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Etch A Sketch brand gets a boost from Mitt Romney

Scott Tong Mar 22, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: When I was growing up, the Etch a Sketch seemed like a pretty non-partisan toy. Well, not anymore. This week, it got all tangled up in the Republican primary campaign after Mitt Romney’s spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said this:

Eric Fehrnstrom: Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch — you can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.

Well, Romney’s opponents have pounced on that comment. And The Ohio Art Company — which makes the Etch A Sketch — is loving the publicity.

Marketplace’s Scott Tong reports.

Scott Tong: There is a market for nostalgia toys: Cabbage Patch Kids, Strawberry Shortcake, Monopoly. Doodle the Etch A Sketch into that space. It came out in 1960. But company sales at privately held Ohio Art reportedly peaked 20 years ago.

Here’s Forrester Research’s Sucharita Mulpuru.

Sucharita Mulpuru: Nostalgia alone isn’t going to support your business. Because that depends on people who experienced it when they were little. And they will eventually go away.

She says now’s the time to cash in on the political attention, the way stuffed bears took off during the Teddy Roosevelt administration — how’s that for nostalgia?

An Ohio Art spokesman has referenced “shaking up the political debate.” Longer-term, the key to toymaker success is digital: social networking, TV cartoons, or videogames.

Mulpuru: The digitization of the world has creeped over into the toy industry and what’s important to children.

Etch a Sketch does have an iPad app. And a new Etch A Sketch jewelry broach is on the way, complemented with expensive crystals. Perhaps an entrée to a wealthier crowd — say, private-equity types.

In Washington I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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