The family business, Happy, develops and produces haptic advertisers par excellence: Happy Cubes. The puzzle cubes that are “made in Belgium” stimulate the grey cells of young and old alike.
The head office of Happy lies in the tranquil Flemish city of Zoersel, in the midst of idyllic fields, woods and pretty residential areas. This is where the ideas for the further development, marketing and distribution of a world-famous skill game are hatched. Invented in 1986, today the Happy Cube is not only a popular product used for the school system and specialised trade, but particularly in the area of haptic advertising. “We sell Happy Cubes all over the world, but there is still a lot of potential for our family business,” explained Excellence Manager, Sofie Laureyssens, daughter of the inventor and company founder, Dirk Laureyssens. The political and social scientist, who previously worked for the Belgian Government in the Intellectual Property sector, invented and protected the idea of the Happy Cube in 1986. The concept is both simple and ingenious: A frame with six puzzle pieces that have to be extracted and put together to form a perfect cube, all of which is made out of coloured EVA foam. “Over the course of time, my father has developed various levels of difficulty and more than 7,500 different puzzle pieces. Depending on the model, there is an unlimited number of possible combinations, especially since complex models and shapes can be built out of several cubes,” reported Sofie Laureyssens. “The inspiration for the product’s name was incidentally a Haribo advert with the famous phrase ‘The Happy World of Haribo‘, which Dirk Laureyssens saw while he was travelling,” added Gerdy Loots, CEO of Happy. “The company name is not only easy to remember, it also matches our products perfectly because they are intended to convey ‘happiness’.” Dirk Laureyssens‘ idea soon found its way to fame and Happy also expanded into international markets. The company has in the meantime sold more than 40 mil. Happy Cubes. The puzzles are available worldwide in around 40 countries, are mostly distributed by local sales partners and representatives, however Happy remains to be the sole copyright holder and manufacturer.
High depth of range
The company makes around half of its turnover on the haptic advertising market. In total, 101 different cube models with five different levels of difficulty are available – from “super easy” for three to five-year-olds, through to “mind boggling” for advanced players. Every level of difficulty offers a selection of different models. The easier the model, the greater the number of alternative solutions. Ready individualised cubes are possible for minimum orders of 300 pieces. The available cube sizes vary from 2 to 36 cm, eight standard colours are available from stock and can be delivered within a few days. Furthermore, Happy offers around 300 special colours that can be delivered for higher minimum order quantities. The customers can not only freely select the colour, level of difficulty and model, but also combine several models to make a set – out of which, in turn, impressive puzzle figures can be built. There is also the possibility to select from a host of special shapes for the frame, i.e. houses, vehicles, Christmas trees, circles or hearts or even create one’s own individual shape for orders of 1,000 pieces and more. The sets are either customised with a screen or digital print or with an all-over print, whereby the cutting edges have to be taken into account. “Many customers opt to have the sides of the cube imprinted with different elements,” explained Sofie Laureyssens. “We provide assistance in advance here, so that the customer can decide what should be placed where on the finished cube.“ Further items made of EVA foam, i.e. beach sandals, key pendants, waving hands, air gliders and custom-made designs round off the company’s portfolio. All products are manufactured in Belgium. Depending on the volume and type of the order, the delivery time is between one to four weeks.
First of all, during the production process strips of the EVA foam are extruded, then the rectangles are cut into the desired shape. All of Happy’s products are tested by TÜV Rheinland and TÜV Hong Kong in compliance with the EU toy guideline EN 71 and the guidelines of the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials). “Our EVA foam is harmless to health,” reported Sofie Laureyssens. “It is odourless, poses no risk of injury and can be washed at 30°C.“ Loots added: “Our products don’t actually need any packaging, because the frame that is part of the game holds the pieces together. Of course, we also offer packaging solutions – i.e. to dispatch the puzzles as a mailing – however we only use recycled or FSC-certified cardboard and the cardboard packaging used for several puzzles contains no additional packaging material or air. We have been able to reduce the volume of packaging by two thirds over the past years.” The games have already won numerous prizes – also for sustainable packaging – and they have already been the subject of scientific studies: “For example, in 2010 we visited a kindergarten accompanied by scientists. More than half of the 59 children managed to put together our beginner’s model, the Smart Cube, within five minutes,” commented Loots. “Based on this and further studies, we developed the Smart Cube EduPack especially for use in educational institutions, which enables children to train their spatial and logical thinking.” However, the puzzles not only appeal to the younger target groups – adult recipients are also guaranteed to occupy themselves with the advertising message for a long time: “Happy Cubes encourage both young and old to be flexible, try things out and think outside of the box,” summed up Sofie Laureyssens. “They stimulate the mind and the play instinct, link up the hand with the brain and create a strong, emotional association to the brand – in short: They are haptic advertisers par excellence.”
// Till Barth
photos: Till Barth,© WA Media (1); Happy (2)
A detailed report about the Belgian promotional products market can be found here: Part 1.