Tuck’s Center for Digital Strategies Chooses Top Tech Toys for 2011

For Immediate Release: November 21, 2011
Contact: Kim Keating, 603-646-2733

The Center for Digital Strategies at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth has released its annual list of the holiday season’s top tech toys. MBA students worked with the center’s director, M. Eric Johnson, to select the top 13 toys, each under $100, after playing with and reviewing dozens of toys.

Heading up the list are toys that integrate video, a big trend for the season since video technology prices have dropped significantly. Examples include a Hot Wheels car with built-in video camera and the LeapPad, a tablet device with an integrated video camera and educational games.

“It’s no small design challenge to put this technology into a $99 toy,” said Johnson. “In many ways it’s a harder design challenge than what Apple and others face, because it’s got to be tough, durable, and simple to use.”

Each year, Johnson uses toys as a learning tool to teach his MBA students about the industry. “Toys are leading indicators of trends in other businesses, and especially attractive to entrepreneurs because of their short cycle and potential for large returns,” said Johnson. With the right toy and a small investment, an entrepreneur can show up at a toy fair, take orders from retailers and see the product become a multimillion-dollar business.

Eighty percent of toys released for the holiday shopping season are new products. “In a very short period of time—a few weeks over the autumn— you can see product launch, roll-out, marketing, customer reaction, and what happens in January when it’s all liquidated,” said Johnson. “From a student’s perspective, it’s hard to beat that.”

Other toys that made the list this year include Barbie Hairtastic Printables, which allows a child to create customizable hair extensions for herself, friends, and her doll; a SuperSoaker that shoots swirls of water and Fijit, a digital, dancing alien that responds to spoken commands. Mattel’s Fijit received some of the highest rankings from students.

Concurrent to the annual top tech toys list, the Center for Digital Strategies organizes a yearly charity “Toys for Tots” event, which collects toys for disadvantaged children.