At the on-set of the pandemic, demand for STEM toys went into overdrive across the UK. For Brainstorm
Toys Ltd, it was elementary; provide the market with a portfolio it had been curating throughout its long-standing history with the toy trade. We talk to marketing manager Debra Tiffany about playing it smart
From STEM toys and kits that proved essential items over the pandemic, to outdoor toy and play innovations, as well as a range of Klikbots that span not only the creative arts sector, but the resurgence of the fidget toy market, too, Brainstorm Toys is home to some of the most exciting products on the toy and game scene right now.
That’s before we’ve even had the chance to lift the lid on the company’s plans for the sustainable toy collectable EUGY and the expanding line-up of characters it is bringing to the UK courtesy of Dodoland this year.
With so many strings to its finely tuned bow, it stands to reason that Brainstorm Toys boasts a reputation that has long been cemented among the nation’s toy retailers for products entrenched in the pillars of play
value. Whether it’s the firm’s latest science-focused launch, the Night Sky Projector and the 20,000 stars it paints across a bedroom wall and ceiling, or its toy that encourages children to See the World through Others’ Eyes, there’s an integrity of product that sits at the heart of the company’s portfolio.
Here, ToyNews catches up with Debra Tiffany, marketing manager at Brainstorm Ltd to learn more about the toy maker’s plans for the year, the value of play, and why the STEM toy category is only just scratching
the surface of possibilities.
Hello Debra, thank you for talking to ToyNews this month. Can we kick off with an overview of Brainstorm’s role in the science/discovery toy sector? How has the sector fared over the past year and how has business been for you guys in that space – considering the home schooling/consumer’s rediscovery of play and importance of educational play etc?
As the nation’s parents watched Boris’ speech last March with mounting dread, they quickly did what us parents do and looked for ways to make their lives easier, and for many that meant outsourcing educational support in the form of STEM Toys.
The positive impact on the educational toy category was two-fold; not only did demand for our educational lines surge but parents and children rediscovered learning through play and how engaging and educational toys can be. Consequently, demand for educational toys is at an all-time high and we expect that to remain the status quo as families look to supplement their child’s education at home.
Can you talk us through the key product launches for 2021? What trends are you guys tapping into through your products this year? How have consumer mindsets shifted and how has this impacted the product you guys are developing?
We are extremely lucky here at Brainstorm as we have a brilliant product development team who consistently deliver STEM toys under our Brainstorm Toys brand. We haven’t really changed the way we develop products as our ethos is to create timeless products that help children learn about core subjects, we are all endlessly fascinated by, such as space, for example.
We are launching the Night Sky Projector this year and so wish we could have seen reaction to it at Toy Fair as it is one of our best projectors to date. The images are 3.65 metres wide and ultra-sharp and it’s such a small piece of kit for something so powerful too. You can project the solar system, constellations, the moon and even 20,000 stars onto your walls and ceilings.
Among the relatively recent releases from Brainstorm Toys is the sustainability focused EUGY, which appears to be gaining a lot of traction. Can you talk us through this line? What is it and what it is bringing to the collectable, construction toy space?
The industry as a whole has, of course, a responsibility to become more sustainable and that is of course reflected in reducing plastic, packaging etc. Introducing an eco-friendly line was totally new to us but when we initially saw EUGY, which is created by a brilliant New Zealand based company called Dodoland, we knew it would be huge as it was unlike any other environmentally friendly toy we had seen.
As well as it being 100 per cent recyclable and using non-toxic glue, the simple number sequence employed to create so many different 3D models is just brilliant. We have yet to speak to anyone who hasn’t tried it and then immediately gone on to add more to their collection. And that’s also the thing about EUGY, the collectability factor, we continue to add new characters and this year are introducing three cute Christmas lines.
What are the long term plans for EUGY? How will you continue to develop this range?
New products are being added all the time. We started the range with 10 models back in 2019 and now the collection for 2021 is at 40 EUGY models with plans for so many more. We have a great relationship with the Dodoland team and are always speaking with them about what could work for the UK market and are excited about the coming year and beyond.
You guys are recognised leaders in STEM toys. What’s the secret to success in this sector? What does the design team look towards for inspiration when innovating in this space? What do you think the future of the STEM toy sector looks like and how will you guys work to lead that from the front?
As well as our Brainstorm Toys brand we also own The Original Glowstars Company brand. And the key to the success of all of these products, aside from the fact that they are all high-quality, is their timelessness.
We aren’t reinventing the wheel, rather shining a light on core subjects like Space in new and innovative ways. Our development team is constantly asking questions about different subjects, for example, Lucy Preston, created our popular See the World through Others’ Eyes toy after having a family discussion with
her kids regarding her husband’s colour blindness, wondering what it would be like to see through the eyes of different people and animals. It was so exciting seeing a product come to life on the back of that conversation.
As for the future of STEM Toys, this year has shown that the category is an essential element of the sector. Kids are bombarded with information via screens but giving them a hands-on experience with toys and showing different subjects in action brings it to life for them. In addition, as we compete with tech, we have to become more and more innovative and I think the key is also educating via stealth which we toy firms
speak of a lot.
Another exciting brand right now – Brainstorm seems to collect exciting brands – is Klikbot. What is driving the popularity of Klikbot right now? What does Klikbot deliver to the market? What plans have you got for this brand as it continues to surge in popularity this year?
What’s great about KLIKBOT is the fidget toy element – these new figures come with articulated limbs that literally klick, klick, klick into place – it’s really quite addictive. This precise mechanism makes them perfect for stop-frame animation too. They can be moved into all sorts of positions and they’re a great impulse purchase.
The new KLIKBOT KREATURES range is awesome as it also connects together to create larger KREATURES. There are so many categories that both StikBot and KLIKBOT span; collectability, STEM, creative and pocket money to name a few and that’s been fundamental to its success.
“We aren’t reinventing the wheel, rather shining a light on core subjects like Space in new and innovative ways.”
The popularity of the StikBot Central YouTube channel is also key. We are supporting the brand with TV advertising throughout the year as well as developing social media campaigns with key influencers to further enhance brand awareness.
Can we talk about the wider Brainstorm Toys portfolio? How are you working to deliver innovation in this portfolio? What key trends or core messages are you tapping into with the line-up?
We have added to our Outdoor Adventure range again this year. The range has always included outdoor essentials for kids such as a compass, binoculars etc but now more than ever children are discovering the great outdoors and so we want to make products that are educational but really useful too.
This year we are launching Paracord Wristbands so children can make eight wristbands using super-strong paracord like you would find on a parachute. Two of the buckles include a built-in compass and the paracord can be unravelled and used for all sorts of things from a shoelace to a spare tent rope.
Why should retailers be excited to work with you guys this year and beyond?
We hope by now that our reputation in the industry is cemented and retailers know that we consistently deliver on new product development and cost effectiveness. We never rest on our laurels and are always working to expand not only our ranges but also bringing new products via distribution partnerships. We are proud of the relationships we have across the industry and thanks to our team being relatively small, retailers can be assured a personal service as well as marketing and PR support and a huge range of POS solutions.
We continue to TV advertise across several key lines and keep customers up to date with our
schedule to help maximise sales.
What do you think will be the next big steps in the science/STEM toy space and how will you work to align yourself with those?
The STEM toy space is vast and there is room for everything from pocket money to AI. It’s so fast moving and so an exciting category to be in, but we will remain true to our ethos of developing toys that stand the test of time and fill a demand for traditional educational subjects that will always endure.
Thank you, Debra. Before we let you go, is there anything you’d like to shout about right now?
Yes, during lockdown many people have been using their time to make home improvements and do room makeovers. This has highlighted the fact that as well as being used for play, parents are using lots of our products in their child’s bedroom décor. We’ve been so impressed with how some of the lines have been incorporated, the most popular being a space themed room including items like My Very Own Moon and The Original Glowstars Company stars and planets.