With less than a week remaining in Mattel’s Masters of the Universe Classics “Subscribe or the Line Dies” campaign, you can find marketing manager Scott Neitlich (AKA Toy Guru) in various places on the internet looking to drum up support.
If Mattel wants the Masters of the Universe Classics line to
survive thrive for two more years, they should take a cue from AMC’s Breaking Bad.
This past Sunday, Breaking Bad’s season 5b premiere drew the biggest audience in the show’s history. After a few month hiatus, the show returned to more viewers than it had ever previously captured in its entire run. Why? How does something that debuted five years ago gain such momentum just prior to its final act? It gave people the chance to become fans.
Breaking Bad debuted January 20, 2008. It would be ludicrous to think that every person on Earth who possesses the genetic code and entertainment preferences to potentially be a fan of Breaking Bad had the foresight to tune in on that night and watch the show from the very start. While many of the show’s die-hard fans did get in on the ground floor, many more have jumped on at some point over the past five years.
Breaking Bad’s showrunners haven’t reinvented the wheel as far as making past episodes and seasons of shows available to new viewers. The show just happens to be a textbook case proving why it’s good to make the entire run of your product accessible. People get turned on to it at different times. When someone’s interest is piqued, have your best stuff front and center, ready to be consumed, and boom- you’ve got a new fan.
Mattel eschews this strategy in favor of an elitist, “if you missed out the first time, shame on you- good luck catching up” attitude toward fan-building.
Binge-watching is the newest fad in television, and is responsible for thousands of new fans for countless shows. At this point it seems like everyone has done it at some point, and it’s not just the Netflix Effect. You find something you’re into, and you consume all of it in mass quantities until you’re caught up.
In 2002 I got a taste of the hit FOX show 24. I bought season 1 on DVD and burned through it in time to watch the premiere of season 2 live. I had access to the complete story, which resulted in a new obsession, and the show had a new fan.
Matty Collector doesn’t give potential new fans “access to the whole story”. When you discover the beauty (and there really is no other word for it, it’s a gorgeous line of action figures) of Masters of the Universe Classics, you’re easily hooked. It’s an adult collector-targeted toy line based on one of the most beloved toy and cartoon properties of the 80s. The figures are well built and sculpted by the best in the business.
The problem is, if you didn’t hop on the MOTUC train when it was leaving the station in 2008, you’re admiring the essentials of this toy line from afar.
image courtesy MWC Toys
For most non-rabid MOTU fans, there are 8-10 characters that could be considered essential figures a potential MOTUC collector would want. Of that 8-10, two of them (Beast Man & Teela) sell for roughly $200 on the secondary market (the only place you can get them), and the others go for a minimum of $50 each. Matty Collector offers some “Collection Essentials” on their website, but it’s a far cry from making the true essential figures available to potential new fans.
Where Breaking Bad invites you to their party with a wax-sealed, gold-embossed personal invitation on that kind of parchment paper you feel bad throwing away, Matty Collector waits until you find out about it through a mutual friend and gets kind of defensive when you call them on it.
If a very generous friend of mine hadn’t sent me a Masters of the Universe Classics figure last year, I’d still have little to no knowledge of and certainly no passion for the line, and I blog about these types of things EVERYDAY.
Breaking Bad is such a good show, and is so accessible, that when a few friends recommended it to me, all it took was one episode and I was hooked. Mattel’s MOTUC line is an equally good product (albeit in a vastly different industry), but its full “backstory” is so inaccessible that I don’t have the time, energy or money to become a fan (as much as I’d LOVE to).
So how can Mattel learn from AMC and take action? Offer two different current subscriptions. One for continuing subscribers, who had the foresight to be on board since the beginning (more power to ya), and one for new fans: people who have the genetic code (ie. are children of the 80s) to be fans of the line, but missed out on it until now (because no mutual friend clued them in about the secret party).
The subscription for new subscribers wouldn’t have to follow the exact release schedule as the original sub, but just give new fans the opportunity to acquire the “Collection Essentials” such as Beast Man, Teela and Trap Jaw, for less than an arm and a leg. Current owners of those figures might cry foul on the strategy, citing decreased value on the figures they’ve been collecting since ’08, but true fans aren’t ever planning to sell those figures anyway. Keeping the molds to these essentials locked in the vault forever rewards the secondary sellers (or Scalp-Ors, as MOTU fans lovingly refer to them).
As the deadline approaches, I hope Mattel garners enough subscriptions to keep the MOTUC line alive. At its core, it really is a beautiful line of action figures, and the collectors who have been on board since the start deserve a proper ending. I just wish those of us who missed the bus initially would be given the opportunity to catch up.