Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Everything Old is New Again

One of the cool things about having kids is that you get to play with toys. And it's perfectly acceptable to do so, in fact it is expected. If a single guy routinely plays with action figures, you shake your head. If a dad plays action figures with his little boy, it's endearing. The reality is though that there is little difference between the two men. Just one of them has a good excuse. In fact, I truly believe that it is one of the reasons men want to have children. And the reason that baby boys always get toys that are so far from being age appropriate that it's obvious who they are really for - the grown ups. Aidan got a huge remote control Jeep for his first Christmas. He was 7 months old. It wasn't for him, now was it?

There are few toys that endure generations without ever being pushed aside for something newer and cooler. Things like Legos and Barbies, the toys that every kid in the last 50 years or so has had. Everything else it seems is subject to trendiness and phases. The must have toy one year at Christmas, turns a few years later into the toy that no one remembers.

My generation was the first that was really subjected to direct marketing on a large scale. Saturday morning cartoons gradually turned into weekday afternoon cartoons, and along with them came a constant barrage of commercials. They enticed us, convincing us that we needed sugary cereals and every toy ever created. And we were hooked.

I had to have a Strawberry Shortcake bed to go with all my toys. Gary was obsessed with Transformers. Tom, so I've been told, was a huge fan of He-Man. By the power of Grayskull....

Probably because our generation was so infatuated with the toys, many of the brands burned hot, but fizzled out quickly. Replaced with something new. The monchichis. My Little Pony. The Smurfs. And away they slipped. The shows canceled. The toys eventually discontinued. Until something happened. We started having kids. And we wanted to play with our toys again. The power of our generation, and the easy sell that we clearly are when it comes to marketing, revived these toys. The Smurfs are back on tv again. My Little Pony is probably bigger now than it was when we were kids. And clearly the Autobots are kicking some Decepticon butt.

Of course the kids have new toys too, new fads to follow. New commercials that convince them that they *need* some toy. The marketing to kids starts younger and younger today. There are 24 hour cartoon channels now, and studies have shown brand loyalty in kids as young as two years old. But there is just something about the old toys that came back. We, as parents are more likely to buy them. They are like old friends, bringing us back to our own childhoods. And they are way more fun to play with.

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