Note: Article is posted as is and does not reflect the opinions of iSoaker.com. Article reposted from iSoaker.com Forums with permission.
Subtitle: The Influenece of Marketing on Retail *Version 2*
Looking at the Evolution at Water Guns in retail, one can see several patterns if not even re-occuring elements over time. It can be even argued that a certain period of time has a theme that influences retail and its manufacturing and distribution of toys.Water Guns in retail are absolutly dependant on the manufacturers. That is self-explanitory of course. What that also means is that Water Guns are very comercialised and require a selling point. This is where marketing comes in with slogans and comercials. Of course slogans and comercials need a common theme that will get stuck in the mind of the consumer to sell the merchandise. That "theme" or "Comercial Ideology" is what determines the evolution of water guns. And certain periods of retail history can be devided into themes and comercial ideology.
1900-1949 : Age of War toys
Determening an obvious theme/ideology in the water guns during that time period is probably the hardest of all time periods, since there is not much documentation and its a time of pre-consumerism. But looking at the models of the time it is reasonable to make a connection to the political atmosphere. For the ones who have completly skipped Highschool history, the 1900s -1940s had two World Wars. Looking at the daisy Squirt guns that are made out of metal, one can see a certain resemblance to the actual firearms used in war. It would not be unusual for Toy companies to indoctorinate males from early age to get used to the idea of fighting in a war or at least supporting and romanticising it. Even earlier like in the Victorian age, boy toys where military themed such as tin soldiers, wooden rifles and so on.
1950-1979 : Age of Sci-Fi
This is where modern comercialisation starts. The 50s was the birth of consumerism with the ideal of the peacefull atomic family(There where actualy people buying houses right next to a nuclear reactor...plus kids had school drills hiding under wooden tables in case of a nuclear attack). With consumerism came the new philosphy of buying cheap crap that you don't realy need in order to have a fullfilling life. With the invention of plastic, consumer goods where able to be manufactured and sold cheaply for the rising middle class. Since plastic toys where targeted at kids, they introduced the majority of water guns in form of space and ray guns. Due to advances in various scientific fields, Sci-Fi became very popular in Entertainment culture from 3D B-Movies to comic books, and alien invasion novels. Granted, besides Sci-Fi guns, there also where Cowboy, Espionage and Agent themes. But the Sci-fi/Futurism image was a concept that has been marketed dominantly in Squirt Pistols which lasted through the 60s till the late 70s.
1980-1988: Age of Replicas
Every culture needs its counter-culture to take eventualy its place. While replica toy guns, already existed before the 80s, the marketing machine has not focused on that subject yet. But since the early 80s, realism in toy guns was all that mattered, making toy themes the oposite to elaborate Sci-Fi space guns. Squirt pistols, Pump cannons, and Electric guns that are very often 1:1 scale are filled with realistic clips and come with realistic sounds. Why that trend started to apear in the 80s might be because of the birth of the "Action Franchise" in movies and other medias. If you see Stalone or Schwarzenegger holding a M16 in their hands, you want one to.
1989-2003: Age of Power
With the first Super Soaker, marketing focused on a new theme literaly trashtalking privious guns. The philosphy was simply put "Power". The soakers looked even goofier and less realistic than space guns, but that didn't matter. The power theme was something that unlike previous themes was caused by technology advancement and not socio-economics. One brand promoted power, so others had to keep up since only a fool in marketing would not join the new fad. "Wetter is better" was a popular slogan in the 90s. Only losers used soakers with small output suposetly. The climax of actual Power was 1996 with the CPS 2000, while it started to decrease from there on. In other words 7 years gradual rise with 7 years of gradual fall. While the power performance sliped, marketing was still giving the impression of power with the Monsters that looked like giant gattling guns. But after the release of the 2003 versions of Monsters, the theme of power ran its course.
2004-Contemporary: Age of Special Features
Why companies have switched to a new marketing concept can not be said for sure. Child safety laws, manufacturing costs, recession and decrease of the economy...all of the above? The fact is, special features seem to be the dominant theme in promotion since 2004. And with special features, I mean everything that is not directly connected to increasing the power and output of a previous water gun typ. In many ways special features that where combined with main blasters in the front spot light started with the introduction of the quickfill 1999 by SpeedLoader and SuperCharger, but it wasn't the dominant theme yet, or back then it took still a backseat to size and power. Before the quickfill, special features where more side items for collectors or add ons for squirt pistols. Also, special features such as battary use already existed in the 80s, but those elements where serving the theme of realism and werent just promoted by themselves. Not as the main Philosophy anyways.
But with 2004, power was no longer an issue and for the first time, special features where promoted for the sake of itself. The special features that where promoted were the soaker tags, the spongeball and squirt pistol attachment, soak-blade... . And that was just Super Soaker. Water Warriors promoted their soakers with flashy light pressure gauges. And it continued from there to riot nozzles, small backpacks, a soaker that is connected on a hose, pre-pressurized soakers... and this year interchangable little backpacks and an electrical soaker.
Another special feature symptom would be the over the top comic book like names of the soakers which are a total give away. Where in the previous age of power, soakers names where mainly identified by numbers to give an impression of continuing increase in muscle strength, special feature soakers have names similar to forum member's nicknames and aliases. "Tripple Agressor", "Flash Flood", "Piranah", "Devastator", "Blazer", "Overload"... . Detect any numbers or names that are measurable? Nope.Of course some special features are usefull, while some features are not. The bottom line is, that they are promoted as flashy features to catch your eye. And those are the marketing themes that sell the water guns at the moment to the main masses. And how long will this current theme last? Who knows.
Now looking at all those marketing themes, one has to understand that no "Spirit of an Age" stops and ends at a specific point. The dates given above are estimations of when a trend becomes dominant with its relation to surounding influences. In reality and actuality, trends overlap, making an exact pinpoint impossible. Also, trends do not have the same length or duration, with a more complex and agressive marketing world, priorities and fads can virtualy change in a week. No evolution has symetric breaks in between, nor do things always evolve for the better. Things simply change, and retail waterguns are no exeption.
So what would be the next big marketing angle that will influence and determine the guns in those toy shelves? Perhaps something will be re-occuring and re-interpreted that has been done in the past. Well, no one knows at this stage exept perhaps the marketing departments of water gun companies.
: Replaced "gimmick" with "special feature".