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What Marketers Can Learn From The Evolution of Care Bears & Strawberry ShortcakeEvery adult remembers getting the toy of their dreams, whether it was a Barbie, Nintendo, Mr. Potato Head, Etch A Sketch or a Care Bear. You ripped that present open, held it up, did a little dance and started playing with it without opening another present.

Now, decades later you may have noticed that many of these classic toys are still around, but with a few modern twists. To survive on the store shelves for so many years, toy brands like American Greetings Properties (AGP), which created iconic toys like Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears, must constantly evolve.

“We are proud to have generations of fans who have grown up with our beloved brands and are now introducing them to their children and grandchildren,” says Janice Ross, VP of Brand Marketing and PR for AGP.

Janice Ross, VP of Brand Marketing and PR for AGP

Janice Ross, VP of Brand Marketing and PR for AGP.

“One of the most important elements to our success has been keeping our marketing tactics fresh and modern.”

What are some of these fresh and modern tactics that have kept these memorable toys on store shelves? Here’s a look at how AGP has evolved its toy brands over the years.

Evolve while remembering core values

For AGP, the key to its continued success is to remain true to the brand’s core principles, but evolve in a way that moves with the times.

For example, when Strawberry Shortcake debuted in 1980, she was known for “her wholesome values of friendship, positivity, uniqueness and teamwork.” Thirty-four years later those principles remain the same.

Give the toy a makeover

Core values remain the same, but the timeless toy has changed looks through the years, which has allowed more children to relate to her. Just take a look at her evolution in the header photo.

Changes in Strawberry Shortcake’s appearance are just one of the many reasons why the brand has hit $3 billion in retail sales with over 600 licensees worldwide to date, according to AGP.

Use digital channels

Gone are the days of reaching children strictly through Saturday morning ads, now brands like AGP use digital channels to reach kids. Strawberry Shortcake has more than 1.4 million likes on her Facebook page. The Care Bears, known for their belly-badge magic and huggable attitude, have a website complete with games and download apps so you can take the fun on the go.

Engage with your audience

In an effort to stay fresh and engage with its audience, AGP recently teamed up with crowdsourcing digital platform Tongal to host a video contest. Tongal challenged its creative community to come up with fun and engaging videos that celebrate one of the two iconic ’80s franchises – Care Bears or Strawberry Shortcake. Three winners will be selected, with first-place video winners earning $15,000.

“This contest is a chance to create video content that will connect with people who already know and love our brands  and attract a new audience as well,” Ross says.

Go where your audience is

Who doesn’t use Netflix these days? The internet television network has more than 53 million members in nearly 50 countries. With the size and diversity of this audience, it’s no surprise that AGP is thrilled to release a new series, “Care Bears and Cousins” on Netflix.

The marketing tactic here is simple, go where your audience is.

“Care Bears has stood the test of time through creative and innovative marketing tactics which keep up with the latest technologies being used by our fans,” Ross says.

Final thoughts

Every classic toy has evolved or morphed in some way. Barbie went from Ken’s arm candy in the 60s to a presidential candidate in 2004. In 2013, the Easy Bake Oven shed its girl-only facade and released a silver and blue version to appeal to boys.

To survive, toy brands have to move with the times just as AGP has done. If executed correctly toys can not only remain iconic, but also elicit the same reaction you had when you unwrapped your first Care Bear.

What were your favorite childhood toys? How have they changed? Share your story in the comment section below.