What are the best selling franchises or brands?
Disney, Lego, Pixar, Moose Toys, Harry Potter, LOTR, GI Joe, Barbie, American Girl, DC Comics, Marvel, TMNT, Apple…
What do they all have in common? They all have a compelling story… they are worlds.
So, there are wants, and then there are needs. We’re suppose to be a “toy” company. Typically toys are wants.
How do we turn wants into needs?
What are toys? Toys and merchandise are culture, and culture is meaning. Culture is an assembly of symbols and signs. Stories give rise to symbols and signs. The christian cross is a symbol of a story with loads of meaning. Meaning is crucial for existence. Meaning is needed to live.
Everything has a story, and the more compelling the story, the more meaningful the thing.
What makes a good story? First, I believe is a dilemma. Life is about overcoming struggle. In addition, the story should be relatable, funny (comedic relief), and magical relief. There are other qualities of course, such as educational, empowering, etc.
A story contains characters within a world of places and things. These components of a story can be turned into products, or commodities to sell as symbols to represent the meaning within the story.
The best selling books/stories? The Bible. The Koran. Hinduism.
The bottom line is: SELL STORIES. Create a world, tell stories about that world. This draws people in, gives them something to believe in, an escape.
Once the world of characters and world is created, creating products for people to engage and participate with that story are easy.
Products and merchandise are the easy parts once the narrative has been established. People feel compelled to take part in the story.
A story is everything.
Lego caught on. They were a mediocre construction toy for decades, creating mundane worlds for kids to create, such as medieval princess or spaceship this, pirate ships or race car that.
When did they really take off? When they began buying licenses for other people’s stories, i.e. Star Wars, etc. Attach stories to their legos so that kids could participate and engage with the story world.
Soon they discovered they could tell their own story. Boom. The Lego Story was created.
Disney sells more toys and merchandise than any other toy company. Why? Because they tell stories. Compelling stories. They possess a world, and people escape to that world. They make about $10 billion in their entertainment and movie business. For their merchandising business? $55 billion.
Many people tell a story and don’t think of the merchandise. And most people that sell merchandise don’t think about the story. Become vertically integrated: tell stories, then sell the toys and merchandise to symbolize that story.
When I visited Olympus in Greece, there were countless little figurines representative of the various gods within the greek pantheon. People would make or purchase these figurines, or personified deities of the gods, and they would place them on the steps of the temples, or adorn the insides of their dwellings with them. What is the difference between these figurines and toys? They are symbolic representations of characters inhabiting worlds.
The merchandise is the part you really create wealth.
Example: Toy Story box office sales: $191 million. Toy Story Merchandise Sales: $2.4 billion. Another example: Transformers box office sales: $300 million. Transformers toy sales: $3 billion. Frozen box office sales: $400 million. Frozen toy sales: $5.3 billion. Cars box office sales: $460 million. Cars toy sales: $10 billion
Moose Toys, an Australian toy company, grew from a $10 million dollar company to a $700 million dollar company in fifteen years, selling non-innovative little figurines from brands like Shopkins. From the outside looking in, you’d think there was some magic to this success, until you realize they created a comprehensive Youtube animation series that has garnered tens of millions of views. No other toy manufacturer has so intentionally sought to leverage the power of stories to move their merchandise.
I could list countless examples, but it seems obvious. How do you generate sales? Tell stories to sell products.
Or rather: Manufacture culture.
Religion is out, and we live in a secular world, replaced by corporate messaging. Society at large finds meaning in brands, in stories that give life meaning. Corporations such as disney provide these stories. As a toy company, leveraging stories as a means to sell merchandise is the only obvious thing to do if you want to achieve the greatest impact and success.