Skip to main content

When diversity is a bad thing

No, I'm not agreeing with Prop 2 that passed in Michigan this past election, I'm talking about businesses that try to be everything to everyone. Specifically, I'm talking about Toys "R" Us. I had to go there because they were the exclusive supplier of the Thomas the Tank Engine Aqua Doodle, and that's what my niece wanted for Christmas. (note to self: next year go back to ordering everything online a month in advance)

Remember back in the day? Everyone wanted to be a Toys "R" Us Kid. Hell, you know the jingle -- "From bikes to trains to video games, it's the biggest toy store there is".

And it was true. But that was then, and this is now. The store is a shell of what it used to be. The entrance houses clearance items (please explain that to me), and heading counter clockwise around the perimeter of the store it's clothes at 3 o'clock, large items like strollers at noon. The aforementioned good eat up about a third of the store. When all is said and done, their non-toy inventory accounts for about 35% of the store.

So what's left? For starters, not the Thomas the Tank Engine Aqua Doodle. In fact, out of the 12 or so things on my list, they had one - a Lego Bionicle. However, compared to the other stores, it looked as though Toys "R" Us got the bottom of the barrel when it came to packaging on this item. The other stores had cool grey/black carrying cases that displayed the flashing swords and the colored balls prominently. The Toys "R" Us package was a plain, clear package with a sticker covering the contents. If Toys "R" Us was last on my list I would have passed on the package, but in a holiday frenzy I grabbed one.

I know the history of the company: their union issues in Europe, the screw job from Amazon and the success of their Babies "R" Us stores.

Regardless of those things, they made a fundamental mistake - much like the Cincinnati Bengals game plan against the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago, you need to avoid the temptation of rushing on every down and dance with who brung ya'. In fact, bring her sisters, her mom, her aunt and her cousins. The Bengals lost because they abandoned their potent aerial attack for a ground game - and Toys "R" Us caved in to pressure from the success of Wal-Mart, Target and Meijer.

Look at what makes niche stores with multiple retail chains successful - depth AND breadth within one category. It's not just about having four aisles of toys AND having groceries AND having cheap clothes. Look at Starbucks. Coffee. That's their bread and butter. Sure, they sell scones - but it hasn't changed their core business, which is, you guessed it - coffee.

So what it's really about is focus. "What makes us successful?" is what the board at Toys "R" Us should've asked. Was it in clothes? Nope. Well, maybe a Geoffrey t-shirt that said "I'm a Toys 'R' Us Kid!", but that's a crowded marketplace today. When the man or woman stood up and said "We need to get leaner in toys and add clothes" someone should've played the commercial and pointed them down the hall to the Babies "R" Us meeting.

Gap Brands, Gymboree, Target, Wal-Mart, you name it - they all serve an audience in terms of price. What does Toys "R" Us stand for here? What do you think of when you hear "Toys 'R' Us"? Clothes?

Back in the day you went to Toys "R" Us first, then the Kmarts, Sears, et al of the world second. Could Babies "R" Us still exist? Absolutely. I'm not saying they shouldn't recognize other opportunities in the market and capitalize where their size can be used to aide those businesses - distribution, volume, price, etc.

What I'm suggesting is that instead of shrinking their inventory they should have been ramping up those efforts to make their competitors irrelevant. The others stores toy departments should be the "last resort" in consumers minds.

Oh, if they'd only had listened to their own song: More games, more toys (Oh boy!).

Tagged: , , , ,


Popular posts from this blog

How to Rick Roll Someone

I've noticed a lot of traffic to my blog from a post I did on Rick Roll. In particular, people are looking for how to do it. So, without further adieu, here's a quick 1, 2, 3 on "How to Rick Roll Someone."

Pick your target. This should be someone not suspecting a peculiar link, email or heads up. Works great if you're the guy/girl in the office known for sending YouTube links via IM
Grab the URL. The YouTube video is probably the easiest to snag, because the URL isn't a dead giveaway. Sites that truncate URLs like SnipURL and TinyURL are handy if you want to send folks to
Pick your delivery method and send! IM, email, blog (wink!), what-have-you.

Please, feel free to get creative. Our programmers used a "Can someone test this site?" email to the office to Rick Roll the entire staff. Or better yet - send the URL along to unsuspecting family members as "Our newest family pictures!".

Another fun way is via conference or phon…

My first Facebook spam!

Well, that didn't take long. I was spammed twice today via my Facebook profile by someone named Andrea Rowe, saying that she likes my profile picture (flattery is my weak spot) and wanted to chat. She's promoting a site through one of the TinyURL-esque sites and let me know that her username is "foxy_hotty". Here's her follow up message:

hi there David, how's it going? i wanted to chat with you, but they don't have that here, whatever. if you'd like to, you can check out my other profile at my username's foxy_hotty. we can chat there, just dont mind the bad pics, lol. soooo, ya, see you i hope.

Yes, I edited the SnipURL ending because I refuse to give spammers free promotion or even worse, the click through. For those unaware, sites like SnipURL and TinyURL allow you to send truncated versions of URLs, which is particularly handy when you're posting URLs to your blog (formatting) or SMS-based tools like Jaiku and Twitte…

Fake Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers -- And the Implications for Brands

This post originally appeared on the Large Media blog.

There's been a lot of talk about Twitter followers lately, including both presidential candidates, celebrities, musicians and the like utilizing services to game their numbers. Specifically, a lot of the "Top 10" have been found to have a substantial amount of fake followers, in some case to the point where 70% of their following is either bots or inactive profiles. Most articles and infographics on the subject are telling, however with a little digging you can find out that there are also social media "experts" utilizing the service to give the appearance of bloated numbers. Intrigued, and given our rare propensity to tweet as an agency, we wanted to see what the fuss was about.

So we gave it a try.


In August we saw some ads on a third party Twitter "profile checker" site  saying they can send a thousand followers your way for $9. The process is pretty simple: select how many followers yo…