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Hasbro

Hasbro is reinventing its Transformers line by making a virtue of simplicity, reports Gregory Schmidt in The New York Times (1/20/14). Transformers have now been around for 30 years, and over time have become increasingly complicated. "We’ve made incredibly sophisticated robots, but it can be like a 1,000-piece puzzle," says Hasbro CEO Brian D. Goldner. Some of the toys can require "dozens of steps to complete a single transformation" from robot to vehicle. In the process, Transformers had "lost their magic."

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, "Hasbro is revealing a new look for the toys, including simple maneuvers that will complete a transformation with the push of a button or flick of the wrist." Morningstar analyst Jaime M. Katz thinks it’s a good direction: "Toys were much simpler 30 years ago," she says. "Everything has to keep evolving." The simpler toys also "address the need for instant gratification sought by children today." "A toy like this gets them where they are going faster," says Joshua Lamb, a Hasbro design director.

The branding will also be simplified, with "all Transformer toys" now marketed under "a single bold logo," rather than "various TV, movie and classic versions of the characters," which had led "to confusion in the toy aisle.” Jonathan Newkirk, the Transformers creative brand manager, says the simplified packaging is designed to leave "as much space as possible to celebrate the characters … These are not necessarily the cheap tricks of marketing," he says. "We are trying to give the identity a voice in a very uncluttered way."