BRYAN – The Ohio Art Company, makers of the classic drawing toy, have found a new way to market it as a retro style tablet. Consumers are being drawn in. “The Etch-A-Sketch has always been a tablet,” said Ohio Art product developer Nathan Cassagnes. “In fact it was the first handheld screen people could interact with. That makes it like modern tablets, only a little simpler.”
“Simpler” happens to be what consumers are looking for in tablets these days. Ervin Moradi of Tech Daily described the current tablet climate. “Tablet sales have actually been declining since 2015,” Moradi said. “Today’s tablet buyers are not going for bells and whistles and screen resolution, like in the Samsung Galaxy or Microsoft Surface. They’re going for budget tablets, simple ones they can play around with. Kids tablets are popular. People who want to spend more money are investing in good laptops instead.”
This is where Cassagnes believes the Etch-A-Sketch enters into the tablet market. “People apparently want basic,” he said “and it doesn’t get much more basic than Etch-A-Sketch. There’s no need to turn it on – it’s always on! Just start turning the knobs and you’re good to go. A tablet can’t do that. You have to open up apps and get downloads and find a signal and all that nonsense. People are getting tired of all that rigmarole.”
Cassagnes defended his newly positioned “Etch-A-Sketch Tablet” against critics who think it’s not powerful enough, and lacking in web connectivity. “Etch-A-Sketch Tablet CAN connect to the web,” he said. “All you need is a smartphone and a camera and voila! Sketches and writing can be shared around the world. As for powerful, look – the most powerful tablets of all time were the Rules of Law with the Ten Commandments, and those were tablets of etched stone. Moses had tablets, and they were the most basic of all! Etch-A-Sketch is actually more advanced, and it’s always been known as the ‘magic screen.’ It is still amazing. Let’s see a regular tablet compare to that.”
Cassagnes sees the Etch-A-Sketch Tablet as appealing to both adults and children. “Adults can take office notes in meetings. Of course it’s a little slow in the writing, but meetings are 95% useless anyway. There’s only about 5% of anything worth writing down from a typical meeting, and Etch-A-Sketch can help streamline notetaking in that way. As for kids, they have found that the creative potential in Etch-A-Sketch never gets old. That’s partly because this thing is already so incredibly old to begin with!”
Many older toys have been presented as “retro” because the word has an appeal with younger buyers. But taking an older product and introducing it into a totally different market is a bold new move. Advertising Digest writer Mark Harmon sees young people, ranging from age 5 to 25, as ideal Etch-A-Sketch Tablet buyers. “They’ve played with it before, or at least heard of Etch-A-Sketch, so it already has brand recognition,” Harmon said. “Sure, they want the latest technology, the cutting edge toys and gadgets, but they’re also swayed emotionally by vintage toys. The Toy Story movies helped inspire that.”
But what about young people who want to send selfies and play games? Sal Aborro, age 18, said he now prefers trading selfie sketches with friends. “Selfie sketches are more original,” Aborro said. “I went to this awesome concert, and I sketched me and my girlfriend. Look, there’s the band right behind us! Hard to believe we were so close.”
“Wait,” Aborro’s girlfriend then commented. “Why’d you make my head so square looking?”
“Sorry,” Aborro replied. “It doesn’t do round things very well.”
Charlie Timmar, age 9, said he can be more creative with gaming on the Etch-A-Sketch tablet. “I play Pokemon Go,” Timmar said, “but you don’t need to walk anywhere if you don’t want to. It’s more like Pokemon Stay. Plus you can find characters everywhere, just by drawing them.
Cassagnes said the Etch-A-Sketch Tablet might not grab the market share of Apple’s iPad, but the much lower cost could sway consumers who might not otherwise consider a tablet. Despite the pressure to focus more on tech, Cassagnes said he’s betting on low tech, and its many perks. “There’s no charging needed, no extra costs for upgrades, and no worries about cyber-attacks or viruses wiping everything out. Unless someone physically grabs your Etch-A-Sketch Tablet and shakes it. That pretty well wipes everything out.”
Etch-A-Sketch Tablet is the first device to enter the consumer electronics market without being electronic. Despite this, the old Etch-A-Sketch is being welcomed in its new Tablet form. Initial sales of Etch-A-Sketch Tablet are promising, and it looks like it’s off to a good start, with a clean slate.