The Lego Group appoints new head of marketing

Isabel Graham will take over the role of head of marketing for the UK & Ireland as Marius Lang becomes general manager for Benelux at The Lego Group. 

Isabel Graham has been appointed head of marketing for The Lego Group’s UK & Ireland division.

The Lego Group has announced that Isabel Graham will be joining the UK & Ireland division as head of marketing. Starting in October, Isabel will be responsible for Lego UK & Ireland’s marketing strategy and execution. She brings to the role a wealth of experience from across The Lego Group, having worked for the company for almost 10 years, including for The Lego Agency, Product Group Marketing and the Americas Brand Marketing Team. Most recently, Isabel held the role of head of marketing for the Nordics division.

Isabel will be replacing Marius Lang, who is moving into the role of general manager for Benelux at The Lego Group from 1st August. Marius joined The Lego Group’s direct-to-consumer team in June 2014, overseeing brand retail store marketing and Lego.com, before becoming head of marketing for the UK & Ireland division in August 2017.

Christian Pau, general manager, UK & Ireland at The Lego Group, said: “I am delighted to be welcoming Isabel to the UK & Ireland division. Isabel has shown exceptional marketing and leadership capabilities during her previous roles and I’m excited to have her join our team. We are of course sad to say goodbye to Marius, who has been an incredibly valued member of our team over the past four years. I thank him for the fantastic contribution he has made to the UK & Ireland business, not only delivering strong results but also encouraging a culture of innovation and high performance. I wish them both the best of luck as they take up their new roles.”

Marius Lang is moving into the role of general manager for Benelux at The Lego Group from 1st August.

Marius Lang said: “I have very much enjoyed being part of The Lego Group’s UK & Ireland division over the last few years. A big thank you to our customers and many other partners for their trust & collaboration. It’s been a fun ride and I am proud of what we have achieved. I will certainly miss the many fantastic people I have worked with during this time as well as being part of the wider UK & Ireland toy industry but I’m also very much looking forward to starting my next chapter at The Lego Group.”

Isabel Graham added: “I am thrilled to be taking on this role, and I look forward to bringing my experience and passion for the Lego brand to the UK & Ireland business.  It’s such an exciting time to be joining the team and I can’t wait to see what we are able to achieve together.”

Top TikTok toy influencer Rhia.Official reveals how brands can win big on the platform

In this guest piece by Fanbytes, Rhia talks about the secrets to her success and how toy brands can tap into TikTok. 

@Rhia.official

It should come as no surprise to anyone that toys have well and truly found a home on TikTok. The platform has been driving the ‘holy grail’ combination of mass sales and brand love, as well as giving birth to an assortment of explosive toy trends and crazes.

An important figure right at the heart of this thriving TikTok toy community is @rhia.official, an influencer featured by the likes of Nickelodeon and CBBC, and boasting 12m fans, making her hugely influential in the toy space. Having joined TikTok in 2017, she possesses the experience, creativity and personality to deliver the insights brands need to win big on TikTok. Managed by Bytesized Talent, Fanbytes’ talent management arm, Rhia has worked on blockbuster campaigns with brands including Zuru and Mattel.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, such as your TikTok journey and how you grew your audience to 12m followers.

Hi! I’m Rhia Official and I’m from South Wales in the UK. I first joined TikTok in 2017, back when it was called musical.ly. In just a few weeks, my audience started growing by the thousands, and within a few months I hit 1m incredible supporters. From day one I focused on content that was fun and colourful, aiming to spread positivity and enjoyment. I am so grateful that my audience has continued to grow to 11.9m, and that my content can inspire people everyday.

What is your best-performing video to date and what was the secret(s) that sent it viral? 

My best performing video to date was of a giant Rainbow Egg that has a mystery surprise inside. You pop the egg in a bowl of water for 48 hours, and patiently wait for your surprise. This video got over 70m views, and went global on TikTok. I think the secret to this video’s success was building the anticipation with that 48 hour wait; people kept coming back to my page for updates, and enjoyed seeing the egg crack open slowly. People were so intrigued to see what we got – a Rainbow Unicorn and lots of feathers.

You’ve had success with migrating audiences to other platforms, growing a substantial audience on YouTube, when others haven’t – how did you crack it?

I’m extremely fortunate to have grown an amazing audience of 3m on YouTube. The key to transitioning my followers from TikTok to YouTube lay in keeping my content very similar to TikTok, but making the videos longer too. For example, if people love my 60-second mystery egg hatching videos on TikTok, then they probably also want to see a full 10-minute video on YouTube of me unboxing 100 mystery toys at once. That’s my best tip – keeping the content similar, but tailoring it for each platform.

Can you walk us through the process of coming up with a great video concept?

When thinking of a video concept, I first see if there’s any trending songs on TikTok that I could use: this can help your video trend too. Secondly, I go to a toy shop and see what new products are out. It’s always great to make sure your videos are original – something that no one has done yet – to make you stand out. I then hunt down a fun and colourful product that has an element of mystery to it, perhaps a mystery box, water reveal toy or even a giant hatching egg.

You’re moving into building your own brands with help from your management company, Bytesized Talent. What sort of brands are you thinking of building?

Our main focus currently is a Rhia Mystery Box. Inside will be some of my favourite toy products, and of course some mystery items to add an element of surprise! My Mystery Unboxings have been so popular on TikTok, so we are hoping to carry that over into my own product.

What would be the No. 1 piece of advice you’d give to toy brands looking to build a presence on TikTok?

Create a TikTok account for your brand, and post videos that consistently stand out. Eye-catching, bright and colourful toy content will definitely help pull an audience in. In terms of branding, always reach out to influencers whose content matches the specific toy brand already. This ensures the influencer’s audience won’t merely see the video as an advert, but will genuinely enjoy it –  such videos resonate perfectly with what an audience comes to that creator for.

What are your favourite brands on TikTok and why?

One of my favourite brands on TikTok is Zuru’s Mini Brands, tiny cute collectibles in the form of food and toys. Just recently, the company released an All Gold Series which was so fun to unbox. I even received a Toy Mini Brand Claw Machine, which I am obsessed with. Mattel, Ubisoft, Chupa Chups and even JustEat were all great brands to work with, and we came up with some great content that worked well and inspired others.

Conclusion

This is just a fraction of what influencers can deliver for toy brands on TikTok. The marketing landscape is rapidly changing, with a more concentrated focus on brand ambassadorship and influencer relationships that promise to keep brands relevant and in touch with Gen Z. Those who recognise this that will receive a free pass into the TikTok world and win big.

That’s why Fanbytes has launched a specialised toy vertical. Home to an expert toy team and some of the biggest toy creators on TikTok, it gives companies a chance to put their toys front and centre of Gen Z’s minds, and more importantly keep them there.

If you’d like to find out how Fanbytes can help you open the door to the weird and wonderful world of TikTok, get in touch today.

Live-action Pokémon series reportedly in development

Joe Henderson, showrunner and executive producer on Lucifer, is said to be writing and producing the new Netflix series. 

Sources say the live-action series will be similar in appearance to Detective Pikachu.

Variety has reported that a new live-action Pokémon series is in early development at Netflix. Although information is limited at this stage, sources have told the platform the project will be similar in appearance to the Detective Pikachu movie released in 2019, which starred Ryan Reynolds and Justice Smith.

Jo Henderson, whose popular Netflix show Lucifer will air its sixth and final season this summer, is said to be writer and executive producer of the Pokémon series. Reps for Netflix and Henderson did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.

The Pokémon franchise is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a slate of events and product releases. Starting today, fans can enjoy a distinctive Pokémon branded area in the toy department on Harrods’ fourth floor, featuring digital screens and displays themed with 24 first-partner Pokémon from all eight Pokémon regions, along with the iconic Pikachu. A variety of themed activities will enhance Harrods customers’ overall Pokémon experience. The month-long pop-up features a wide range of Pokémon product across toys, the Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG), stationery and accessories.

Other celebrations have included a live concert starring Katy Perry and Post Malone, and the hugely successful release of Shining Fates, a special expansion, earlier this year.

Toy World partners with Kuehne + Nagel on special shipping webinar

Set to take place on 12th August, readers are urged to get in touch to register for this informative free event. 

Toy World has been leading the coverage of how the escalating shipping crisis is affecting the toy industry. Over recent weeks, we’ve seen container prices skyrocket to unaffordable levels, shipping companies charging arbitrary fees amounting to thousands of pounds, and the use of high pressure sales tactics to encourage clients to purchase extra products to increase their prospects of shipment.

Now we’re digging even deeper by partnering with market-leading logistics provider Kuehne + Nagel on a special shipping webinar. Completely free of charge to attend, the webinar will be hosted by Asia route development manager Neil Hughes, who will present a ‘state of the nation’ style address covering the current issues facing the shipping industry, and what can be done to address them. Following Neil’s 30-minute presentation, there will be a session in which Neil and others answer questions sent in by attendees.

The webinar will be held on Thursday 12th August at 11am GMT. Readers are urged to get in touch ASAP to register their interest by emailing Anita Baulch (anita@toyworldmag.co.uk) with the following information:

  • name,
  • company
  • job title
  • the email they wish the webinar invite to go to

Attendees are also encouraged to send any questions or queries they have about the shipping crisis. All attendee details and questions will be forwarded to Kuehne + Nagel.

Pokémon celebrates 25th anniversary with month-long Harrods takeover

The Pokémon Company International is taking over Harrods’ toy floor for a month of exciting activity at the world-renowned department store in Knightsbridge, London. 

From 27th July, Pokémon fans can experience the distinctive branded area in the toy department on Harrods’ fourth floor, featuring digital screens and displays themed with 24 first-partner Pokémon from all eight Pokémon regions, along with the iconic Pikachu. A variety of themed activities will enhance Harrods customers’ overall Pokémon experience. The month-long pop-up features a wide range of Pokémon product across toys, the Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG), stationery and accessories.

Alongside award-winning toys from Jazwares (distributed by Character Options), including popular lines such as the Pokémon Carry Case Playset, My Partner Eevee and Snooze Action Snorlax, fans can find lamps from Teknofun, bespoke prints from GB eye, collectibles from Wand Company and bags, backpacks and wallets from Difuzed. As well as the latest Pokémon TCG expansion, Shining Fates, fans can also discover the unique board game Pokémon TCG Battle Academy.

Mathieu Galante, licensing director (EMEA) for The Pokémon Company International, said: “As consumers return to shops, we wanted to provide an uplifting Pokémon experience to thrill and excite Pokémon’s many fans of all ages. We are delighted to be returning to Harrods’ iconic store for a special 25th anniversary pop-up. Our previous collaborations have been hugely successful, and we hope that Pokémon fans old and new find something to inspire them over the coming month.”

The pop-up continues the collaboration between Pokémon and Harrods following two previous and hugely popular month-long promotions at the store: in May 2019 to promote the launch of the hit live-action movie Pokémon Detective Pikachu, and in February last year for the launch of the latest video games, Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, which became the fastest-selling Nintendo Switch titles ever.

BLE encourages industry to look to the future with ‘What’s Next’ 2021 theme

BLE 2021 will give a platform to the people, ideas and practices set to change the face of brand licensing.

Brand Licensing Europe (BLE), in partnership with industry trade association Licensing International, will support the industry as it collectively looks to a post-pandemic future with a ‘What’s Next’ theme weaving throughout the show in 2021 when it returns from 17th-19th November at ExCel London. The in-person event will be followed by an online event on 30th November-1st December.

The What’s Next theme will give a platform to the people, ideas and practices set to change the face of brand licensing, while focusing on three distinct areas to give attendees an overview of the most important considerations for doing business in 2022 and beyond.

  • Who’s next: Attendees are invited to discover and celebrate the licensing change makers in the all-new Agents of Change gallery; the disruptors, the rising stars, the professionals and the trailblazers who are brave and savvy enough to go back to the drawing board and affect real change.

The Agents of Change Roll of Honour gallery, taken from License Global’s Influentials list of 2021 that will feature in December, will be situated at the entrance of BLE, providing an aspirational ‘welcome back’ to the live event for the whole community.

  • Innovation in Sustainability Showcase in partnership with Products of Change. This feature area will inspire attendees on their journey towards a more sustainable future by learning how pioneering businesses from inside and outside of the licensing community are addressing the challenge of moving forward in a more ethical way.

This interactive space will tell the stories of the branded products on show – where they came from, how they were made; the partnerships and collaborations featured, as well as offering practical advice and support on how the licensing industry can unite to tackle these vital issues.

  • What’s next for retail: Visitors can explore an interactive retail space showcasing how brand licensing is leading the way in the production of unique, creative, and entertaining consumer experiences critical to the much-needed transformation of retail.

Informa Markets’ VP of Licensing, Anna Knight, said: “Identifying new trends, change makers and upcoming challenges is what makes an industry gathering like BLE unmissable. This past year has shown how adaptable we are and, as we move into a post-Covid world that pace shows no sign of slowing down. Looking towards the future has never been more vital, and this is precisely what our ‘What’s Next’ theme is designed to support.

Our hope is that this year’s theme, and all of the amazing content that envelops it, will help to take the guesswork out of strategic planning and support our attendees to drive forward their visions for the future.”

Registration for the event is now open – retailers, manufacturers and brand owners wishing to take part in this year’s event are invited to register for free here.

To find out how to get involved in any of this year’s features, please contact the organisers directly (anna.knight@informa.com) or visit the website for more information.

Natasha Crookes to leave the BTHA

Natasha is setting up a PR and Public Affairs consultancy after 19 years with the British Toy and Hobby Association. 

The BTHA is sad to report that Natasha Crookes, its director of Public Affairs and Communications, will be leaving the association on 12th October 2021.

Natasha joined the BTHA in 2002 as deputy toy fair organiser, taking over the head of Toy Fair position in 2003. She moved on to run the communications and public affairs team in 2007 and has led that work ever since. Natasha has been responsible for establishing the Make Time 2 Play campaign and the setting up and work of the Sustainability committee as well as working with Jerry Burnie on the important toy safety campaign on online marketplaces. Most recently, she has been instrumental in guiding BTHA members through the turbulence of Brexit and Covid with the wider team, representing member interest with all levels of government. Natasha has been a positive voice for the industry with media, regulators and stakeholders. She will continue to serve members until she leaves in October.

Roland Earl, director general of the BTHA, said: “Natasha has been a great colleague over so many years and has made a huge difference for the better for this association and its members. I would like to publicly thank her for her tremendous dedication and service on behalf of us all. We are very sorry to see her leave us but wish her every success in the future – and trust our paths will continue to cross in this marvellous industry of toys, games and hobbies.”

Natasha added: “It is with much regret that I am leaving the BTHA. I have worked for the association for 19 years, most recently in the role of public affairs. I have always enjoyed the excitement of finding solutions to the complex challenges that the toy industry has to address. I am now setting up a PR and Public Affairs consultancy to be able to take those skills forward whilst working for myself. I have met many lovely people in the industry, and in the many organisations we all interact with, and I hope to stay in touch with you all after the 12th October.”

Zapf launches Baby born Surprise Mini Babies

The adorable new 6cm Mini Babies collection sees the brand entering an exciting phase in its collectibles journey.    

New to the Baby born Surprise Mini Babies range is the multiple character surprise reveal, with bundles including either a set of twins or triplets. There are nine food and garden themed sets to collect, with tiny new friends including Garden Peas, Banana Peels, Cheeky Monkeys and Berry Sweets.

Ideal for imaginative play, and delivering on Baby born Surprise’s core values of collectability, unique baby themes and surprises, each doll is blind packed in a stackable crib. There are a raft of surprises for youngsters to unbox, including a swaddle, a bed, a birth certificate, an eye colour reveal and collector’s guide, plus moveable arms and legs. The biggest surprise of all is which characters collectors will discover: will it be twins, of which there are six sets to find, or the rare triplets, the remaining three sets that make up the first series?

To support the launch, the new Mini Babies range is being promoted across TV and digital throughout the summer, targeting both children and adults. In addition, a PR influencer-led campaign went live across the weekend to raise awareness amongst an engaged social fan base. Partnering with a selection of parenting influencers with twins and triplets, influencers developed a series of Instagram Reels, alongside additional social media support to promote the new collection.

Arriving in autumn, Baby born Surprise fans can also look forward to the bunny-themed Baby born Surprise Mini Babies Bus Playset, which can seat more than 20 twins and triplets and also doubles up as a playground, with moveable swings, strollers, a merry-go-round and a seesaw. Ideal for travel as it can be folded away easily, the play set also comes with an exclusive swaddle and twin babies.

Playmates beams back on board as Star Trek toy licensee

Playmates’ new Star Trek toy line will launch in 2022 to coincide with the premiere of Star Trek: Prodigy, the first Star Trek series aimed at younger audiences.

Playmates is to boldly go where it has been before – the former master toy partner for Star Trek from 1992-1999 has been awarded the licensing rights for action figures, vehicles and ships, role play and other toy categories for all Star Trek properties by ViacomCBS.

The toy company will have a raft of content from which to draw inspiration, from the earliest original series to Amazon Prime’s Star Trek: Picard, which follows the adventures of the former (and arguably best-loved Enterprise captain), Netflix’s Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Lower Decks, an animated adult comedy, and more. The Netflix + CG-animated series Star Trek: Prodigy, the 11th series in the franchise and the first to be aimed towards a younger audience, is slated to launch in 2022.

“As Star Trek readies to beam into the kids’ space for the first time with Star Trek: Prodigy on Paramount+, we are thrilled to also enter the toy aisle with Playmates, offering a new generation of fans out of this world toys that will allow them to embark on their own Star Trek adventures at home,” said Dion Vlachos, executive vice president, Hardlines and Retail, ViacomCBS Consumer Products. “Playmates Toys has deep experience in developing Star Trek figures and play sets – in fact, they helped to define and raise the stature of the range of collectibles. The expertise and ingenuity they plan to bring to figures, ships and more will elevate the play experience for kids and collectors alike.”

“We’re excited to be transported back into the Star Trek Universe, a brand and world that we know very well,” said Karl Aaronian, senior vice president, Playmates Toys. “Our product team includes some lifelong super fans, like me, and we are honoured to join with ViacomCBS again to help further engage fans with the wealth of new content coming as well as captivate a new generation of kids with the positive values that Gene Roddenberry introduced in his Trek world.”

Amazon accused of forcing companies to sell at its price – or ‘not at all’

Toy World has been contacted by a small business that says the online retail giant is manipulating prices by deactivating listings for products more expensive than its own. 

The small business’ deactivated listing, which Amazon says was in breach of its ‘Fair Pricing’ policy.

A small business, which wishes to remain anonymous, has contacted Toy World to report the issues it is facing regarding what it views as Amazon’s unfair price fixing.

In a letter to the Competition and Market’s Authority, which Toy World has seen, the business complains that Amazon deactivated the listing for one of its toys, which was retailing for £14.99, after the eCommerce giant decided to clear the same product, which it also sells, for just £5.

Citing a breach of its ‘Fair Pricing Policy’, the anonymous business was informed that unless it lowered its own price to match – which would have equated to just half its cost price – it would no longer be able to sell the toy at all.

The business owner told Toy World: “We appreciate that it is Amazon’s business and if they choose to sell something at a loss, that is their choice. We however need to be able to sell at the RRP of £14.99, at which price we make a profit of 15p after all costs are accounted for, including Amazon’s 15% fee.

A screenshot provided by the business shows that its listing will only be reactivated once the sale price falls below £5.

What is also their choice, it seems, is that if we do not match their price, we cannot sell the same item at all on the site. This is not acceptable and is artificially manipulating the market. I have queried this with the seller support team and they have confirmed this and that the price must be lowered.

When Amazon was affected by the Covid outbreak last year and was limited to the range of products it was able to send out, the whole toy market returned to normal. As soon as Amazon returned to normal, everything went haywire. The only way that we are able to sell anything – on any platform – is when they are out of stock. This is having a major effect on UK retail and surely cannot be allowed to continue.”

Unsubstantiated sources suggest the CMA is considering an investigation into Amazon’s price gouging and manipulation tactics, but Toy World cannot currently confirm whether this is the case. If true, the investigation would follow hot on the heels of the ongoing CMA investigation into the routine use of fake reviews to boost sales.

Regarding its choice to formally complain to the CMA, the business told Toy World: “It is a difficult situation as I appreciate that Amazon orders make up a large chunk of income for many suppliers, but I think it is now a case of short term gains at the expense of profit and longevity. So much is invested in getting a product to market these days, I can’t believe that suppliers will be able to afford products to be repeatedly trashed after just a few weeks’ sales.”

Amazon’s listing for the same product, marked down from £14.99 to £5.

The business has also urged other affected companies to contact the CMA if they, too, have been at the receiving end of what they consider to be unfair practices.

“I sense that suppliers are now starting to be treated in the same manner that retailers have had to put up with,” it told Toy World. “We saw what happened to the market when Amazon had its wings clipped at the start of the pandemic, so perhaps there is finally an opportunity to stand up and be counted if people don’t like the way that things are being done. Action can only be taken if evidence is provided to the authorities.”