Toys “R” Us evolves chief play officer role for digital age

The toy retailer's fifth child ambassador will lend authenticity to the brand through a more robust social and digital presence.

Toys -R- Us -Canada- Ltd--One of Canada-s coolest jobs has been

As social platforms have grown in influence, so too have the voices of the child brand ambassadors who “unbox” toys and discuss the latest trends in play, often in front of large online audiences.

One notable example is Ryan from “Ryan ToysReview,” a seven-year-old who launched into a career as a toy influencer in March 2015. His YouTube channel has amassed more than 18 million subscribers and nearly 28 billion views. Now one of the highest paid YouTubers, last year he struck a deal with Walmart to have his own line of Ryan’s World merchandise produced and distributed across Walmart stores in the U.S.

Several toy manufacturers and retailers have taken notice, launching their own influencer-style efforts to reach children in new ways. Toys “R” Us Canada became one of the first to experiment in the space when it hired its first chief play officer in 2009, and the U.S. followed suit in 2016 with the hiring of its first “president of play.”

And now, the retailer is evolving the “executive” role to match the needs of children (and parents) today. Last week, the toy retailer named 11-year-old Méganne Dagenais as its newest CPO, a “coveted role” that entails travelling across the country to test and showcase the latest toys before they go to market, work with partners and engage with the media. She will also offer insight and suggestions “for anyone wondering what products or toys are right for their children,” says Toys “R” Us president Melanie Teed-Murch.

Dagenais is expected to play a larger role in the toy retailer’s digital presence (writing a trends blog and being more active on social) than her predecessors – a move that directly mirrors larger trends in the industry, Teed-Murch says. In the age of social sharing, she says, having a play ambassador adds “a stamp of credibility and authenticity to people who are looking for product.”

Teed-Murch notes that Dagenais’ role is primarily aimed at staying abreast of trends in the play space, keeping the leadership team informed of children’s evolving interests.

The president previously noted that focusing on the importance of “play” has been deemed a priority for the retailer as it looks to reinvent itself following the closure of its U.S. counterpart last year. Toys “R” Us Canada also plans to make investments in its digital, mobile and ecommerce platforms in 2019, and Teed-Murch previously hinted at a food-service partnership, as well as educational experiences via workshops in stores as part of its reinvention plan.