Toy manufacturers need to be very strategic when designing and marketing their products. On the one hand, they need to build a toy that children will love. On the other, they need it to be approved by the parents who will make the ultimate decision to buy the product for their child.

This begs the question – Who is the target market for toys?

To begin answering this question, we must first notice that the process of purchasing a toy can be classified into two main categories: pre-meditated and impulsive. Next, we must analyze the motivations that people have for purchasing a toy.

Once we put these two aspects together we can be in a position to segment the target market for toys based on purchase intent and on purchase style. This can be a very good basis to run marketing campaigns and organize store displays to maximize conversions.

Let’s start.

The Target Market for Toys: Pre-meditated Vs Impulsive

Pre-meditated Purchases

Pre-meditated purchases are those where the parent has already decided to buy a toy, and they are simply looking for the specific product that fits their child’s needs.

During pre-meditated purchases, some parents put a lot of thought into the toys they buy for their children. They do research online, read reviews, and even consult with friends or family before making a decision. These types of purchases are often made with a specific child in mind and with the intention of bringing them joy. The target market for these types of toys is usually parents themselves.

Impulsive Purchases

Impulse purchases are those made on the spur of the moment, often in response to a child’s pleading or because the parent sees an opportunity to buy a toy at a discount.

Some toys are bought on a whim – the child sees the toy in the store and begs their parent to buy it for them. These types of purchases are often made without much thought or planning. The target market for these types of toys is usually children themselves.

Needs-based Segmentation of the Toy Market

While the target market for toys can be segmented along traditional lines like the child’s age, gender, the educational value of the toy, its price, sales channel, etc., often there is greater marketing value to be had by segmenting the market based on need.

In needs-based segmentation, we ask the question – What is the customer’s need that results in a purchase? By understanding the motivations behind the purchase, toy companies can develop new products and design marketing programs to attract the target audiences to these products.

Needs-based segmentation gives us the following segments of the target market for toys:

  1. Parents who want to educate their children with toys
  2. Parents who want to entertain their children with toys
  3. Parents who want to reward their children
  4. People who buy a toy as a gift
  5. Children who want a toy

Each of these segments of the target market for toys has different motivations for buying a toy and will respond differently to marketing messages. They have different needs and motivations which may or may not overlap. And each segment will require a different marketing mix to be reached effectively.

Let’s look at each of the segments a bit closely.

1. Parents who want to educate their children with toys

Parents will often want a toy that will help their children learn something new or improve a skill they are already developing. These parents are looking for toys that will have some educational value to them.

The target market for these types of toys is usually parents of young children. These are children who can still learn by playing with toys.

2. Parents who want to entertain their children with toys

Parents do not always have the time to play with their children and they need to find ways to have the children play with something and entertain themselves.

So, entertaining their children and keeping them busy is also an objective for most parents. And what better way to do this than to get a toy that the child will love to play with.

Children are known to spend hours playing with their favorite toys. Parents, of course, have to look out that using the toy is not going to be addictive for their child. Children can spend hours playing video games but that doesn’t mean they are good for them.

3. Parents who want to reward their children

Sometimes, parents will want to use a toy as a reward for their children. They may have done something special or achieved something great and parents want to give them a toy to show their appreciation.

Such toys can be expensive – such as an X-Box for a child’s graduation or could be as simple as a new Barbie doll. The purchase of a toy offered as a reward is usually a premeditated one where great thought goes into linking the toy to the child’s accomplishment making sure the two are commensurate.

4. People who buy a toy as a gift

Toys are often given as gifts to children by family members or friends. The target market for these types of toys is usually people who have some connection to the child – grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. But parents too will buy gifts for their children – eg at birthdays or for Christmas or other similar occasions.

Toys purchased as gifts are usually expensive and are often premeditated purchases.

5. Children who want a toy

Of course, children are also a target market for toys. They see a commercial on TV or see a toy at a friend’s house and they just need to have it too.

As we saw in the previous section, impulsive purchases are often made by children who see a toy and want to have it right away. Such toys are kept in stores at the front near the check-out so that children can see them and can beg their parents to buy them.

This sort of marketing and product placement plays on the child’s temptations and relies on the fact that many parents will give in to such requests, leading to an impulsive purchase.


The target market for toys is very broad and can be segmented in many different ways. In this article, we studied the market from two different angles:

  1. The type of purchase: pre-meditated or impulsive
  2. Segmentation based on buyer motivation and need

Toy manufacturers (and even toy shops) need to understand these segmentations in order to design the right marketing mix for their target audiences. They can design products that children will love and that parents will approve of.

By understanding the needs of each target market segment, they can better match their products (and marketing messages) to what these buyers are looking for.