Jazwares’ Magdalena Eichhorn on what she thinks about when reviewing an item for the first time

Magdalena Eichhorn, Jazwares

BlueJ Manager Magdalena Eichhorn reveals the areas she feels are ‘underserved’ by inventors.

Magdalena, it’s great to catch up. To kick us off, what set you on the path into the industry?
It all started with my grandfather actually! My last name, Eichhorn, means squirrel in German. That’s where I’m from. It’s also my native language! When my grandfather – Hermann Eichhorn – founded his wooden toy company in 1947, he used a squirrel as a symbol for his company logo. Today, his legacy continues with Simba Dickie, which acquired Eichhorn in 1998. They still offer his original train sets, complete with the squirrel logo on the packaging.

It was a true family business, and both of my parents worked there and my brother and I were play testers for a lot of toys – let’s just say I’m a pro at wooden puzzles now!

I bet! And did that family connection spark an interest in joining the industry yourself?
Well, while I was getting my Masters in Business, I worked at Spin Master GmbH under Andrea Herre – who was a big part of my professional development early in my career. There I received first-hand experience in marketing for mass market toys.

After Spin Master GmbH, I moved to Toronto, Canada and entered the home decor sector at a renowned design manufacturer called Umbra in their product development department. In 2023, I received a call from David Winter at Jazwares to join his team on BlueJ which was a perfect fit to match my passion for play, an eye for product, and knack for business.

Magdalena Eichhorn, Jazwares

At Jazwares, there’s BlueJ, and Inventor Relations – are they the same thing?
Sort of… You see, BlueJ is where Inventor Relations and Design Innovation fit under one umbrella. For inventors, it’s like having your own personal business development and design team dedicated to your items.

While on the front-facing side of the business, I’m meeting with inventors along with my IR team members Brian Thornber and Ashley Silver. We’re on the frontlines scouting and securing concepts to support the innovation needs of the organisation.

On the inside, for the select items we think have that “it” factor, we flesh out the concept. We build out the play patterns, features and strategy of the item based on a lot of research analysis and competitive study. We create pitch decks that put your concept in the best light complete with category analysis, positioning and strategy. We’ll also work hand-in-hand with the designers on BlueJ to create the most ideal look and feel for your item in 2D – even making models with Asia or 3D printed in-house so we can get accurate costs.

Basically, we take your invention and get it turn-key ready to sell it to leadership for greenlight approval!

Sounds like a one-stop-shop! So for inventors coming to you, what are some key things to bring for you to feel that “it” factor?
If only we had a crystal ball! But there are ways to give yourself a leg up… Do your research! What that means is to know the competition. Know the price points and key features of similar items in that segment so that you can match and plus up your item accordingly. Analyse top selling items… You may not have access to circana data, but a lot of toy mags will put top items in hot holiday lists. Also, make sure your play pattern matches your target demographic. We do a lot of in-house testing and we determine whether kids can actually perform the desired function, and most importantly find it fun!

Terrific insights. Any other tips and tricks to help inventors?
Jazwares has an incredible portfolio of licensed brands. If you’re inventing for one, license rights are important to be aware of. Just because a manufacturer has a license, does not mean that they have all the rights to that license and may have only some segments. We’re just a phone call or email away to ask a question which leads me to….

Don’t invent in a vacuum! The team and I are here to help you succeed! Give us a call before you draw or build and we can give you tips and tricks to help you. There’s a full team of Inventor Relations at Jazwares dedicated to supporting you.

Once you have that great idea, we want to see it live! We prefer to see it in person or at the least over Zoom to have you walk us through it. Submission portals are great to organise the things we like to take further – and collect the necessary details we need to conduct our reviews – but only after we’ve been over it with you “live” in some way.

What are you interested in seeing from inventors at the moment?
Jazwares plays in every major category, and we’re not shy about breaking into new ones with the right items or licenses. Last year we launched a Pets and Costumes division, and at the end of March we launched our DTC channel, Jazwares Vault. We’re growing, and looking for exciting product concepts to innovate all segments or aisles.

For traditional toy categories, I’m looking for those “wow” innovations that can build into new brands, but we also have a lot of existing brands that I look for exciting TV drivers to promote with. Pokémon, Spidey and His Amazing Friends, CoComelon, and WHAM-O Pets have been really opportunistic for inventors, and we have so many other brands to innovate on. Reach out to us to talk through our latest wish list, or check out jazwares.com for the full picture of our latest brands and licenses.

Magdalena Eichhorn, Jazwares

Is there an area ‘underserved’ by inventors that you’d like to see more of?
I’d like to see more Collector Display Systems for action figures. New technologies that provide dynamic special effects that take the display experience for a collector figure to the next level. We have a lot of really big licenses for action figures, and we recently launched the Jazwares Vault where we can really play with cool technologies at higher price points.

Lastly, I think innovating the ‘egg’ or the ‘ball’ with new materials or mechanisms is a really big opportunity. Blind chaser SKUs are still huge volume drivers, and can apply to nearly any property and can even be the start of a new brand with the right execution.

What goes through your mind when you’re seeing a new product concept for the first time?
There are a dozen things going through my head when I’m reviewing something for the first time. It’s something I think we all do when we’re in this position, so let me break it down for you everyone reading in a really simple way:

• Overall Appeal – Does it lend itself to building into a new brand?
• Brand Alignment – Does it fit our current brands?
• Newness – Does it feel fresh and new enough?
• Utility – Does it solve a problem or provide value?
• Saturation – Is there a lot of it already out there?
• Feasibility/Costs – Can we make it and at a cost?
• Safety/Compliance Issues – Is it going to hurt someone?
• Demo/Usability – Does the play pattern match the demographic?
• Market Trends – Is there a trend or global demand? Global is key!
• Retailer Appetite – Are retailers looking for this, and does it fit our channels?
• Complexity – Is it easy to understand and communicate?
• Demonstrable – Can you ‘get it’ on look alone?
• Marketable – Are there elements to key in on from a promotional perspective?
• Differentiation – Is it different enough from the competition to market?
• Extendable – Can it last longer than a season…a year?

Phew! And we do this with every item!

That’s incredibly useful! Thanks Magdalena! Before I let you go, what’s something about Jazwares as a manufacturer that inventors should hone in on?
Jazwares is the fastest growing manufacturer since 2020, and now the number four toy company. We have a really diverse portfolio in over 30 categories! Our products have multi-generational appeal for kids and collectors alike with beloved Brands such as Squishmallows, Pokémon, Hello Kitty and Bum Bumz.

As the number one plush company, we’re hungry for new plush opportunities! Save your Squishmallow character designs though – we have a whole design team dedicated to that. We build brands. We need items that are innovative and extendable to last season over season with refreshes of new twists and themes.

Most importantly, we provide quality products at great value. Stay tuned for more exciting news from BlueJ – a lot of great things coming for 2025!!

Thanks again Magdalena. Let’s catch up again soon!

To stay in the loop with the latest news, interviews and features from the world of toy and game design, sign up to our weekly newsletter here

Stay up to date with the latest news, interviews and opinions with our weekly newsletter
Back to top arro

Sign Up

Enter your details to receive Mojo updates & news.