Magazine:

Contributing Editor and SCS member jbelkin800 is back with another editorial on the WoS line and he's got some good thoughts and some great ideas on how to make WoS a continuing success. Without further ado, so here it is:

Here’s the situation as I see it:

PM has launched an “A-line” cash cow. There are thousands of people willing to pony up close to $600 a year to be completists (about what completists/near-completists will spend this year – obviously some more and some less). Most companies would be more than happy to get $600 dollars from you whether they’re selling shoes, tools or fast food.

But where does PM go from here on out?

THE MARKET NOW

However, there are some caveats to keep in mind before just plowing forward:

They have the hardcore fanatics in the fold. However loyal they are to WOS, this group is not that large in the scheme of things.

With the things as they are (current release patterns), PM is not going to gain more than a couple hundred or at most a thousandish more of what most marketers would call hardcore fanatics.

Even though the Simpsons are an evergreen property now, even at the height of the frenzy of WOS 2001, it did not match the multi-billion dollar Simpsons frenzy of 1989-1990 where consumers were willing to scoop up everything and anything. PM obviously tried very hard to push the envelope in developing line extensions but the hardcore fanatics pretty drew the line at WOS – my feeling is that setting the bar so high with WOS, the hardcore fanatics were willing to spend more but the line extension were nowhere near as worthy in comparison.

THE REAL WORLD

Now, add the real world in to the mix:

Bad economy going to get worse (1.3 million will be cut off from unemployment benefits by the end of December – Happy freakin’ holidays!).

Mass-market retailing consolidated so that instead of having 10-15 companies to go to with a product, Wal-Mart, Target, TRU pretty much sets the direction of the toy industry as far as PM is concerned. The others are all minor players.

To all three of these retailers, as far as toys are concerned, there are about 20 lines ahead of anything that PM can offer them – they’ve got nothing against PM or the Simpsons, but the Simpsons are like horror movies at the Cineplex – a good steady solid draw that they want to fill up the theaters but not the huge blockbuster that has people lining up to come back and watch again and again. It’s just numbers and also that WM/Target aren’t going to devote much more room to toys so they have to pick and choose.

WHERE TO GO FROM HERE?

GOT FANATICS.
RETAILERS MAYBE WAVERING.

So, where does PM go from here? … Taking everything above into account?

In theory, PM could just up the run of playsets, figures and the number of waves they release a year to draw in more people but retailers are obviously not interested. Frankly, I think they feel WOS has had its run and while they’ll continue to carry it, whatever buzz it has simmered to an even lower flame.

WHERE ARE THE CASUAL SIMPSON FANS and NEW POTENTIAL WOSers?

What PM needs to do is to reinvigorate/relaunch the line while still serving the hardcore fanatics. What does PM need to do to market WOS to the casual Simpson fan? (after all, the show is #1 with kids 2-11 and in the top 5 with kids 2-11 in syndication).

Instead of line extensions like Blockos, FOS or mini PVC’s that do NOT raise the profile and generate interest and excitement because they’re really just variations on the same old, same old that others have been doing forever.

The market has decided that 5” (give or take), talking; with accessories is what they want. Without any external factors, PM can go on as is for years on end but there are many external factors pressing upon PM & WOS.

THE TALKING THING IS GOLD

While people might dismiss the talking feature, I really think that is the feature retailers like: to them it represents technology. Technology good. Technology gives them cache – without technology, it would just be aspirin, diapers and drapes (or in the case of WM, XXXXL shorts, guns and bait worms).

First, PM has done an amazing job showcasing the interactive technology. After all this time, WOS is the only line that has only interactive figures and a regular release pattern of playsets … not to mention that they have sold over 30 interactive talking playsets which is pretty astonishing when you consider the size of PM next to Hasbro or Mattel.

And I think for the hardcore fanatics, they should continue as is – even down to one playset and less exclusives, I don’t think the hardcore interest will wan much however … here’s a thought on reinvigorating the line for retailers and casual fans who might then catch the playset bug.

FOR THE CASUAL FAN TO CATCH UP …

When re-releasing the core Springfield characters, they should include a talking base. Why?

After pondering it a bit, I think the base should be talking but not interactive. For the casual and general interested buyer, the playset is too big of a commitment – partially it’s that for most of them, they cannot really readily buy the other two figures that should go on the playset. Or don’t want to spend the money and the time to get those two figures. If you have a talking feature, you want to use it straight away.

Why not a Homer that comes with a base with a peg so he can stand and not fall (but not interactive) – press a button to hear with these four lines? “D'oh! (annoyed grunt),” “Stupid poetic justice!,” "Weaseling out of things is important to learn," and "Woohoo!"

Or Bart’s four best lines?

This would raise the prices a bit maybe $2 retail but still a reasonable $7.99 to $9.99 but it has added value since you don’t need to buy anything else. Since they lines are repeats of what are already available on the playsets previously, they’re not really going to cut into those sales … plus, of course, it’s not interactive and only contains 4 lines specific to that figure in that card.

Instead of a casual fan having to buy 2 figures plus a $20-$25 playset before getting to enjoy what we love best about the Simpsons (the witty, dumb but always funny lines), it’s essentially self-contained.

These figures are also self-marketing in that people can more easily give them as gifts or take them to the office. Most people cannot really take more than one playset (if even) to the office but one or two figures on their own bases?

(wouldn’t lawyers with a sense of humor love to give a Lionel with a base that says, “"I'll be defending you on the charge of - murder one! Wow! Even if I lose I'll be famous!,” or "I've argued in front of every judge in the state - often as a lawyer!,” "If there's one thing America needs, it's more lawyers.")

Right now, to get Lionel Hutz’s lines, you’d have to buy the Police Station AND Main Street.

There are other possibilities - instead of trying a line extension with FOS, they can get the better margins by selling a multi-pack of discs (with a figure) at $13.99 or something.

These discs are small and would fit in the package as designed now.

And to retailers, it’s not a new line but the same line with more and better technology!

COLLECTOR’S CLUB

This is the perfect addition for a collector’s club, they can offer them in different colors and/or different artwork. These discs are cheap to manufacture since they’re not truly interactive so there can be low runs for holidays. Who wouldn’t want the Bumblebee Man wishing us a Happy Cinco de Mayo?

WIN WIN

For hardcore fanatics willing to buy the series plus the playset, this doesn’t really change anything. Playsets still offer the full playability with 30-50 lines for a wide variety of characters.

They’ll most likely just add to their buying by scooping up the figures with talking base.

For the casual fan, instead of a) forlornly lamenting just how behind they are in the game by seeing the pictures on the back of the card and b) having to buy two figures and a playset to get some semblance of getting the talking feature (if they even are synced up with that release), they now can get a talking Homer/Bart/core character they not only recognize but that is self contained at $9.99 or less.

Market expanding.

I’M READY. YOU IN?

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