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VTech expands line of educational children’s products

BY Gina Acosta

NEW YORK — One of the world's largest educational toy-makers is bringing a new collection of products to store shelves.

VTech announced it is expanding its educational toy lines. The new products are part of VTech's Baby, Infant and Preschool lines, the Go! Go! Smart lines and the Baby Amaze line.

"These new products are a reflection of VTech's continued commitment to developing innovative, educational products that enrich children's development and make learning fun," said William To, president, VTech Electronics North America. 

Some of the new products include:

  • Crinkle & Roar Lion:  Little ones will love the crinkly feet, ribbon tags and textured ring. The lion also includes a baby-safe mirror to build self-awareness. It can be attached to carriers, strollers and more. (Ages birth and up, SRP $14.99)
  • Go! Go! Smart Animals Doggie Playhouse: Builds motor skills by sliding the spinning beads, pushing the dog on the swing and searching for buried treasure. Can connect to other Go! Go! Smart Animals, Go! Go! Smart Wheels and Go! Go! Smart Friends playsets (sold separately). (Ages 1-5 years, SRP $14.99)
  • Go! Go! Smart Wheels Vehicle Assortment: Vehicles respond to SmartPoint locations with different phrases and sound effects on all Go! Go! Smart Wheels playsets. A new motorcycle, jet, forklift and garbage truck join a line-up that includes a school bus, SUV, taxi, car, van, truck, ambulance, fire truck, police car, tow truck, helicopter, cement mixer, tractor, race cars, ATV, convertible, bulldozer, airplane and dump truck. (Ages 1-5 years, SRP $7.99)
  • Go! Go! Smart Friends Character Assortment: Children can press a light-up button on these figures to hear the characters come to life with an introduction, things they like to do and sing-along songs. New Go! Go! Smart Friends include Farmer Joe & his Farming Set, Police Officer Wayne & his Patrol Set, Firefighter Aiden & his Fire Rescue Set, Doctor Brian & his Medical Rescue Set and Nurse Amy & her Patient Care Set. (Ages 1-5 years, SRP $9.99)

VTech toys are sold at Walgreens, Walmart, Target and other mass retailers.

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Prince: The ultimate brand experience

BY Dan Mack

The Idea: Could Prince have been the greatest artist (and brand experience) of the generation?  His sudden passing has disrupted the music industry and the broader creative culture.  Whether one appreciated his music or didn’t, his talent was magnetic.  You could not ignore his ability and desire to seek truths; you could not ignore his ability to tell a story; you could not ignore his authenticity.  And that is something that everyone could learn from.

He was the ultimate brand experience.
Prince birthed his own recording studio and label, and he played 27 instruments while self-producing much of his music. He was a curator, influencer of new talent, and owner of his entire creative process – start to finish. Even his Paisley Park Studio home was an artistic ecosystem and center for creative excellence.
Prince produced ten platinum albums and thirty Top 40 singles during his career. He penned his first song at age seven, and has written thousands of songs that have never seen the light of day.  He was constantly in a state of creativity, challenging himself most of his career to write “a song a day.”

He was inspired to create something new each day.
His legacy was built on landmark LPs such as Around the World in a Day, Sign O' The Times, Diamond & Pearls, Parade, Graffiti Bridge, 1999 and of course Purple Rain.   Prince was the “creative’s creative” designing four different experimental back-up bands over thirty-five years, blending jazz, funk, hip hop, soul and rock n roll, into a musical style that was always reaching for more.

His craft can’t be ignored. And his approach is worth understanding.

  1. Vision –  He wrote, composed and produced his own music.  At the age of nineteen, he and his band mates performed on American Bandstand (AB) where he very shyly admitted to Dick Clark that he turned down record deals at the age of fifteen because they would not let him produce his own work. His vision was consistent and strong.
  2. Creativity – People from all walks of life have yearned to imitate his stage presence.  He was absolutely never afraid to be sultry and bend “gender norms”. His work was disruptive, provocative, idealistic and inspirational.  Who Prince was as a performer led him to sell more than 100 million records, receive seven Grammy’s and be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  No one was better at protecting the brand.  
  3. Originality – Today, the buzz word is “authenticity.”  Prince was no stranger to this!   Very early on, he was not afraid to show off his style and fashion sense.  With “Egyptian-style eyeliner,” high heels, lace gloves & various styles of clothing – he was an original, and he couldn’t be copied.
  4. Ideals – Symbolic of his ideals, Prince once turned down a deal to put his songs on “Guitar Hero” because he thought it was much more important for kids to “really” learn to play the guitar.  That was more important to him than money. And he always made these tough decisions.

Few artists have influenced all types of music, other artists and the broader culture as much as Prince had when he passed.  One of the most gifted artists of the era.  And he never overstayed his welcome. Here was his final lesson. 

You are the brand experience.  Always leave people wanting more!

Dan Mack is the managing director of Elevation Forum, and author of the book “Dark Horse: How Challenger Companies Rise to Prominence.” For more insights, visitmackelevationforum.com

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Access to care provision part of CMS’ Medicaid managed care final rule

BY Michael Johnsen
ARLINGTON, Va. – The National Association of Chain Drug Stores on Wednesday praised the Center for Medicare & Medicaid’s inclusion of network adequacy standards — which would improve patient access to care in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program — in the Medicaid and CHIP Managed Care final rule the agency released on April 21.
 
“CMS’ decision to include a provision that ensures patients have access to pharmacy services is consistent with NACDS’ position on ensuring patients have continued access to care, which leads to better overall health outcomes and reduced costs,” stated Steven Anderson, NACDS president and CEO. “NACDS remains committed to working with CMS as it strives to advance and improve the healthcare system.”
 
The final rule marks the first major overhaul of the Medicaid and CHIP programs in more than a decade, and seeks to align key rules with other healthcare coverage programs. In order to strengthen access to care, the final rule requires states to establish network adequacy standards in Medicaid and CHIP managed care for key providers — including pharmacy — if their services are covered under the Medicaid contract, and the pharmacy network is consistent with the access standards for delivery networks.
 
NACDS has consistently advocated for network adequacy standards that promote access based on patients’ needs, availability of care and providers and utilization of services. In response to a request from CMS, NACDS submitted comments in 2015 recommending that “the final rule should include a framework that will serve as a tool to ensure that plans maintain beneficiary access to their current providers.” 
 
In addition to establishing a framework, NACDS said it hoped to help CMS “create standards that will serve to maintain the strong link between Medicaid patients and community pharmacies and the valuable services that these pharmacies provide.”
 
Of note, the effective date of the rule is July 6, 2016, however the section specific to access to care is effective July 1, 2018. The final rule indicates that plans will not be held out of compliance with this requirement until July 1, 2018.
 
 
 
 
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