If you have been following the news this past week about Mattel and their Masters of the Universe Classics line, then you probably are aware that the line and its future seems to be in some jeopardy.
According to Mattelís Scott "Toyguru" Neitlich, they need to obtain a certain number of yearly subscriptions for the line for it to continue. In other words, they want to have a certain number of guaranteed sales to commit for the year. People have from 7/13-8/6 to buy one of these subscriptions on Mattycollector.com
and according to a post made by Scott earlier this week, they are only up to 46% of the minimum number of subscriptions needed for them to be able to commit to the line.
So what happens if Mattel doesnít meet this number? Well, we have heard everything from the number of figures made in the year could be reduced with the price going up to $35 a figure to the line being canceled altogether.
So why is it so many people seem reluctant to sign up this year for a subscription? Based on many of the comments we have been reading online from you the consumer, these seem to be the main reasons:
At SDCC, Mattel announced that the cost of their already somewhat expensive figures would be going up in 2013. Regular figures which previously cost $20 will go up to $25 for subscribers and $27 for non-subscribers (people who prefer to try and buy the figures the day they go on sale). That doesnít even cover the cost for people who want to buy these figures outside of the United States.
People are not happy with many of the characters selected to be made into action figures. Many people are only interested in seeing the main classic characters they grew up with as kids made and are not interested in variants, obscure or new characters.
Mattel wants people to commit to a yearís worth of figures but is only willing to tell people what figures will be available for the first couple of months. In other words, they want people to blindly throw down their money without knowing what figures they will actually be getting for the year. Yeah, we know pretty crazy huh - especially when you are talking about figures that cost $25-$27.
Customer Service & Quality Control:
Since Mattel started selling their figures directly online, they have used a company called Digital River to process their orders. Over the years, this company has not developed a very good reputation with the fandom. With constant website crashes the day of figure sales, mixed up shipping and double charges on peopleís credit cards, many people are reluctant to use a service that has such a bad rep. Now Mattel constantly has said they have worked with Digital River to improve that service and that the reason they use them is so they can ship internationally. Regardless, once that perception of bad service is established, it is very hard to overcome.
So what has Mattel done to try and address these concerns??? Well, not a hell of a whole lot. For the most part, they seem to want to try and scare people into subscribing. Either by saying the price will go up even more or the line will end all together, giving the impression that if either happens itís the fault of the collectors for not supporting the line enough and not anything they have done or failed to do.
So what could Mattel be doing instead? Weíve compiled a list of ideas for Mattel to ponder. Now we realize that perhaps not all of these ideas are viable, and we get that Mattel is a business that needs to see some kind of potential profit from the products they put out. Still we think if Mattel really wants to see more subscribers, they are going to have to do a bit more than what they have done. So here is our list of ideas:
Remove the Unknown Factor:
If you want people to commit their money to a yearís worth of product, then you HAVE to be willing to tell them what they are committing to. That doesnít mean you need to show working production samples of every product you plan to release, but at the very least you need to put out a list of names so people have a general idea of what they are getting. We all know these toylines are planned out well over a year in advance, so there should be no reason why a list of names canít be provided. Itís ridiculous to expect most people are going to buy into something without having any idea what it is they are getting.
Offer a customer service satisfaction guarantee:
Mattel, you have a serious IMAGE problem with your customer service. If you canít find a better alternative to Digital River then at the very least you need to put in writing and heavily promote some kind of Customer Service Guarantee. If a customer is not satisfied with their product or service, they need to know they have a hassle free way of returning said product and getting their money back. There is an old saying, ďThe Customer Is Always RightĒ and if they donít have confidence in your service they arenít going to commit to it.
Start showing some actual faith in your own product:
I get that you want to have a number of guaranteed sales so you reduce your chance of taking a loss, but you know what the other message you are sending with that policy is??? You donít have faith in your own products. If you donít have faith in your products enough to make enough stock so the figures arenít constantly selling out then why should I have faith in it as a consumer?
Better Product Availability:
Do a better job of keeping older product in stock so you can start bringing new blood into the line: It has always struck me as ridiculous that I canít go on MattyCollector and buy most of the previously released figures at anytime. Why am I going to start collecting a line now when itís so difficult to get the main characters???? Most people donít have the time to sit online at noon on the day of sale hoping they can buy something. Youíre making it too difficult, not only for the long-time collectors but anyone new who might be interested in getting into the line. Yes, that means you have to start making more figures and keeping them in stock which might never sell, but that takes me back to my last point, START SHOWING SOME FAITH IN YOUR OWN PRODUCTS.
Make less obscure/unknown characters:
This one is a tough one because we all know that the moment all the main characters are released the line is over right??? There are only so many main characters to be made and if Mattel did them all upfront, most collectors would buy those and move on. So introducing new characters IS essential to any kind of long-term future of the line, RIGHT???? So this is one collectors will have to answer for themselves. Are you really interested in the line lasting a long time, or are you only interested in getting the main characters and being done? In the end, I think the truth is most die-hard collectors just want the main characters and then to be done. If Mattel really wants MOTU to last for the long term, they are going to have to find ways to bring in new blood to the hobby beyond the 30-40 year olds who collect these figures because itís what they grew up with. That being said, I donít think trying to force those die-hard collectors to buy figures of new characters they really arenít interested in is going to work, so at least for the short term itís probably better just to give them what they want.
Offer more discounts to subscribers:
The price of the figures is probably the biggest factor in whether or not someone is going to subscribe. Regardless of how justifiable the high prices are, if people canít afford it they arenít going to subscribe. So look at ways to offering more of a discount, or cheaper subscriptions. Break it down so people only have to commit to 3 or 6 months as opposed to a whole year. Or better yet let people pre-order figures on an individual basis, and if you have a particular figure that doesnít meet your minimum order requirement then you cut it instead of cutting the whole line. Put out coupon codes for first time buyers. Find ways to hook new collectors so you are growing your consumer base instead of shrinking it.
Quit expecting the collector world is going to come to you, get off your corporate forums, and start promoting these lines. There are plenty of cheap and effective ways you could be promoting these lines, and all you do is sit on some forums making some random posts expecting everyone is going to come running to you. Start releasing information to all the online media: hi-res images, better product descriptions, etc, etc. Get your marketing department in gear and start reaching out more. Word of mouth advertising isnít going to cut it which is essentially what you have been doing for the last 4 years. There are at least a good couple million potential action figure collectors out there on the net you could be doing a better job of reaching. This isnít ďField of Dreams,Ē just because you build it doesnít mean they will automatically come.
In the end I donít know if MOTUC can be saved at this point or if it is even really in that much jeopardy of being canceled, but I do know that expecting people to buy into something they donít want isnít going to work, no matter how nicely or often you ask them to, so either start coming up with ways to give more people what they want or pull the plug, but donít blame lack of collectors or their interests if you do, because many of them have already given you over 4 years of support and their money, and deserve better than that. If the line fails itís not the collectors fault, itís yours Mattel.