Power to pester: The toy industry’s biggest billion-dollar weapon is about to hit its peak

Imagine a crowded toy store. You know the gender.

The aisles are crowded. Flashing lights, deafening music. Moms, dads and grandparents are jostling to surpass themselves. Children push all the buttons they can reach. The gentle hum of gift requests constantly in the background.

It’s the peak time of the year for the global billion-dollar toy industry. Amid fierce competition, advertisers have one main focus, according to marketing experts.

He puts himself on a child’s Christmas list to Santa Claus.

It prompts a child to say “Muuuuum, can we get this?” in the aisle of this toy store.

It becomes the talk of the playground and persuades a child that they just must have this toy this Christmas and tell mum or dad.

When kids know exactly what they want for Christmas, it can sometimes take the pressure off busy parents.(ABC News: Patrick Williams)

Peaks of “power to pester”

It’s called the power of pestering and it should “not be underestimated”, according to toy journalist Fiona Cameron of Toy & Hobby Retailer magazine.

RMIT marketing expert Con Stavros suspects the power of bullying is worse this time of year:

“I think there’s a bit more wiggle room around gift giving time. The marketing can be maybe a bit more intense, in terms of ‘go see your parents and ask that’.”

But he says parents can also accommodate him.

“I often think parents feel bad about not knowing what to buy for their kids,” he says.

“Finding a gift that has a certain meaning, has a certain impact, can be difficult.”

Christmas in Brisbane
Shoppers rush to Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall to buy Christmas presents.(ABC: Jessica Hinchliffe )

The best toy for your child

Fiona Cameron says collectible toys are the biggest movers this season.

She says this festive season, parents have one question more than any other.

“I go to dinner parties and summer barbecues and the minute someone hears I’m a toy journalist, they want to know what the best educational toy is.

“I usually tell them, it’s any toy you spend time playing with your kids.

“Find things that you think are cool, that can get you excited, because you pass that on to the kids.”

Department store toy department
Marketing is everywhere at Christmas.(Flickr: Yvette Soler)

Teaching children limits

There’s no better time to teach kids about money, according to Professor Debra Grace of Griffith University.

“You could be in a toy store, the kid could say ‘Mom, I want this!’ This is your chance to explain why you don’t want to buy that particular product.”

Professor Grace says it has never been more important for children to start learning about financial decisions.

“If you take the time to be consistent and explain why, you’ll teach your child to know that they can’t get everything they want,” she says.

“Learning has to come for a while. What better time – to turn your kids into savvy consumers – than when they’re bombarded with marketing messages?”

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