The term “positioning” refers to the toy’s position on the toy market relative to competitors and consumers. In the context of this book, we refer in particular to the consumer attitudes to the different toy products.
Questions about a toy’s position can be formulated:
- Where is the toy on the toy market?
- What is the toy’s position relative to similar toys and measured on a number of evaluation criteria?
- What kind of cognitive, emotional and action-oriented opinion does the consumer have of the toy?
Using these questions, a toy’s position can be evaluated by measuring consumer perception and preferences for the toy relative to its competitors.
The relevance of “positioning” as a concept is founded on theories dealing partly with the consumers’ (children’s) spontaneous opinions and feelings for the toy and partly with the consumer interpretations of the toy. More about this in Parts 5 and 6.
Since 1961, Mieskes and Klinke (HdS 1:387:431) have run a centre at the University of Giesen in Germany where they conduct research into and test toys and play with toys and relationships between toy products. (Positioning analyses are today mostly carried out by analysis institutes all over the world, guided by the toy industry’s own analysis experts.)
For several years, the centre at Giesen was the HQ for classical German academic toy research, based on traditional German scientific/theoretical thought, experiences from the German toy industry and modern technical and scientific analysis methods as used in today’s German toy industry.
As such, toys have been narrowly described because the researchers have used terms such as “play material” and “pedagogical objects”.
The research has been motivated by control of toys, materials, teaching material and objects and sees them in relation to play programmes and curricula.
The research is undertaken as field studies in play and teaching, partly as more comprehensive research projects. German toy manufacturers use the centre to test and evaluate pedagogical products.
They achieve this by:
- having clear objectives and intentions for the evaluations
- comparing these with the consumer’s stage of development and social level
- through this, it is possible to measure the quality and function of the products and thus
- to verify them in relation to play programmes and curricula.
According to Mieskes (HdS, 1:399-400), many parameters are evaluated including:
- anthropologicaland historical research (the toy in relation to historical and social development)
- empirical elementary research(the toy seen on the basis of scientific and developmental tests/experiments)
- “on-going” research, detailed investigation(the toy in connection with more specific spheres, e.g. reading programmes, war toys, the specific significance and influence of certain systems, etc.)
- product developmentresearch (which can include specific products from specific brands)
- market research(toy development from idea to reality in relation to supply and demand, etc.)
- consumer researchand marketing analysis (the population’s attitude to and opinions of certain products, e.g. parental opinions of general/specific products)
Within each of these different research areas, Mieskes and Klinke list innumerable dispositions and models for the research processes.
Even though they list many extremely useful analysis methods, there is one aspect re toys and consumers they omit to mention, i.e. declarations and conventions for/about toys and opportunities for children’s moral development through toys and play with toys.
Consumers’ and diverse social groups’ spontaneous opinions of toys can be registered as part of consumer and marketing analysis but no good advice or instruction on the toy’s importance for moral development is given.