Who wants to win a Millionaire Bear?
In an era when a game show offering consumers the chance of becoming stinking rich in an instant grows into a minor religion, it’s hardly surprising that, sooner or later, an enterprising toyco would apply the same formula to toys. To wit: I give you Commonwealth and its Millionaire Bear. For US$25.95, consumers can buy this 22-inch plush animal, which comes with an entry form offering four chances at winning US$25,000, plus one shot at taking home US$1 million.
As it is required to do so by law, Commonwealth has made the contest open to all consumers. (Kids can also participate, but they’ll need a parent or guardian to claim their prize if they win.) So, if people want to enter the contest, but not buy the Bear, they can do so by mailing in entry forms that are found near the toy’s displays at retail. Commonwealth senior VP Jeff Bialosky, however, is confident that consumers won’t need much convincing to pick up the bear, which comes attired in natty black-satin suit, top hat and a wad of toy greenbacks. ‘We definitely wanted to try and tap into the excitement that the show [ABC's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?] has generated among people,’ he says.
While the manipulative nature of the promo might give folks in the all-toys-must-offer-children-wholesome-play-value camp ample reason to carp, Bialosky is unfazed by such criticisms. In any case, it’s difficult to argue with the positive effect the sweepstakes has had on sales. In late June, the sell-in for Millionaire Bear had already hit the US$1-million plateau, easily matching the mark for the company’s previous top-selling plush bears. And Bialosky expects the number of retailers that began carrying the bear last month (including Toys `R’ Us, Wal-Mart and FAO Schwarz) to increase dramatically as the company awards the first of the five cash installments later this month. Commonwealth will hold the remaining US$25,000 draws in October, November and again in December. The draw for the US$1 million will be held in January.
Bendos, twisting their way into kids playtime
Bendos, Kid Galaxy’s miniature twistable plastic figures, may not have reached Beanie Babies sales status yet, but they’re fast on their way to becoming a veritable collectible craze. Since their release last June, over two million figures, which include Bendos for virtually every vocation, from snowboarder (‘Stinkbug’) to accident victim (‘Johnny Doe’), have sold through. Laurie Northcutt, owner of Phoenix-based toy store Brainstorms, has seen sales of the line (which also includes playsets, vehicles and key chains) soar by 30% since her store held a Bendos Playday in May. ‘They’re the biggest deal for us since yo-yos,’ says Northcutt, who last month added an eight-foot Bendos section to her store to go along with two Bendos racks near the front of the cash.
The reason for Bendos’s growing appeal? They offer kids and parents nonviolent play value at an affordable price (all figures retail for US$5.99 each), explains Kid Galaxy’s director of retail marketing Kathleen Alonzo. There’s also a strong collectiblilty aspect to the toys, which Galaxy has enhanced by retiring four items in each series of Bendos.
For the third series, due out in August, Galaxy plans to bundle the figures with a trading card, which will feature info on the physical and mental qualities of each character. Kids are encouraged to hold on to the cards, which they’ll be able to use in an upcoming Pokémon-like TCG product that Galaxy plans to unveil at Toy Fair 2001.
Galaxy has also helped sales of its toys along by mounting aggressive promotions. For consumers, the company has coordinated three design-your-own Bendos contests, where people can mail/e-mail in their ideas for figures to the Manchester, New Hampshire-based company. For prizes, Galaxy has given past winners all 86 Bendos in the line. For retailers, Kid Galaxy is planning to run a window-display contest this fall, which will award the store with the most creative Bendos window an all-expenses-paid trip for one to Toy Fair. Kid Galaxy’s cut-off date for receiving submissions to the contest is November 30.