Is this the tragic end to a once very successful and innovative toy company?
With increasing numbers of mobile electronic devices in kids hands these days, is there still a market for a educational products based on a closed ecosystem like the one pioneered by LeapFrog? In recent years they have struggled with competitors such as VTech and Fuhu who have introduced new technologies and undercut pricing.
I believe that LeapFrog does indeed have a chance to recover.
If I were the CEO of LeapFrog here’s what I would do.
1. Reinforce the company’s core
LeapFrog is known for quality educational content. I would focus on this and stop chasing my competitors and slashing prices. Instead I would take a page out of Apple’s playbook and emphasize quality over price. Focusing on how the content is superior and will leapfrog kids ahead of their peers. LeapFrog has never been known for cheap products. Why start now?
John Barbour, CEO of LeapFrog stated at last year’s CES presentation that his customers paid higher prices because they felt the quality provided was worth the price. Their applications are backed by the latest educational learning methods. Every parent wants their kids to be the smartest in the room.
2. Capitalize on the benefits of their unique product ecosystem
LeapFrog can continue to outperform its competitors. Here’s how.
Control their Platform
Owning and controlling the platform upon which their products work is a huge advantage over their competitors who rely on the ever changing Apple and Google platforms. Instead LeapFrog can strategically control how and when to update their platform. Additionally they do not have to fork over 30% of every download to Apple or Google.
Control their Hardware
Most toy companies rely on third-party tablets and smart phones to communicate with their toy products. They need to choose a communication radio that is compatible with those present in these mobile devices instead of utilizing the most ideal radio for the product ecosystem.
Being beholden to a tablet manufacture brings with it the risks of compatibility issues. An example of this is when Apple embraced Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) in their iPad3 and iPhone 4S devices and stopped supporting the previous NFC protocol. This essentially put an end to NFC as a broad communication method. Google had to follow suit in October 2013 but its tablet manufacturers have been slow to implement BLE in all models. Connect device manufacturers are left dealing with complaints when consumers get a product home just to find it does not work with their tablet model.
LeapFrog on the other hand can control the communication radio interface and choose from some really neat Internet of Things technologies. This can be a profitable point of difference with their competitors. LeapFrog’s toys could be connected in the home like no other toy company’s because they actually control the hardware and the platform.
I believe LeapFrog could implement a variant of the Internet of ToysTM that could create an exciting learning experience for kids and make them a fierce competitor in the educational toy category once again.
3. Join the Dynepic Internet of ToysTM platform
LeapFrog’s products are perfect for the connected revolution that is the Internet of ToysTM. Not only do they have products such as the LeapPad tablet and a wearable called LeapBand, they also have smart toys (not yet wireless) like My Pal Scout, as well as, a gaming platform and content delivery system called LeapTV. All of the these toys are SCREAMING to be connected with a wireless protocol that will provide a truly smart and immersive play experience.
If I were the CEO of LeapFrog looking to right the ship before it’s left behind, I would apply connected control across the existing LeapFrog products and link them to Dynepic’s Internet of ToysTM platform. I’d even coin a new term, such as “LeapTogether” where all their toys are connected and utilize Dynepic’s groundbreaking toy cloud resource platform. With the Internet of Toys, each LeapFrog toy can “smartly” interact with the child and collaboratively
Dynepic’s work over the past two years have painted a clear vision of the future of toys. Here’s just the first glance of what it might look like if LeapFrog’s product ecosystem was painted with the Internet of ToysTM platform.
Connected technology is the future, but not just connected just in name only. At Dynepic, we know that kids are looking for much of the same interactivity that adults have. They want to have fun, learn, and have technology that provides functional ways to organize their life and connect with their friends.
Will LeapFrog make the bold move into the connected toy world by leveraging their current product portfolio by joining forces with the new leader in toy connectivity? Will they leverage their educational toy exceptionalism? Or will they be too late to the game and fail as other adopt Dynepic’s new path for the future of play?
If I were the CEO of LeapFrog, I know what I’d do.
Krissa Watry, CEO Dynepic
Dynepic, Inc. is powering the future of play by launching the Internet of ToysTM platform. The IoToys services will make it easier for toy manufacturers and app developers to launch connected play experiences for kids where safety and parental transparency are paramount. Dynepic's first service launching in 2016 is iOKids which will launch a gateway for kids to play with their parent-approved friends in their apps and games.