Having first stepped foot here back in 2008, seven (7) years on, I still remain thrilled and honored to be invited by Buzz Bee Toys Inc. to participate in their product development meeting for the next generation of Water Warriors brand products.
For those who may not know, I travel to BBT HQ once or twice a year depending on need and desire for my input on their product development. Apparently, I remain the only non-employee to be included in their development process in this way so I take this opportunity very seriously. While the products that eventually get approved and available are ultimately up to market forces and retailers, getting to peer behind the curtain and being able to see and participate in, first hand, what it takes to bring a product to market, my respect for the people behind this company has grown immensely over the years.
Looking at past Water Warriors product releases, it seems like Buzz Bee Toys tends to release more new products every other year. 2014, in particular, appears to have been the year where the least number of new Water Warriors-brand products made it to market. Nevertheless, I definitely cannot say it is for lack of trying. Simply put, even though they may wish to make new items, if a retailer is not impressed enough to want to carry an item in their store (Buzz Bee Toys does not sell direct to consumers), that product will not be made available to the public. Of course, it may also be simply a matter of timing, so forget about being able to see their "unsuccessful" items. What is unsuccessful one year could very well be *THE* product-of-the-year the next year! There are so many variables that affect consumer spending.
As with previous meetings, this meeting followed the same structure: existing products were looked at (even ones that didn't make it to market) and discussed to try to put some rationale behind what made a particular product successful (or not). Based on the number of units sold to retailers in combination to the number of years a product has been in the market, decisions were made as to whether to offer these items for sale again for 2016. New items, some merely sketches or even just ideas, were also discussed. Of course, competing products were looked at as well. For 2015, while there are a large number of other water blaster products being sold, there is really no competitor's product that comes close to the performance level of the larger Water Warriors products available.
One thing to keep in mind is that the new models for 2016 need to be decided upon by April/May in order for molds and factories to be prepped to make enough to be available on time. Being the start of March, that really does not give them much time to refine designs further before early ideas need to be presented to retailers as well as needing to be mocked up in 3D so that molds can be made.
My role, beyond giving a fresh perspective on their product and design, is to also provide recommendations and insights based on my ample experience with hundreds of types of water blasters to help them improve their products as well as to try and help them communicate more effectively with the consumer-side. My fingerprint is on many of the Water Warriors models that did make it to market and, while I won't list which ones, it is nice when I hear about others who do post their fondness over particular water blasters.
What many may not realize is that Buzz Bee Toys Inc. has very few actual employees While large companies like Hasbro Inc. has 5000+ employees, Buzz Bee Toys has less than 20 in the US. Some things, though it would be good if Buzz Bee Toys did more of, they simply don't have the resources to do or implement. Nevertheless, with me being the sounding board for the community in the room with the key decision makers, repeated recommendations do eventually get heard; sometimes it just takes a little time.
All that said, I, of course, cannot talk any more about specifics of what I saw and/or discussed. However, I can say that if there is any company trying to provide the water warfare community with the sort of stock water blasters it seeks, I can definitely say Buzz Bee Toys is one that is striving to achieve this. Seven years on, despite various setbacks beyond their control, I remain confident that the future looks promising and, with some additional luck, we will see steps in the right direction sooner rather than "someday".
Of course, I was also glad to fly out of there on Wednesday since BBT HQ got buried in 12+ inches of snow on Thursday. While I enjoy hanging out with the group, it is still nice to be home on time.
In the end, I definitely would like to thank Buzz Bee Toys againfor the opportunity to affect the future of water warfare. Looking forward to what time will reveal!