playstation.com/PSN/mediamanager/
Rupert Murdoch in March 13, 2006 speech at
Stationers Hall See full text at: