Written by Aaron as a part of the We’re Kids Too series.
I’ve thought about what I was going to write since May and I still feel that I haven’t yet arrived on the appropriate topic. Not because I have a lack of ideas, but the topic I did decide on makes me appear a little…weird. Although now it’s November, I wrote this in the Ataturk airport a few months ago, sitting in a really comfortable chair in Istanbul, Turkey, waiting to catch a plane to Bucharest, Romania.
What I want to say is this; so much has happened in 2015. It’s been one of the most interesting years in my life, but Step2 has really kept me sane and grounded. I love coming to work and doing something new and exciting every single day, but above all, I get to see my friends. I consider everyone I work with a friend, a role model, and a mentor; and for those reasons, you’ll always see me in the office with a smile on my face.
So this is where it gets a little weird. Because I work in Product Development, I feel like I form a parasocial relationship with each one of the products I’m working on with the Design team. Basically a parasocial relationship is a one-sided emotional connection that someone experiences with a person or thing, but that relationship isn’t reciprocated because the other person isn’t aware of the relationship, or because “things” can’t think. Listen, I know, it sounds weird, but think of it like this. Men can form parasocial relationships with sports teams, women can form parasocial relationships with news broadcasters, and kids can form parasocial relationships with the cartoon characters they see on TV every day. See, now that doesn’t sound as weird. We all do it. With that said, let me explain the emotional connection and the reasoning behind my madness…
I don’t have kids, but as I would imagine, parents want their children to have all the opportunities at their disposal so as to be the best person the can be during childhood, during the teenage years, and into adulthood. That’s how I feel about every new product development season with concept toys. I love all my concept “children” equally and I want every one to love them as well. So I work with the Designers, Engineers, Creative Services, Sales, my colleague Ashley, and my boss Rosanne to give these products the best possible chance to succeed in the consumer marketplace. I research through online surveys, moderate focus groups, look up competitive products and listen to buyer’s opinions, and if all those channels are positively aligned, I watch my concept “children” grow from a drawing to a foam model. At this awkward teenage stage, you could say the concepts are a little full of themselves because they’ve made it this far and there’s a lot of pressure to show their worth.
Once my teenage concepts are in a foam model, I can research again through the same above channels an,d keep in mind, I’ll do this for all my concept “children.” Then, after presenting to the buyer, we wait together. Will I see my concepts get accepted to “retailer college” at Toys”R”Us, Walmart, Target, or somewhere else? Will I see my concepts “study abroad” in Mexico, Canada, The UK, Asia or the Middle East? Will I see my concepts enroll in online classes at the prestigious Amazon.com? Or, will my concepts not get accepted at all and have to put off school for a year or two? Regardless of what happens, I’m still proud of all the hard work that’s gone into getting them to this point.
By using this analogy, I hope you don’t think I’m crazy and as a “parent” to my concepts and products. I just want the best and I want all of them to excel at retail! With all the hard work that goes into the initial concept drawings, the foam model, the research, and the sales presentation, it’s hard not to be emotionally invited in by the products and the process.
I’m always asking my colleagues if working in the toy industry keeps you young at heart and their answer is yes. This is great because I couldn’t ask for anything more. I enjoy working with my quirky, brilliant, and creative, friends and colleagues every day.
Aaron is a Product Manager at Step2 and a graduate student, studying Global Communication. While he enjoys reading anything Ken Follett, he also passes his time reading his childhood favorites, like Harry Potter, in Spanish.