This past weekend, my son had his third birthday – a great moment in fatherhood for me because it’s really the first birthday where he gets really cool toys that Daddy can spend an entire Sunday afternoon playing with. I think I speak for all Dads when I say Baby Einstein doesn’t really do it for us. Give me a projectile shooting Batman doll anyday. Unfortunately, a large part of Sunday was actually spent combating the diabolical packaging for most toys seemingly designed to keep the toys sealed inside plastic for life. As most parents already know, if there was a nuclear war, most toy packaging would survive along with the cockroaches. If you could make a protective bunker out of both, you’d be untouchable.
Mattel is trying to take a friendlier approach as profiled in this month’s issue of Fast Company magazine. Apparently, after extensive testing, Mattel learned that little girls don’t enjoy watching their Daddy’s crying in frustration after trying unsuccessfully to pry Barbie dolls from their impenetrable packaging. They also learned that kids don’t have the patience to untwist those twisty things and prefer to just pull at a toy to try and get it out (or fling it across the room if they are a three year old boy). Hopefully they didn’t pay too much for those insights. The result they are coming out with, however, is the sort of packaging parents dream about. Taking inspiration from food packagers, who have done a good job in many cases to offer easy access opening through single pull tabs, they redesigned Barbie packaging completely. Now the package is easy to open, can be kept around as a storage container, and is something that girls can open themselves. Better yet, it stands up to all the rigors of cross pacific travel that most toys make to get from their place of manufacture in Asia to a retail outlet in the US. Apparently, that is the real reason for the iron clad packaging – so the toys remain in place after their rough international journey.
The whole example is a case study in addressing a pain point for your customers and making the experience better while still addressing the functional needs of the packaging. I strongly encourage anyone who has any input into product packaging to read the full story in the magazine or online. It’s almost enough to make me go out and buy a Barbie. Except that a small part of me still wants to keep that Batman packaging around … you know, just in case that we ever need that nuclear bunker.