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Cricket_ Playmates doll who speaks for herself_ took her brother

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   Cricket, Playmates doll who speaks for herself,                    California by making the opening speech at
took her brother Corky to the New York Toys Fair                      Playmates new American marketing subsidiary
in February and together they were something of a                     headquarters with its own research unit.
smash hit!                                                               Cricket, Corky and now Jill, all sing songs and
   Buyers also fell in love with Cricket's pet furry                  tell stories and even funny jokes. They are helping
kitten, called Shadow, as well as admiring Cricket's                  put Hong Kong on the toy map in America as the
extensive wardrobe of dresses and cassettes, not to                   world's most sophisticated animated toys
mention her library of little educational books.                      manufacturer.
   Jill, who doesn't only speak and move her lips                        These sizeable children's engaging companions
but looks around, turns her head and raises her                       are the products of Playmates Holdings Limited,
arms (you can style her hair too), was also at the                    which, like multinational Universal Matchbox, now
New York Toys Show. It was her first appearance                       have very active highly professional marketing arms
and she was just as impressive as when Cricket                        in the U.S. They have put a new dimension into the
helped last November her own marketing launch in                      gathering momentum of Hong Kong's toy exports.




   Charles S Ip, Director of Marketing at Playmates, says his         money on it. It is something you invest a little more heavily
company bought the Cricket concept, the entire technolog-             on to get high returns and reach your sales target.
ical design package from an outside American,toy designer.               Cricket initially falls in the promotional category.
Cricket became the first promotional item of the company.                Charles Ip says: "Cricket is a unique talking doll on the
It has every prospect of becoming a basic line, even a                market. Up until now there have been a few other talking
traditional line.                                                     dolls on the market but Cricket is still unique. Teddy
   The Marketing Director who is a Hong Kong boy edu-                 Ruckspin was a teddy bear not a girl doll. Baby Doll from
cated in the U.S., explains a basic line in the toy business is       Galoob, is another chip-operated speaking doll produced by
a product that is ongoing, like a doll. They stay on the              an American company.
retailer's shelf for years and years and go on selling, with             "Cricket is a larger size cassette-operated speaking doll.
occasional changes in outfit and design. It becomes                   The advantage with a cassette-operated speaking doll is that
traditional business.                                                 you can have a very loud and clear voice and you can have a
   On the other hand the promotional product is something             music background. Cricket is also unique in that when she
the manufacturer thinks the market will take a lot of quickly.        speaks her eyes move and her mouth moves in synchronisa-
Usually, it is a relatively new idea and because you expect           tion. We have a special electronic circuit in Cricket that
to sell a lot the manufacturer spends a lot of promotional            reads off codes from the cassette tape.



                                                                                                              The Bulletin/March 1987   17
     Charles Ip says Cricket has generated a lot of publicity in It is something the creative people came up with that
 America. A lot was unsolicited. With Cricket it is the first everybody liked,"
 time a doll technology has come to this height.                      The Bulletin: is Cricket's brother younger or older than
     "Secondly, it is a welcome technology because it has an her?
 educational theme. The tapes and the books that are sold             Charles ip: "We leave this to the kids to decide. It doesn't
 separately all contain different basic learning subjects. We matter. But Corky does have three outfits. Cricket and Corky
 sell a lot of accessories along with Cricket There are nine are designed for the U.S. but we do modifications for the
 outfits and tapes and 12 books and tapes. The books are rest of the world."
 like 'Cricket visits the zoo' and the kid reads and hears from       Charles Ip says for the 1987 New York Toy Fair every-
 Cricket's mouth.                                                 body came up with a talking product. After Teddy Ruckspin
     The Bulletin: How has Cricket sold?                          and Cricket had taken the lead everybody else jumped on
     Charles ip: "The reception by the buyers has been excel- the bandwaggon. But we are still the one and only cassette-
 lent. The reception by the public has been excellent as well. tape operated talking doll, with clear and loud yoice and
 Cricket was first exhibited at the New York Toy Fair in background music that I have not seen done with a chip
 1986. We have been taking and shipping orders ever since.        mechanism.
     "It was not the easiest project Playmates has undertaken.        "We still found Cricket to be the most exciting. A lot of
Cricket is a very complicated doll to make. She is a big doll people agreed."
and it takes a lot of work to make a big doll at any time.            He says Playmates make all the accessories.
We have to put mechanical as well as electronic components            Playmates, founded by Sam Chan dates back to 1966.
 in Cricket and make the whole thing work. She has kept us The chairman began with his two sons who are still with the
very busy.                                                        company now. Thomas Chan is managing director and
     Charles Ip says marketing work in Europe and Australia Albert Chan is executive director.
 and New Zealand is now getting into full swing. Matchbox is          Playmates began in 1966 with 4,500 square feet and
distributor in those places for Cricket. It's a two-way thing. about 25 people. Now it has 600,000 sq ft of manufacturing
Cricket is a good product Matchbox would like in its space under roof and about 4,000 workers. It went public
distribution list. And Matchbox is a good company to do in 1984.
our distribution in those places. It is a mutually beneficial        As Playmates expanded it acquired new factories, three
arrangement.                                                      in Tuen Mun all used for toy manufacture and one in China,
     "We are very confident Cricket will sell well. Based on near Shekou, doing labour intensive operations like dolls
 its reception in the U.S. it should also sell well outside the and components.
 U.S.                                                                Charles Ip says one of the reasons for Playmates success
     The Bulletin: Are you working to full production is the quality it puts into its products, "it stands out from
capacity on Cricket?                                             the crowd and its definitely international top quality."
     Charles Ip: "This is the time of year when toy manufac-         Playmates basic product consists of a doll line and a toy
turers don't work at full capacity. The peak production sea- line. The company began making good quality dolls and
son is in the second half of the year. You do that to catch selling world-wide. Ten years ago it began its pre-schoo! line.
Christmas and after Christmas there is a slowdown. But I Both were very successful and have provided the stable
can tell you Cricket production is still ongoing despite the demand and basic stability for the company.
fact we are in the low production season,                            In addition Playmates works for other toy producers. It
     "We certainly hope Cricket will become a traditional has produced Barbie dolls for Mattel. It made Cabbage
product. Cricket had an excellent first year in 1986. Patch dolls for Colleco. It is now making pre-school doil
Cricket is likely to have a very good second year, this year. product for Fisher Price and Tonka. Thus Playmates has
     "We are doing a lot to keep her alive. This year we intro- two foundations for its business, its own brandname
duced her brother, Corky, based on the same technology. products and work for other toy producers.
I have just come back from the New York Toy Fair and the             Charles Ip says one reason for Playmates success has
reception given the pair was excellent So it does look like been its marketing arrangements in the U.S.
we will have another very good year from these two                   "We have for a long time had our own people in the U.S.
products,                                                        selling for us. In 1984 we formed our own U.S. subsidiary.
     "Cricket also has a pet pussycat, Shadow. The pet is We hired topclass professionals for the several key positions.
not re-active. But it is a very plush cat. Also, we have come        "We hired a 27-year toy veteran from another American-
up with a long list of accessories, like cooking sets, sleeping toy company to be the president of our U.S. operation.
bags, games, cards and a lot of other things. We have a cross- Likewise with the six vice presidents who work for him.
talk box. An electronic device that controls synchronised We now have a very professional marketing, distribution
messages so Cricket and Corky can talk to each other.            and research and development centre in California.
     "We are going to licence the Cricket name to other pro-         "The advent of this centre dove-tailed with the introduc-
ducts, such as book publishers. We have very intention, tion of our first promotional product, Cricket, in 1986. We
and we are very encouraged, to keep the Cricket name alive have been dealing however with big American customers,
for a long time."                                                like Sears, Best and Target for a long time. Now our network
     The Bulletin: Why did you call it Cricket?                  of sales representatives are all grouped under our California
     Charles Ip: "It is just a name. It doesn't mean anything. office."                                                         •
 It does not mean the grasshopper. It is not the English game.

    The Bulletin March 1987

				
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