When I started working at Bark & Co. over 3 years ago, the BarkPost didn’t exist, we had 2000 BarkBox subscribers, 2500 Facebook fans, and three employees. o/
Since that time, we’ve realized that a LOT of people out there are just as obsessed with their dogs as we are. In a few years Bark has launched cool things that would have blown my wildest dog daydreams– like throwing enormous events, hiring an entire team of BarkPost writers, and launching the BarkShop. But one of my favorite things was when Bark turned into a bone-a-fied toy factory.
Last year, we started designing toys to fit certain BarkBox themes. (Like Space Camp!) The success of the BarkMade toys inspired us to take the toys beyond the themes of our boxes and today there are also toys that are intended just for pop culture fun. (Like The Dognald with style-able hair.) 😛
When we decide to make a new toy, most people don’t know that there is actually a science to the creation. The process starts with Melissa and Gus, the human and pup behind our merchandising team.
Melissa and her team always think about how a dog interacts with items throughout the design process. When her team comes up with a new toy, they consider the dog first and the human second. According to Melissa, a good toy incorporates one or more of the characteristics below.
- 1. Play Style: Does the toy fit one or more styles of play that dogs love like thrashing, tossing, snuggling, or chewing?
- 2. Predator/Prey: Does a toy simulate a real relationship that dogs have with prey-like critters in real life? (ie: Our wooly mammoth, the Hedgies, the turkey.)
- 3. Material: Does the material match the intended use of the toy and should it introduce dogs to more durable materials that they don’t like on their own? For example the Lady Liberty ball is a spiky ball covered in plush. If a pup doesn’t like rubber but loves plush, this is a good way to introduce them to the idea that rubber toys are super fun for playing.
- 4. Durability: What things can we put in place to make a toy last longer for gnarly chewers?
- 5. Squeaker/Noise: Should it match the character of the toy or be intentionally different? For example the Dognald grunts and the Bearded Lady giggles!
- 6. Humor/Nostalgia: And finally one for the pup parents. We always imagine how a person will feel when they pick up a toy or open a BarkBox. How funny/adorable would it be to see a dog holding the toy in his/her mouth? (Like the poop emoji, the plushstache, or the Barquet.)
Our first BarkMade toy, the Barkquet, was originally intended for our Garden Party BarkBox, but has since become a pup favorite. For every toy, the process starts when the merch team delivers a concept to our friends at the factory.
After the factory understands what we’re looking for, they send us prototypes of each toy and we test them on our dogs until the product is just right.
For the Barquet, there was one additional step– I got to lend a paw! The merchandising team thought it would be cute to actually design the newspaper wrapping around the Barkquet to look like the BarkPost in plush newspaper form.
If you look closely, you will find a couple special things on the newspaper. There are office pups, a fake article about our ruv Dave Coverly, celebridogs, and one of the first articles ever written for the BarkPost. 🙂
And since the Barkquet, our line of BarkMade toys has grown significantly.